Okay, I’ve never “served” as military folks put it, but I really enjoy reading about the exploits of those who have done so. Perhaps due to watching the exploits of astronauts with military titles in my youth, I still believe that the military will play some role when (or if) mankind actually goes into space and establishes colonies on other worlds. In my own Trinity on Tylos my main character, Major Venice Dylenski, has a military background, but I viewed her as a bit like “Captain” Miles Standish might be viewed in American history. He’s a military guy who is there for security, and my character is the security chief, because someone ought to be in charge of that when landing on uncivilized planets.
In Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos, the military is far more than security; it is the force that keeps the homeworld (earth) and colonies safe. Andrew Grayson is the main character; he grew up in a welfare section of Boston. Desperate to leave the vicious cycle of generations on public assistance, he joins the military. Okay, that is hardly a new plot line, but as Kloos paints his picture of Grayson’s world, readers can easily believe this dystopian view of the “North American Commonwealth.” As a new NAC recruit, Grayson is under quite a lot of pressure. Failure in any area, from taking orders to passing tests, will cause him to “wash out” and go right back to eating welfare rations and watching his folks succuomb to treatable illnesses. Thus, there is an additional layer of suspense added to the usual risk/reward of enlistment. Once our hero gets through basic, he can expect a five-year hitch, then go back home with cash, and education, and a fresh start.
However, once Grayson gets through basic, instead of being posted to a naval (spacegoing) vessel, he is placed into the TA (territorial army) and tasked with policing the very sorts of places that he sought to leave. However, as the yarn rolls along at its brisk pace, Grayson faces domestic enemies with courage and is able to use his heroism under fire to wangle a transfer to the space navy. Once there, he hopes to be set for his five year enlistment, but an alien species invades, and he has many more opportunities to be heroic, and less and less to return home to, as the government pours all of its resources into saving the colonies, leaving the homeworld to become barely habitable.
While it doesn’t break much new ground, Terms of Enlistment does an excellent job of entertaining the reader. The main characters are more than stereotypes, and the world building is quite good. I’ve already re-upped for the second novel in the series (Lanes of Departure) and am enjoying it, too.
Terms of Enlistment is a bit like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but with less of Heinlein’s political agenda. Fans of space opera and/or military fiction would be wise to check out this well-written novel. Oh, and it is rather long, so for $3.99 it really is a bargain, too.
For the beginning of 2015, Amazon is offering Trinity on Tylos as one of their “countdown deals.” For the first half of the scheduled time (80 hours, I think) it is only 99 cents, then it moves to $1.99. Thus far, all of the reviews have been either 4 or 5 stars, and I hope there are new ones, but I obviously hope any new readers and/or reviewers enjoy it well enough to leave positive reviews.
As a reader and customer, I really like Kindle Countdown deals, and I look at the offerings regularly. Usually, these deals last less than a week, so act quickly if you want to take advantage of the reduced price. Hopefully, fans of science fiction will take decide to begin their new year by reading Trinity on Tylos.
Trinity on Tylos has sufficient world building and character development to be the basis for a series, but to put forth the time and energy to write those, I’d like some confidence, and reviews (and sales) are the best ways to vote for more writing from Pamela J. Dodd.
Warning, this post is not about books.
Each year, I write a letter to friends and family, but I try to avoid bragging or writing about things everyone knows anyway. I really hate those sorts of letters. In my letter, I try to present a humorous take on the previous year, and I always include a few photos, usually of my son (who is kinda cute) and my husband, who is rather dignified, but certainly good looking. Since I am the family photographer, it can be difficult finding a picture of me, but I try. I put the letter in a traditional card, because I really like getting cards, and the only way to get some is to send some.
However, each year, I update my card list, and there are several addresses that are deleted or altered, because the recipient died, or Mr. and Mrs. becomes one or the other, because one of them passed on. This morning, I opened a few more cards, and one of the ladies had written a note that she misses her husband so much. The card I sent her was one of the ones that I had to alter, and I never hit the delete key without thinking about how difficult it is to go through the holidays with an empty chair, a lonely meal, or a side of the bed that is no longer occupied. While this is sad, it is also life.
Thankfully, some folks are still having children, and those will bring joy to those of us fortunate enough to have them. I’m very blessed to have an almost two-year old granddaughter. Lately, I have taken an old kid-craft version of the nativity, and put it within her reach. She can point to the “baby” which is merely a folded piece of felt with a wooden head glued on it, and she can also identify the “mama” and the “daddy” which are made of sticks, cloth, and glue. This little wood and cloth scene has some “hay” and a “star” for her to talk about as well. While she can’t form sentences, she does seem to realize that this object has some significance. Perhaps, next year, I can show her one with a bit more detail, and explain why there are holidays to celebrate.
In the years to come, I will take out some photo albums, and show her those who have passed from this world, as well as sharing photos from more recent times. Hopefully, she will grasp the importance of family. Christmas can be sad, because of those I have lost, but it is also very happy, because I have a future to build as well.
As a fan of David Weber, I have been most interested in the new venture he has with Evergreen Studios to turn the adventures of his flagship character, Honor Harrington, into a series of comic books, a video game, and eventually, a movie series. I seldom play video games, so I won’t comment on that aspect, but re-imagining the characters in a semi-manga set of comics is an interesting approach to creating a wider audience for Weber’s work.
I purchased the actual book (a larger paperback) rather than the eBook, because I wanted to examine the work closely and perhaps share it. I’ve read (and re-read) the books, so I am not the intended audience. Fans of Weber’s prose are probably going to be disappointed, because there are not many words in these books. Comics (graphic novels?) are quite different from prose, and Weber uses lots of words. However to bring Honor off the page and onto film will require story boards, so I am viewing this book, and those that hopefully will come later, as elaborate story boards. Weber has a full page introduction in this book wherein he asks fans to be open-minded about the new approach to his work.
On Basilisk Station has a good bit of exposition, and while interesting, it isn’t as tense as some of the later novels, so I found it interesting that Tales of Honor, Volume I begins “in medias res” with the situation at the end of book seven (In Enemy Hands) as the framework for book one. Certainly this approach ramps up the suspense, as Honor faces torture and execution, and remembers these earlier events, because her previous exploits are what led to her capture by the Havenites.
A few posts back, I included some art by a cover artist who really captures the Honor Harrington of my imagination, and this Top Cow/Evergreen Studios version is quite a bit different. Still, art conveys meaning in a different manner than words, and just having visuals of Honor and her universe may alienate some fans, but will hopefully attract others.
Do I like this book? Well, not really. I very much prefer the original. But is it bad? Nope, it isn’t. Honestly, the comic novel manages to get across quite a bit of the original, in very few pages. The pictures are not cartoons, but have quite a bit of detail. Especially interesting are the panels which explain how propulsion and weapons work in Honorverse. Weber always mentions the devastation of warfare, but the visuals here are more dramatic than words alone. My main problem with Tales of Honor is the problem that fans often have with films—a disconnect between what I previously imagined and what I am seeing. This version of Honor is less beautiful, more menacing, and less subtly nuanced than the one in my imagination. And, the Nimitz in this book is unrecognizable. Really. Are these problems created by the artists, or by my lack of an open mind?
As of this writing there is only a one-star review on Amazon, written by a disgruntled fan who is also experiencing this closed-minded disconnect. Hopefully, that will change, because for Honor to become a film heroine, the comic books will need to find more receptive audience. And, I believe Honor’s exploits would make one heck of a good series of movies, so I am gonna hop over to Amazon and leave a review.
Often, I choose to read indie published books rather than those from the “big six” publishers, because I find the content of indie books to be a bit more raw, unpolished, and (sometimes) unique. Yes, I am disappointed from time to time (as in my previous post) but I keep trolling for new authors and books. However, recently, Goodreads sent out a newsletter and the science fiction book of the year was Andy Weir’s The Martian. The blurb caught my eye so I bought it, but didn’t begin immediately, as I was slogging through a book on SEO (search engine optimization) at the time. Over the weekend, I began The Martian, and I was hooked. Like from the first page, I was seriously into the story.
The plot is not a new one. An astronaut is marooned on Mars. His fellow crew members are on the way home, believing that he is dead. But, this astronaut is determined and a heck of an engineer, so he keeps finding ways to use what is at hand to survive. After a while, the NASA folks figure out he is still alive, so they are trying to figure out how to get him home. Yes, it is really suspenseful. But sometimes it is laugh out loud funny, because the main character is quite a character.
Actually, this book was so engaging that I began to question my quest for good indie books. If the big guys are publishing this kind of science fiction, then I should be looking at the best seller lists again. So, after finishing the book, I did a wee bit of research and learned that Weir’s book was originally self-published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct (yeah!) and only after it sold thousands (at 99 cents, because that’s Amazon’s minimum price) in the first three months did big publishing come calling. Now, it is the basis for a movie starring Matt Damon.
The book is cool. Weir’s evolution as a writer is seriously cool. Many of the self-published and small press published writers, including yours truly, would love to have this sort of rags to riches experience. The impediment to that is having a really great book. The Martian is such a book. So, my suggestion is read it now and try to wait for the film version. Gravity won an Oscar, so the way is paved for another near future space adventure to do well at the box office.
Lots and lots of readers give S.E. Smith’s books five-star reviews. Honestly, I just could not do that. This is my first read of one of her many novels. Really, there is much to like in it, including a heroine who needs so much that the reader wants her to finally have her HEA. Her life on earth went from great to troubled to “get me outta here,” and somehow she was brought to another planet (universe?) I’m not sure; that part was kinda fuzzy to me. However, there is plenty of action. Still, this is more fantasy than sci fi. There are auras, a goddess blessing the union, yadda, yadda. I’m a fan of science fiction, which has lots of themes, but I am not much of a fan of fantasy. Remember in the original Star Wars (now episode 4) where Han Solo tells Luke he’d rather have a blaster instead of relying on the Force? I am a blaster kind of gal.
Basically, it is a romance wearing SFF garb, with and emphasis on the second F. Oh, and if you like lots of good loving (with some sex) then this might be a treat. For me, sex is not a spectator sport.
Some characters and situations appear to be borrowed from other novels by this author, so fan of Smith might enjoy those, but it is a bit like being a friend at a family reunion. The book does stand alone, but some of the clutter of characters could be eliminated.
Only Human is my second Chris Reher novel, but this is actually book 3 in the series, which features Nova Whiteside, a military pilot in some future universe. For me, neither the plot nor the characters were as novel this time as they were in the first one, but this is a good book. It begins with Nova being rather bored at a training facility; however, readers are briefly introduced to her father, Colonel Whiteside. Before readers have a chance to get bored along with Nova, she is transferred (perhaps a bit of a promotion, but no change in rank) to the Vanguard, and she is specifically assigned to a Delphian officer, and they are off on a journey. At first they don’t get along so well, but as the action develops, so does the main character’s affection for her commander.
In an effort to avoid spoilers, I’ll just close by saying the main character is engaging, and there is a good bit of action and suspense. Fans of hard science fiction may have trouble with this story, as some aspects are rather like Star Trek, but that usually doesn’t bother me. There are enough editing glitches to keep this from being a five star novel, but for an indie author, it is quite good. Fans of military fiction and/or strong heroines should enjoy the further adventures of Nova Whiteside.
There are taboos in writing fiction, including this one: female characters can’t be raped. I don’t approve of this crime, any more than I approve of murder, of child molestation, of armed robbery, of well…lots of felonies. Still, crimes do happen, and if a novel is to keep it real, sometimes bad things happen to the main character. Still, rape is taboo. As a writer, I have paid the price for violating that taboo. And, this isn’t much of a spoiler, but in Chris Reher’s Sky Hunter, the heroine does have that experience, early in the novel. But, this is a serious tale of warfare in space, and bad things happen, including the afore mentioned violation.
Now that I have that out of the way, let me say that Reher’s Sky Hunter is a very, very good space opera. The main character is one I wanted to see overcome the difficulties of the opening chapters. Caring about the heroine is absolutely necessary, especially when a book isn’t a light-hearted romp. The other characters, at least some of them, also enjoyed significant development, and the plot twists like a scenic mountain road. Reher’s world building is pretty good, too. For military buffs, there is action aplenty, and enough political intrigue to keep the reader guessing.
Right now, this book is free as a Kindle title, and I highly recommend it to fans of military fiction. But, if you’re a whimp, don’t bother.
When I signed up for the Kindle Direct eBook publishing program, one of the promotional opportunities was to give the book away for up to five days during the 90-day contract. Recently, I picked five successive days, hoping that interest in Trinity on Tylos might be rekindled, even though the book was originally released in 2006. During the give-away, it rose to around #18 on the Science Fiction/ Free list. Unfortunately, as of this post, the experiment doesn’t look to have been especially helpful. For those 234 free downloads, I have gotten (thus far) two reviews. Thankfully, both of those were good ones. Clearly, those readers are superior intellects! Gotta worry about the single return, however.
Seriously, there is some risk, beyond losing sales, to giving away an eBook. Some authors report that readers have little respect for free content and are prone to writing negative reviews. Other authors believe that few readers actually read the free content, and that is also a valid concern. As a reader, I seldom choose to read a full price book before one that was on sale or even free; but I put more thought into buying a book than into downloading a freebie.
Hopefully, more of those 200 plus Kindle customers will eventually read, enjoy, and (maybe) review Trinity on Tylos. As a science fiction story, set in the future, it is more “timeless” than my contemporary suspense novel The Gift Horse. While I believe both books are both entertaining and thought provoking, Trinity is a bit more serious thematically. I’d really like to see more folks read it. Which is why I did the giveaway, rather than the “countdown” promotion that is more popular. So, if you downloaded it but didn’t read it yet, maybe this weekend will be a good time to read a science fiction novel.