Dust World— review and commentary

Dust World, by B.V. Larson, is the second book in a series he calls “Undying Mercenaries” because of some nifty alien technology that allows dead soldiers to be reborn via genetic encoding of a clone body. While I enjoyed this story, I didn’t find it nearly as dramatic as the first book in the series, Steel World. Basically, this is the continuing adventures of James McGill, a young man who joins up with Legion Varus in the first book. As this entry in the series opens, McGill is at home on leave, and is rather bored with his earthly existence. After having faced fierce adversaries and been born again a few times, lounging around the house is bound to get old, I guess.

Anyway, before long, McGill is recalled by his Legion Varus leadership, and his training and adventures continue. The book has plenty of action, but some of the characters remain a bit flat. Military fiction tends to suffer from stereotypes, and this novel is no different. The brass is bad, the guys in the trenches are good: yada, yada.

(spoilers beyond)

Basically, the action in this novel pits the legion against fellow humans, as they are members of a lost colony. This colony is a big problem for Earth, as colonization is against Galactic Law. Now that Earth has forcibly joined the Galactic Union, and the mercenaries of Legion Varus are sent to deal with this long lost colony. The frontier planet is inhabited by colonists who have adapted to the harsh environment. The colonists seem to have perfected some particularly damaging nanites, which they use to enhance their primitive weapons. Every time one of the legion is knifed, he or she dies a dramatically painful death. Of course, the legion is supposed to bring back these troops, but there is a problem.

These colonists have enough sense to attack not only the legion but the machine that spits out regenerated soldiers. As the action on this planet proceeds, the machine is damaged and all of its techs are dead. Therefore, if the remaining troops can’t revive the machine, those who die on this planet will be permanently dead. McGill has his hands full as he tries to fight these fellow humans, but not kill them, and he needs to get that machine back to work. Negotiations do take place, but there is treachery on both sides. McGill does make things happen, but it is never easy.

All in all, this is an entertaining entry in the series, and I recommend the series to fans of military fiction, science fiction, and (especially) space opera.

99¢ Promotion for Trinity on Tylos

ToT_cover_final_webLG

My science fiction novel will soon be on sale for just 99¢

I’m going to usher in spring by offering my science fiction novel at a mere 99¢ for four days, beginning on March 21. Although it has only had modest sales success, it has the best reviews of any of my novels (under Pamela J. Dodd or my other pen name) and I consider it to be a good read. One of the cooler aspects of writing science fiction is that unlike contemporary fiction, the story does not suffer as much from being “out of date.”

The current version has a few minor edits, but is close to the original, apart from the cover. No one liked the cartoonish cover designed by an artist working for Whiskey Creek Press, so I had a new one designed when I got the rights back. The cover depicts the main character, Venice, shortly after she is abducted by Azareel, the last living Archon. The Archon colony is in the background, as are the space going vessels of the Terrans and the Archons. His vision is to re-create his people, using the reluctant wombs of his human captives. And, as one professional reviewer stated, this is hardly a new plot line. But….I do not believe that life is black and white, and the good vs. evil in this novel is cast in shades of gray. Oh, Azareel is ruthless and sometimes just plain mean. Still, he has a reason for what he is doing. The best villains always do, of course.

In time, Venice comes to accept certain realities, and that’s when this novel grows up. Fans of science fiction, especially as it explores the human condition, should enjoy Trinity on Tylos.

Way back when it was released, this novel was a “recommended read” at Fallen Angels reviews, and it garnered several other positive reviews. There are newer reviews by customers on Amazon, too.

Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: The Real West

My dad was fond of westerns, mostly on television, as we didn’t have the cash to visit the cinema often, and he wasn’t a reader. His favorites were Gunsmoke the mini-series Lonesome Dove. However, we watched a lot of them in the day. So the names Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, Billy the Kid, General Custer, Davy Crockett, and Doc Holliday seem rather familiar. As I read Bill O’Reilly’s book, Legends and Lies: The Real West, I got the impression that he was attempting to inform those of us who learned our history of the west by watching the Hollywood versions that much of what we remember might fall within the two categories: legends and lies. Indeed, the afterward explains how westerns came to be such a staple in early films and series television, and I enjoyed that more than any other part of this book.

Overall, I enjoyed O’Reilly’s informative text, but after reading Killing Patton (see my previous post) this one was a bit of a let down. The stories were not nearly as compelling as the story of Patton. However, it is interesting, and the period photos are really nifty. For those who are students of historical figures in the old West, this might be too basic, but for casual readers, the tone and depth is just right.

I read the Kindle version, so the pictures were a bit hard to see. For anyone really interested in the photography, the hard cover might be better.

Killing Patton— a quick review and commentary

Killing Patton cover imageGeorge C. Scott’s portrait of World War II General George Patton was my introduction to the famous hero. And, that is a very good film, but the book Killing Patton has an even more narrow focus. Authors Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard begin at the end, Patton’s untimely death, then jump back a year or so, to meticulously trace Patton’s role (and that of the 3rd Army) in the successful final campaigns against Germany at the end of World War II. General Patton was quite a character, with his ivory handled pistols and flashy uniform, but he also was far more aggressive than other American generals, and actually lost fewer men because he didn’t mess around! Anyway, he did not always suck up to those in authority, spoke his mind on the dangers of the Soviets, thus he made both friends and enemies. The authors label him as the most “audacious” U. S. general, and that’s a good word. I’ve always admired Patton’s forthright approach to war and life. Rather than give away the suggested culprit in Killing Patton, let me say that O’ Reilly and Dugard offer multiple possible persons who might want Patton dead. These authors do seem to believe that one of them was behind several attempts on Patton’s life. Certainly, they make a good case that Patton’s death was not an accident. Killing Patton is a very good book, with plenty of history and just enough mystery to keep it entertaining, and I highly recommend it.

My interest in the book goes beyond my admiration for General George S. Patton. As this Veteran’s Day approaches, my mind has often turned to my uncle, A.L. Dodd, Junior, who was also in Europe. PFC Dodd served as an automatic rifleman in the 9th Army, 75th Division, which was somewhat north of Patton’s 3rd Army in their journey through Europe. My uncle, just nineteen years old, was killed in action in April of 1945, a few days before the German surrender. Of course, my uncle died long before my birth, but family members told me that he was in the Ruhr Valley, and he was shot by a German machine gunner. So, seventy years ago, he died, along with hundreds of thousands of others. This book, with its detailed accounts of the major players in the war, helped me understand what was happening in Europe (and in America) in 1945.

At the time, the United States was very much a singular nation, which rallied to do what was right. Neither Patton nor any of the other U.S. soldiers were perfect men, but many of them performed nearly miraculous feats of bravery— they were heroes.

Infinity Lost— a quick review

I’m in the midst of a semester of teaching writing, and I generally read and write less when faced with lots of student papers. However, I did spend a couple of evenings with Infinity Lost by S Harrison. The main character is Finn, the only child of a reclusive industrial tycoon. Finn is an innocent, but as the story unfolds, she is not just a teenage girl. Certainly, science fiction is a favorite genre, and this entry by a new-to-me author is quite interesting.

There are some neat concepts in this story. At times, it was a bit confusing, but mostly, the author does a very good job of describing interesting technology. there is quite a bit of suspense, too. Actually, I began thinking that this novel reads well, but it might be a better screen play than a novel. It is the first entry in a trilogy, and I suppose there might be a film in the making.

The Gift Horse is still available as an eBook

gifthorse-frontcoverMy debut novel was written over the course of several years; I have laughingly called it “my stress relief book” because when I had a bad day at work, I would stay up late at night and make sure my main character, Angie, had a worse day! Anyway, while I don’t view it as my best work, I have a strong affection for this twisted tale of misguided affection.

Here’s the “blurb” from the back cover:

If Angela Donalson – a young woman, orphaned, living in poverty, with brains and ambition – were granted three wishes, she would want wealth, an education, and a family.

Marc Avery has always had everything he ever wanted. Now he wants a girl for his pleasure, a girl no one will miss.

When, in a bizarre twist of fate, Angie is abducted and held at Avery’s remote Tennessee estate, she initially tries to thwart her captors. Unable to gain her freedom, Angie finds herself trading her morals to meet the challenges presented to her each day. As she comes to know the man behind her abduction, and comes to recognize that he can provide her with more than she ever dreamed possible, Angie faces dilemmas which will determine not only how she lives, but if she lives at all.

Combining a dynamic plot, remarkable characters, and a setting in the deep South, Pamela J. Dodd takes her readers for a wild ride on The Gift Horse.

After I did some minor edits to the original published version of Trinity on Tylos, which is now exclusively an Amazon Kindle title, I decided to do the same thing with my debut novel, The Gift Horse. Before I put it out to pasture, I really would like to do some web 2.0 marketing for it. However, the nice folks at Booklocker suggested that I pull the print version but leave the eBook alone. Since The Gift Horse is available on multiple eBook platforms (pdf, Nook, as well as Kindle) folks who want it should not have any trouble purchasing it. Of course, the few print copies that are still around (I have a few in a box somewhere) are all that will be printed. So, if you own one of the print copies, it might be worth something some day.

Until then, the original tale is available for $2.99, which is less than the price of a deluxe hamburger.

Kindle books and the Kindle App— true love!

AmazonFebruary is known for its major holiday, Valentine’s Day. Yes, there is President’s Day, too, but who cares about that? No, it is Valentine’s Day that sells the chocolates and flowers, and lots of cards. Perhaps this is my Valentine’s Day card to Amazon’s Kindle program. Oh, Kindle, let me count the ways….

First, I love the Kindle app. I’ve never owned a Kindle, but the app that I have downloaded to my Apple devices (as of this writing, an iPad and iPhone) is the best eBook reading platform I have ever used. Over a decade back, I began reading eBooks on my Apple laptop. That evolved into reading on a Palm PDA, and then I moved my eBook collection to my iPad. So, I have used several platforms, including Nook, iBooks, and a few others. Nothing beats the Kindle app.

Second, I love the Kindle bookstore. My, oh my, there are so many books in there, and often, I find something for free! Admittedly, the freebies are usually inferior to paid content, but not always. As a part-time web designer, I have been helped quite a lot by such titles as these:

SEO for Bloggers

WordPress Made Super Simple

WordPress Mastery

And, I have reviewed a number of fiction titles in previous posts. Almost all of my reading these days is fueled by the Amazon Kindle Store. I get books for a fraction of what I used to pay, and they are on my device in seconds rather than my having to make a trip to a bookstore.

Third, I have published via the Kindle store. My science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, never paid me back for my promotional expenses when it was originally published by Whiskey Creek Press. And, it is still not selling many digital copies, but I have seen more in royalties via Amazon than I ever saw from the original publisher. If I were to publish again, I would seriously consider the straight to Kindle approach, and I would embrace social media marketing and skip fighting for a guest slot at science fiction conventions.

Anyway, as a consumer and as an author, I really love Amazon.

Terms of Enlistment

Cover art of Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Space Opera!

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.

(spoiler alert)

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.

More Reviews in 2015?

Trinity on Tylos as a Kindle Countdown deal


Trinity on Tylos is buried on page nine of sixteen pages of countdown deals in science fiction.

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.

The Martian— a quick review and some commentary

The MARTIAN coverOften, 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.