Author Archive

BOOK REVIEW: Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

REVIEW SUMMARY: A refreshing new voice in science fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young Amish man leaves home to help colonize a distant planet, finds love and war and a slew of mysteries.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Uses Amish perspective of colonialism, survival and peacefulness as a nice twist on exploring a new world set in tyranny and war; solid use of the serial formula and mystery reveals to drive the reader along; SciFi elements and technologies add excitement and wonder.
CONS: The main character felt passive at times; the romance element did not deliver as strongly as I would have liked; a few times the story slowed down as the main character reflected on Amish philosophy in relation to new world around him; ending was more of a stay-tuned-for-the-next-book finale than a strong climax.
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BOOK REVIEW: Dust by Hugh Howey

REVIEW SUMMARY: Satisfying conclusion to a remarkable science fiction series

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The end to a post-apocalyptic epic where people have survived underground in silos but are finally going to find out whether they can survive in the wasteland above.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Has the feel of a science fiction series we’ll tell our grandchildren about; shows improvement in pacing from previous books in series; surprise ending.
CONS: Lacked enough surviving characters to keep us as engaged as we were in earlier books of the series; subplot about the endangered child was not rewarding enough.
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Timothy C. Ward is the former Executive Producer of Adventures in SciFi Publishing. His newest story, Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), is available on Kindle for $.99, and is the first in a serialized, five-part epic. Scavenger: Blue Dawn (Scavenger #2), will be released October 1. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases and to become a first 100 reviewer to get future stories for free.

The Problems with Writing Fan Fiction and How To Solve Them

by Timothy C. Ward

A few weeks ago I released Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), an authorized fan fiction novelette set in the world of Hugh Howey’s novel, Sand. Hugh has opened up his world of Wool to fan fiction through Kindle Worlds, but Sand is not yet open and thus has only one other writer, Michael Bunker’s Dunes Over Danvar, writing in Sand‘s world. I’ve read all of the Silo Saga (WOOL, Shift, and Dust), but one scene in particular in Sand inspired me to create my own character in his story. Without that inspiration, I don’t know that I would have bothered. There are a lot of Wool fan fiction stories out there, and while the world is full of opportunity, I just never moved any into the top of my queue. Call that a case of running Adventures in SciFi Publishing and having a crazy reading schedule or maybe it’s a preconceived notion that I’ve already read the story of the Silo. The Last Prayer by Lyn Perry put a different spin on Silo life, focusing more on religious persecution, and while it was a good story, it felt very similar to Wool 1.
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Interview with Matthew Reilly, Author of TROLL MOUNTAIN

Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of twelve novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Hell Island, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, Army of Thieves and The Tournament.

Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold approximately 5 million books worldwide: 3 million in Australia; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.

In 2011, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the biggest selling fiction title released in Australia for that year. Three more of Matthew’s books have been the biggest-selling Australian fiction titles of their year of release: The Tournament (2013), Seven Ancient Wonders (2005), The Five Greatest Warriors (2009).

Matthew has also written two novellas: in 2005, he wrote Hell Island for the Australian Government’s Books Alive project and in 2014 he released the epic fantasy-quest ebook Troll Mountain.


Tim Ward: I first discovered your work through a Creative Writing course at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Gary Crew is also an Australian author and assigned for us to read Temple. I loved the jungle adventure you told in that story. When you think back to that book, what do you love about that story?

Matthew Reilly: Temple, for me, was about writing a story that was part modern techno-thriller and part swashbuckling adventure. It is the only novel I have written with a dual storyline — that was a challenge I set myself: to see if I could hold the reader’s interest while switching between two stories which are ultimately on a collision course.

I love the pacing of the novel — it is a difficult thing to do, stopping and restarting different storylines, and I like to think Temple succeeds at this.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Echo by James Smythe

REVIEW SUMMARY: Goes deeper into the mystery and emotions of this dark space epic.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The sequel to The Explorer charts the second expedition to understand the deadly anomaly in the far reaches of outer space.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Complex mystery adds depth to what was established in The Explorer; relationship between main character and his twin; empathetic struggle between ambition and failure; the ending.
CONS: Lacks immediate hook into the story; secondary characters only engaging at key moments; confusion during significant events.
BOTTOM LINE: A deep-space mystery to save Earth in a story for anyone who fears failing in their life’s work.

Following in the footsteps of the phenomenal first book, The Explorer, The Echo rewards fans with answers to the anomaly located deep in outer space, but then adds more danger as the anomaly’s strengths and mystery increase. More than that, though, the story of its main character, Mira, is touching, succinct and a perfect fit for a reader toe-to-toe in the battle between ambition and failure.
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BOOK REVIEW: Below Zero by Ben Tripp

REVIEW SUMMARY: Wraps up an innovative zombie-apocalypse duology.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The zombie apocalypse has turned into a wild west where children are used for bait and happy outcomes are few and far between.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: moments of excellent prose and horror; one-of-a-kind zombie mythos; interesting heroine; solid ending.
CONS: weaker middle; weak empathy for secondary characters; disappointed after really enjoying first book.
BOTTOM LINE: The action from an interesting concept of Happy Town’s dark secret, along with the heroine’s emotional journey made this a good read, but the lack of supporting characters you really care about made most of the events only marginally exciting.
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Ben Tripp is the author of Rise Again and Rise Again: Below Zero, a two-part apocalyptic zombie saga for Gallery. The sequel comes out on December 17, 2013.

He has an upcoming trilogy of rollicking young adult novels in the historical fantasy genre for Tor, the first of which is The Accidental Highwayman. In addition, Gallery has secured rights to his first foray into the vampire genre, The Fifth House of the Heart.

Tripp is an artist, writer, and designer who has worked with major entertainment companies and motion picture studios for more than two decades. He was for many years one of the world’s leading conceptualists of public experiences, with a global portfolio of projects ranging from urban masterplanning to theme parks. Now he writes novels full-time.

He lives with his wife (Academy Award-winning writer/ producer Corinne Marrinan) in Los Angeles.


Tim Ward: RISE AGAIN: BELOW ZERO is a highly anticipated sequel to RISE AGAIN. For those who haven’t read RISE AGAIN, please share the enthusiasm you had for that story and its characters and how you sought to have it make its mark on the zombie genre.
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Nate Kenyon writes thrillers, suspense and horror for Thomas Dunne Books. He also writes video game novelizations for Blizzard Entertainment in the worlds of StarCraft and Diablo. His novel, Bloodstone, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist and winner of the P&E Horror Novel of the Year. His novel, The Reach, was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist. His latest novel is the techno-thriller Day One (Thomas Dunne/St. Martins Press). Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it “exciting and inventive.” Library Journal called it a “must” and Kenyon’s “scariest to date.” Day One was also recently optioned for a film. Visit him at NateKenyon.com.


Tim Ward: DAY ONE is almost like 24‘s Jack Bauer fights Skynet, except Hawke is a reporter instead of a trained killer. Why is this story better for having Hawke not be as skilled in tactical fighting?
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An Audio Interview with Michael A. Stackpole

Today, Timothy C. Ward interviews Michael A. Stackpole about his new online course, Introduction to Writing: Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is still open to enrollment. The course costs $65 to enroll, then also you’ll purchase 21 Days to a Novel ($20) and his book Rogue Squadron (Star Wars X-Wing Series, Book 1) (~$6).

Michael and Tim also discuss how one learns to outline, examining studies in neuroplasticity and how outlines come from a strong understanding of characters. Michael discusses higher education options for aspiring authors of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Check out the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

If you’d like to find Michael on Second Life for his office hours, search for Noble Charron, his avatar, send an IM and he’ll give you the link. You can also go to The Quillians writer’s headquarters, a great place for encouragement for NaNoWriMo. They concluded with what he’s working on: a Pathfinder book, the next book in his Crown Colonies series, and then Talion: Nemesis.

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BOOK REVIEW: Still Life by Michael Montoure

REVIEW SUMMARY: Strong debut novel from a top-tier indie author.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Former rock guitarist flees death to become a vampire and finds something much worse.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Empathetic female protagonist; escalating emotional conflict; fresh twist on vampire genre; tight wrap-up.
CONS: Slavery and its theme drags a little; setting is claustrophobic; antagonist is a little weak.
BOTTOM LINE: Consistent to Montoure’s strengths in his best short stories, Still Life is beautifully written with strong characters and a surprising plot, and only lacked a larger playground in which to experience its story elements.
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BOOK REVIEW: Fiend by Peter Stenson

REVIEW SUMMARY: The zombie apocalypse has never been more engrossing, heart-wrenching, or personal. I rooted for this hero with held breath.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A pair of drug addicts open their window to a zombie apocalypse, run for their lives and fight for what they’ll love more: sober life or death.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Front-to-back engaging; phenomenal ending; emotionally powerful characters; scary zombies; survivalist setting.
CONS: The sexual descriptions, while consistent with the gory details throughout, were more than this reader preferred.
BOTTOM LINE: Best read of the year. Best zombie book, ever. Masterful illustration about how painful and overwhelming addiction can be – over love, over family, and over being a good human being, even in the face of losing one’s life to a zombie horde.
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BOOK REVIEW: vN by Madeline Ashby

REVIEW SUMMARY: vN is the book you would hope for in a story about an A.I. robot who overcomes her failsafe and struggles not to kill humans.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: vN is the story of five-year old Amy, an A.I. robot whose parents — father human, mother A.I. — are starving her in order to let her grow up as slowly as humans. A bloody incident with her grandmother reveals Amy as having a faulty failsafe and forces her to grow up fast or die.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Unrelenting and surprising conflict drives a fast-paced read; genuine, human-robot dystopia; powerful character arcs; evokes series addiction.
CONS: A few small sections were a bit slower to read.
BOTTOM LINE: A great time to start The Machine Dynasty series because after you finish vN, you are going to want to jump right into the sequel, iD, which releases at the end of June.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Stories exploring fascinating experiences and characters in worlds stranger than I’ve imagined and yet close enough to home to feel I belonged there.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Like Water for Quarks contains stories with suffocating darkness, inter-dimensional portals, life-altering mailmen, ghosts in the ether, and many more mind blowing elements which champion magical realism as a genre for the imagination.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Bends reality without losing true connection to characters.
CONS:  At times too weird; disagreed with a couple stories’ message or direction.
BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys stories that insert magic into everyday life.

Individual story reviews follow…
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BOOK REVIEW: 14 by Peter Clines

REVIEW SUMMARY: A mystery that starts out interesting enough to compare to Lost, but loses interest in the middle and falls too far outside of reality in the end. (Not that Lost didn’t also.)

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young guy without direction in life moves into an old apartment and gathers other tenants to investigate oddities where they live.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong setup for interest in characters and mystery.
CONS: Characters and mystery become less interesting by 40% mark; the ending.
BOTTOM LINE: The beginning established an interesting cast of characters and doubly so for their discoveries of this ancient building and its secrets, but the piecing together of the puzzle lost my interest and the climax was not as surprising or engaging as I hoped after liking the beginning.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Eighth Court by Mike Shevdon

REVIEW SUMMARY: A suitable ending to a well-loved series about the secret deal between human and feyre and an average Joe who risks everything to save his home and loved ones.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Powerful feyre are upset about the conclusion of Strangeness and Charm: Courts of the Feyre #3, and seek to kill everyone involved in support of a court made up of human-feyre crossbreeds. If they succeed, Earth will become a land consumed by darkness and the monsters who wield the void for evil.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Fascinating magic; powerful and scheming villains; engaging and surprising mystery; epic conflict; dramatic and sympathetic conclusion to character arcs.
CONS: A little slow to build interest; the final battle is frightening and surprising, but not the best ending of the series.
BOTTOM LINE: The Eighth Court takes a little time to build speed, but once it does the thrill ride to the finish is the puzzle solving, magical war that fans of this London Fantasy have come to love. You will get off this memorable ride more endeared to the heroes than ever before, and sad to see them go.

(This review contains spoilers if you have not read the first three books. This series is highly recommended. Start with Book 1, Sixty-One Nails: Courts of the Feyre. It made me a fan of Urban Fantasy.)
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BOOK REVIEW: The Shambing Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun story of New York City’s monsters trying to destroy a likable writer who just wants to get over her past, meet a good guy, and finish her tour guide of the city’s secret culture.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A down-and-out writer is hired by a monster-run publishing company to write a tour guide to the monster underbelly of New York City. Her research leads to attacks by incubuses, zombies, golems and a secret villain who wants to turn the city on its head and unleash the brewing war between human and monster.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Likable heroine; fun supporting cast; creative world building that almost makes you want this kind of New York City to exist; establishes setting for many exciting stories.
CONS: The safeguards that allowed the heroine to intermingle with the monster culture also guarded the reader from feeling truly afraid for her life; humor fell flat too often; the ending jeopardizes future interest in this series.
BOTTOM LINE: The Shambling Guide to New York City starts out well enough to keep you reading, gets even better in the middle, and may or may not satisfy in the end. Unfortunately, for this reader the ending watered down the experience.
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BOOK REVIEW: Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones

REVIEW SUMMARY: A terrifying apocalypse for monster fans and survivalists that loses reader interest through plot holes and a weak main character.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Red Rain creates a post-apocalyptic world for a bike-riding journalist to explore alone.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Offers a fresh take on post-apocalyptic fiction; appeals to survivalist fans; scary; quick read.
CONS: The implausibility of scenario and heroine’s survival tactics; passive conflict resolution.
BOTTOM LINE: The story has promise, but the poor execution and attention to detail may kill the series for some readers.
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BOOK REVIEW: Shift Omnibus by Hugh Howey

REVIEW SUMMARY: The sequel trilogy to the best seller, Wool Omnibus, which takes a leap back in time to show how the chaos started.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A silo architect finds out too late what he’s been building, loses track of his wife and memories, and must uncover the secret behind the silo in order to make everything right.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: Strong beginning; empathy for major characters; challenging philosophical themes about war and sacrifice to survive as a human race.
CONS: Third Shift (Book Three) slowed the story way down with minor revelations and sparse action.
BOTTOM LINE: While the first half gave hope that this sequel could surpass Wool Omnibus, the story went downhill from there. Shift is still recommended for Wool fans, and it will not kill interest in reading the concluding volume although but it did not meet expectations.

(Spoiler Warning: This review will have spoilers for people who have not read Wool, and only general spoilers for those who have yet to read Shift. Reviews for First Shift: Legacy and Second Shift: Order can be seen at the reviewer’s home page.)
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A character-focused zombie story whose characters you’d rather ignore.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A flu outbreak in Northern Ireland overcomes quarantine efforts as the dead rise and survival efforts bring out the worst in most people.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: A few memorable scenes; Irish accent in narration added to immersive experience.
CONS: Characters mostly unlikable; rambling plot; obtrusive prose.
BOTTOM LINE: The story is dominated by people being jerks, mixed in with some zombies, and ends up with more head-scratching than nail-biting moments, leaving this reader uninterested in any sequels.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Space Opera for fans of Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert’s Dune prequels, introducing a new universe with creatively inventive worlds, aliens, intergalactic travel, and an epic war to come.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A failed revolution against the tyrannical Constellation government places exiled leader, General Adolphus on a planet at the outer reaches of a new frontier, where geological instability has earned it the name, Hellhole.  General Adolphus proves more resilient than the Constellation’s Diadem presupposed, and with the help of a new alien species, prepares to free the galaxy from its tyrannical government.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Symbiotic nature of alien life creates interesting relationship with humans; sympathetic characters invest readers in epic war to come.
CONS: Telegraphed plot lacks surprises needed to exhilarate reader, including cliffhanger ending.
BOTTOM LINE: Nostalgic readers of Dune prequels will enjoy similar story telling style in Hellhole, but will be disappointed by a cliffhanger ending predicted hundreds of pages before.

Hellhole begins with an emotional conclusion to the revolution against the tyrannical Constellation government, which serves to create strong empathy for the main character, General Adolphus, and a starting point for the moral dilemma of sacrificing innocents as a means to an end.  What follows sets General Adolphus up as a leader on an outcast planet, Hellhole, and his discovery of ways to free a cast of sympathetic characters from various forms of oppression. The chaotic environment on Hellhole entertains while developing characters like his love interest, her daughter, and a heroic love interest for her.

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