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.

Unbroken– the book (review and commentary)

Unbroken coverWhen I was younger, one of the genres of movies and television that was quite popular was stories from World War II. While I wasn’t alive for it, of course, many in my parents’ generation had fought or knew those who had. Indeed, on a wall in my house is a framed picture of my uncle, A.L. Dodd, Junior, who was killed a few weeks before the end of the war in Europe; he was in Germany, in the Ruhr valley, when he was shot by a German machine gunner. So, the war was quite real to us. We enjoyed the stories, because they were entertainment, but knew that the war had affected most everyone in America.

After seeing the film Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, I was telling my sister about it, and she said, “Clearly, you don’t know the whole story. Read the book.” And, with lots of other reading and a bit of teaching, it was almost six months after hearing that advice before I got around to reading the book by Laura Hillenbrand. OMG, why did I wait so long? The movie is very good, but the book is great. Maybe I waited, in part, because I don’t usually like biographies.

As told by Hillenbrand, Louis Zamperini was quite a character, from his earliest days. His parents didn’t quite know what to do with him, and he might be described as a juvenile delinquent. His brother convinced the school authorities to allow Louie to get involved in sports, and Louie was gifted in running. So gifted, in fact, that he became an Olympic runner, and a very good one. He might have known even more fame as a track star, but World War II got in the way. After his plane crashes in the Pacific, Louie and two other Army Air Force survivors were adrift for a very long time. Then, on the brink of death, they were captured by the Japanese. Yes, Louie was still alive, but he faced incredible brutality.

One of my elderly friends is a survivor of a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. She was interned there as a child, one of several children of a missionary who fled there from China, because the parents thought that being in a U.S. territory was safer for their children. The treatment she and other family members endured was brutal, and toward the end of the war, the prisoners were scheduled to be executed before the Japanese withdrew. She was saved because some American volunteers broke down the fence and escorted the POWs to safety. My friend, to this day, cannot understand Americans can embrace Japan as our friends and allies. To her, they were a barbaric enemy, who starved her family and killed far too many non-combatants.

Hillenbrand does explain the brutality, through Louie’s account, and accounts by other prisoners. But she reinforces the brutal nature of the Japanese POW camps with survival statistics. According to Hillenbrand, only 1% of American POWs held by the Germans or Italians (the European theater) died, but in Japan 37% died. She also goes into the cultural differences which led to the cruelty, not as an excuse, but to let readers know more about the “why” which must come to the mind of her readers.

(spoilers)

The film, Unbroken, closes with the end of the war. That is a good stopping point for a Hollywood film; the audience can go home knowing Louie made it out alive and was welcomed home by his loving family. But, as my sister noted, there is more to the story. The book has a subtitle Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption and it is appropriate. While I do not fault Jolie for leaving out the “redemption” part, the story is incomplete without Louie’s problems adjusting to “normal” life after the horrific experiences he had in Japan and how finding religion gave him the peace he desperately needed. The author continues to cover multiple story lines, including “Phil” the pilot to “the Bird” who was the most sadistic of the Japanese prison guards.

The entire story is important, and those who watch the movie get only the middle, so I encourage readers to tackle the book by Laura Hillenbrand. While it isn’t a quick read, it is certainly worth your time.

Reviews for Trinity on Tylos

ToT_cover_final_webLGRecently, my science fiction novel, Trinity on Tylos, got a mention on the Goodkindles site. While preparing the copy, I did a web search for reviews, because I wasn’t too sure how many of those are still available. Surprisingly, I found a few, which were done based on the first edition, published by Whiskey Creek Press. Although they got the title wrong, I got a fairly good review from “The Romance Studio” site. Apparently that title is difficult, because the folks over at Books for a Buck misspelled it, too, but it is a decent review. And, the one by Harriet Klausner appears on several sites, including Bookreview.com. The best review I received was over at Fallen Angels Reviews, of course. While searching, I also noted that my efforts to publicize it have resulted in pirated copies online. Oh, here’s another one! And another one!  I guess I should be flattered that someone thinks it is worth stealing. 🙂 I’m proud of Trinity on Tylos, and I created the Kindle edition to attract new readers, so I hope the Goodkindles listing will help. Check it out!

Fatal Boarding— a review

Cover, Fatal Boarding

Fatal Boarding is better than the cover would suggest.

Recently, I read E.R. Mason’s science fiction novel, Fatal Boarding, via the Kindle app. As of this writing, it is a bargain because it is free. And, normally, if I don’t particularly like a freebie, I do not review it. I did review this one, on Amazon, and I am going to do so in a more elaborate manner here, because I did like it, but with reservations.

Why did I “buy” it in the first place? The cover is pretty bad, I think, but the number of reviews and stars is impressive. Also, you can’t beat free. So, I added it to my Kindle library, and I did manage to finish it, although I thought of abandoning the effort more than once. The main character isn’t likable, at least not a first, but he did grow on me. The situation is interesting, and the author does a good job of putting in details to help the reader visualize both settings and characters. Actually, the plot line isn’t all that fresh. However, just about every story has been told by now, so all we readers (and writers) have left is theme and variation.

Adrian Tarn, main character, is an experienced spacer, currently serving as security officer on a ship that has a boring task, mapping. He signed on because he lost too much money gambling, and at least a portion of his grumbling is probably intended as foreshadowing. Anyway, his rather boring job is interrupted when his ship goes a tad off course to investigate a derelict alien vessel. The reason this other ship is abandoned is a bit of a mystery, and solving this mystery becomes imperative when Adrian’s ship has malfunction heaped upon malfunction, apparently all due to the close proximity of the mystery ship. Then, folks start dying, as the title indicates. So, this is a space mystery, which evolves along expected lines, as Adrian and his fellows begin to figure out how and why both vessels are dead in space.

Overall, I did enjoy the story, but the most troubling aspect is the lack of proper grammar, spelling, and/or editing. As a writer, I know it is hard to catch every little thing, especially when working on one’s own manuscript. But, Fatal Boarding suffers myriad problems, making this a distracting book to read. The author confuses “loose” and “lose” several times, and there are missing quotation marks, missing commas, odd paragraphing, and other issues. At times, I had to back up to be certain what was happening or who was speaking.

Yet, 145 reviewers have rated this effort 5 stars, and another 87 give it 4 stars. That’s 228 more reviews than my space story, Trinity on Tylos, has garnered during 8 years of publication.

I’m doing something wrong….

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.

Sky Hunter— a review

Sky Hunter coverThere 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.

Black Hole Bounty— a review

Black Hole Bounty coverRecently, I read Sienna Bronwyn’s Black Hole Bounty, which was a little more erotic than the romances that I normally read, but this one was quite good. The heroine, Jerusa, is different (an albino of Central American origin) who wears a nose ring and is scared of heights. Actually, she’s scared of lots of things…but that’s what a big part of what makes her an interesting heroine. She’s already married and has a daughter, and that’s atypical as well. The plot is not as far from the norm (for science fiction romance) as are the characters, so I’ll call it character driven fiction. It’s also rather funny, because the POV character is, well, quite a character. Still, this story is an action/adventure, and Jerusa never runs out of beings who make her afraid. Often, she has every reason to be scared silly.

As some of the reviewers on Amazon stated, the worst thing about this story is that it is first in a series and the other entries are not yet available. Some authors are great at writing a series where each story can stand alone, but lots of writers are not bothering with that these days, and that’s annoying, but again, not unusual.

If Ms. Bronwyn can get part two of this series out before I forget all about the story, then I will be happy to purchase it. So, dear author, get busy.

Investment Biker— a review

Investment bikesWhile touring the Barber Motorsports Museum in Alabama, I came upon a display of two rather battered BMW touring bikes, on a round platform, with a sculpture of the world suspended over them. In a museum where even hundred-year-old motorcycles are preserved in showroom condition, these two road warriors stood out. The information spread around the platform indicated that the bikes were used by Jim Rogers and his companion, Tabitha Estebrook, as they went on an around the world trip, on motorcycles.

When I got home, I bought the book that Rogers wrote about his trip, Investment Biker. As a fairly young man who had made his money on Wall Street, Rogers takes his reader on a ride around the world, and into the world of finance. At first, I was rather annoyed, because I wanted to read about the bikes and the sights, but not about the price of commodities. However, as Rogers explained how his trip through Europe, Asia, Africa, Southern America, and other regions influenced his trading, I gained respect for his reasoning in investing in some areas, while steering clear of others.

That said, there are motorcycle tales aplenty, from having a hole in a piston welded in a remote village, because the closest BMW dealer was thousands of miles away, to spills along a road with gravel pieces the size of baseballs for a road surface.

Since this journey occurred a couple of decades back, there are sections which read more like history, such as his observations about why the Soviet Union appeared to be crumbling. And, I am sure that Rogers might want to retract some of his political  predictions, should he ever have a second edition.

Still, I am really glad I read Investment Biker. Many of the reviewers on Amazon seemed disappointed that this book is about travel on a motorcycle, rather than investment advice. I wanted to read about adventure, and this book has plenty of that. Most of the moto-journalism I have read has been inferior. Rogers writes well, and his vision and experiences are inspiring.

Alarm of War—Best Space Opera I’ve Read Recently!

Okay, the story line is hardly new: green recruit impresses everyone, gets promoted, and saves the day. But, Alarm of War by Kennedy Hudner does have some freshness, and most of the spelling and all of the grammar is correct. That’s saying quite a great deal in this day of self-published ebooks available for the Kindle.

Our main character is Emily Tuttle. Yep, that does not sound like a heroine’s name, now does it? Especially not a military fiction heroine, who should have a big name, like, oh, say, “Honor Harrington.” But, our heroine is Emily Tuttle, and she doesn’t look particularly heroic, being rather small. Oh, and she has a master’s degree—in history. Her best bud in training is a tall Hispanic chick named Maria, who goes by “Cookie.” And the smartest dude in the training group is a geeky guy named Hiram. And what is really odd is that the leadership of the training facility actually recognizes who is smart and acts accordingly. Maybe the government will do stuff like that in the future.

Anyway, the novel begins with background and political intrigue; actually, too much of that. Oh, it helps to know all that as the story moves along, but it might be better dished out in the middle of the story. To be honest, I did not get interested in this novel until a royal despot kills a lawyer and uses him for decor. Then, I got interested, and I stayed interested. Just when the reader believes that he or she knows exactly what is going to happen, something comes along to shake things up a bit and keep the reader turning the pages.

This one ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I went back to Amazon, intent on purchasing the sequel. Unfortunately, Alarm of War was published in August, and there is (as yet) no sequel. Darn.

I hope that Mr. Hudner is busy working on part ii of this yarn. Maybe it will be out by Christmas. Gosh, I hope so.