Author Archive

REVIEW: Feed by Mira Grant

REVIEW SUMMARY: With cutting wit and sharp dialogue, this book of the living dead explodes with life.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the world of tomorrow, every man, woman and child is infected with the potential to rise from the dead, but it is still a world ruled by political agenda that will stop at nothing. A sister and brother blogging team seek the truth and a little zombie action, in an ever-descending downward spiral.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Snarky and cutting wit; excellent future prognosis in a well realized zombie world.

CONS: First-person narrative lacked some of the descriptive exposition to better reveal the physical world; main antagonist is revealed a little late and is a tad obvious.

BOTTOM LINE: With a narrative that speaks to the reader you are drawn into a world of the future that seems so plausible it may have you looking up Doctor Kellis and checking the existence of the filovirus Marburg EX19, just to make sure you don’t need to stock up on ammo and blood testing units. It’s zombies, bloggers, politics, technology and medical revolutions all mixed into a bloody cocktail and poured for your enjoyment. Beware of snarky dialogue that will make you smirk.

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INTERVIEW: Daniel Polansky on ‘Low Town’

Daniel Polansky is a debut author born near Baltimore. His first book is Low Town, published by Doubleday in August 2011. He’s already working on the sequel. You can keep in touch with him via his website DanielPolansky.com, Twitter (@DanielPolansky), and facebook at facebook.com/DanielPolanskyAuthor.

Recently, we had the chance to speak with Daniel about his novel and the writing process.


SF SIGNAL: I read on Niteblade.com that Low Town took nearly two years from start to finish. Was there any particular seed of an idea that germinated to become Low Town? Or was it just an accumulation of ideas and characters until you realized you needed to write that first draft?

DANIEL POLANSKY: Truthfully, I woke up one day and just started writing blind. I had a good idea of the Warden’s voice, and a vague sense of the sort of mood I wanted to evoke, but in terms of such minor issues as plot, character, setting etc – I really had no idea. Things sort of came together and then suddenly I had a draft. And then I realized (largely because I didn’t bother doing the requisite planning) that the draft made no sense, and I began to revise it furiously.

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REVIEW: Low Town by Daniel Polansky

REVIEW SUMMARY: Darkness abounds in this novel that blends detective, noir and fantasy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the slum of Low Town one man struggles against his past, faces what he has become and deals with a sordid mystery that he is compelled to solve.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Realistic; intriguing character struggle.

CONS: Climax lacks punch; visual detail and some character elements lose consistency; mystery somewhat lacking.

BOTTOM LINE: Dark, different, with a character that is tough but likable. Read it for the character and ignore the mystery.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A mesmerizing ride through thick deceit as Martin compels you through every incredible page.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The land of Westeros is held together by tenuous peace, while turmoil shifts and boils beneath the surface. The powerful houses of old plot and scheme, a threat rises across the ocean, and an old evil stirs from its icy domain.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Prose; characterization; gripping politics; a world that lives and breathes; heart wrenching.

CONS: Not for the faint of heart.

BOTTOM LINE: A must-read, you will be awed by the intrigue, gripped by the passion, and amazed at the realism in this magical, epic tome.

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REVIEW: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

REVIEW SUMMARY: Even infinite potential can be tempered by absolute apathy. This is an endearing tale of a boy that grows into a legend to be respected and feared.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The world turns with danger at the background, while Kvothe tries to escapes a painful past in anonymity. A twisting of fate reveals his tale and thus the story truly begins as we go back. Back to when Kvothe was a child of rare ability, growing up in a traveling troupe of performers, learning his craft. His future was before him, showing nothing but the greatest promise, living in the brightest of light. But horror unfolds, and a mythical evil takes him down a path of deep despair. When he surfaces from the darkness, the ladder before him is now ridden with splinters and razor sharp edges that threaten to cut and bleed him with every rung. He rises high and he rises fast, climbing despite the pain, battling the obstacles of everyday and of his self.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Beautiful and engaging prose; witty characters; emotive.

CONS: Incomplete — I want more…oh, wait, that’s kind of a good thing; main plot is pushed to the background; somewhat slow to start.

BOTTOM LINE: Kvothe is an incredible character, wondrous to behold. While the book may not ensnare you immediately, Rothfuss weaves you into the story slowly, until you find yourself trapped by steel bands of style, substance and wit.

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REVIEW: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith

REVIEW SUMMARY: Sucked of life, this steampunk, vampire mash-up misses the mark.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vampires have taken over the world, ruling with a clawed fist. Humanity’s hope lies with a marriage of two nations, a “mysterious” freedom fighter, and a princess that is more than she appears.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Fun premise; use of technology of the era.

CONS: No mystery or flow; prose is rudimentary and doesn’t excite.

BOTTOM LINE: A debut novel that reads like one, this is for hardcore steampunk and vampire fans only.

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REVIEW: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

REVIEW SUMMARY: A vividly realized, destitute world with characters full of their own agenda; constantly working against each other to an end that lacks punch.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a future where corporate greed has driven the world to a near-constant brink of disaster, the Thai remain an island of seclusion — ever vigilant against an influx of bad fruit or infectious disease that could kill them all. This is a story of a medley of characters all trying to survive in a hostile world.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Smart, unique, well thought-out setting; realistic characters.

CONS: Story lacks cohesion; too many foreign terms; hard to feel there is a central conflict/character.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a story rich with ideas and setting but lacking the strength of a central character to follow on their journey.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: For epic fantasy the Wheel of Time stands tall. This book is a solid addition to the series, but it does not stand nearly as proud as some.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, nears the last battle. To save the world he will break the seals and release the greatest evil upon the world that there has ever been. Wherever he walks, light and life push back darkness and death from the Dark One’s ever-expanding touch upon the world.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Culminating plot points we have waited eons for; every scene with Rand.

CONS: Prose; inconsistency; rushed scenes.

BOTTOM LINE: For fans of the Wheel of Time this is an obvious must-read. The only question is when and where. For everyone else, start at Eye of the World and if you’re hooked, we’ll see how long you last. This one thing I can promise you: if you make it through the slow books, you will be rewarded.

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REVIEW: Kell’s Legend by Andy Remic

REVIEW SUMMARY: Vivid, compelling, and destructive, this book still manages to perplex; as it sometimes meanders aimlessly, like a drunk–unsure where home, or that next drink is.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Kell is a retired warrior of legend, suffering from arthritis and the sluggishness of age, until a bloodthirsty army descends upon his town to lay destruction.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Vivid descriptions; imaginative monsters.

CONS: A plot that seems to meander; inconsistent characters.

BOTTOM LINE: If you like war, monsters and conflict and can handle a healthy dose of blood, guts and sex–covering the whole thing in a viscous mess–then this book is for you.

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REVIEW: Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell

REVIEW SUMMARY: Cybernetically strung-out freedom fighter leads a too-large cast in a too-small book that fires and…misses.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In Ragamuffin, Nashara is a last ditch effort, centuries in the making, to usurp the yoke of alien rule by the pirate-like force of terran traditionalists, that refuse to submit to the masters of humanity.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Technology; world building; unique.

CONS: Pacing; characterizations.

BOTTOM LINE: If you want something different, here you go. If you want something good with character and pacing, I advise to look elsewhere.

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REVIEW: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

REVIEW SUMMARY: Scalzi takes you on a speculative ride that is fast and rewarding.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The far future: Man has colonized the stars. And they’re hostile. Our solution: Fight back and fight first. Our recruits: Grandma and Grandpa. But not how you knew them. New and improved, like you’ve never seen or imagined.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Dialogue, humor, imaginative and well-used technology.

CONS: Lack of detail and jumps in time

BOTTOM LINE: Scalzi’s imagination and military prowess are superb, while working in a touching story that leaves you satisfied. And don’t worry…there is no Viagra.

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REVIEW: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

REVIEW SUMMARY: Massive, fantastic, but sometimes overkill. Run to buy this book, but keep in mind that you will sometimes be mired in unnecessary detail.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Roshar is a fascinating land of strange cultures, animals and even plant life where magically-enhanced knights wielding fearsome Blades rule. Follow a thief, a highprince and a surgeon-turned-soldier as they go through the struggles of life to protect their family, hold together their kingdom and fight for what’s right on a path that is fraught with peril and leading to more.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Character, diversity, battle scenes, MAGIC!

CONS: Too much fluff, and too many extra pages added as a result. Book occasionally drags.

BOTTOM LINE: For those that like their books gigantic and epic, this is your book (i.e. Wheel of Time fans).

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REVIEW: The Ninth Avatar by Todd Newton

REVIEW SUMMARY: A first outing that needs to go back for directions.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Evil army of the undead led by a prophesied destroyer of all that is good, ravages the land. A small party of would-be defenders forms by chance amidst the ashes and takes their small fight to the enemy.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Symbol-based magic that manages to feel distinct.

CONS: Awkward dialogue and actions. Characters don’t remain true. I’m quickly left with a heavy lack of interest.

BOTTOM LINE: Too much packed into a poorly designed package. I am left with the feeling that many richer stories (of smaller scope) could be pulled from the framework of this and polished into shiny goodness.

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REVIEW: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

REVIEW SUMMARY: It may not be minty, but at times the Breath is sweet.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Warbreaker is an epic story of a kingdom in peril, a god that is more AND less than what he seems, a sister’s love and jealousy, magical breath, and an army of the walking dead (and running, and slashing, and stabbing…).

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Magic and a cool blood-thirsty sword, strong characters with conflict.

CONS: Intrigue and betrayal are sold short; antagonists’ motivations are priced well, but I don’t buy.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite a strong start, the story meandered for the rest with some good points and bad, until reaching for the sky towards the end. It’s engaging, enjoyable, but it stumbles.

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