Another week has gone by where I have not completed any real writing exercises. I did spend some time researching and reading, however. Some of the literature I read ties into my writing more so than the rest of it. As I share with you my thoughts on these stories, you will find a good mix. As always, the star ratings simply represent how much I enjoyed the books, and are not meant to be some true “objective” critique as to the quality of the writing involved.
Steelheart / The Reckoner series by Brandon Sanderson – I forgot where I heard the phrase, but someone told me I should write what I love. I really enjoy good, self contained super hero stories. The Reckoner series fits the bill just right. In this version of Earth, an event happened, known as The Calamity, which gives hundreds of people super powers. However, instead of becoming the saviors of mankind, nearly all of them turn rogue. They subjugate the population, more or less. The only resistance to their rule consists of a small group of normal people who take them out one by one through careful planning. Our protagonist has a run in with this group, and an epic adventure begins. Once again, Mr. Sanderson weaves an awesome story that kept me glued until the end. I can highly recommend this to anyone (5/5 Stars).
A Trap for the Potentate / The Dark Herbalist series (Book 3) by Michael Atamanov – In an earlier blog post, I wrote about LitRPGs. This emerging subgenre tells stories set inside of virtual worlds, namely massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) . This is the second such series I have dived into and I enjoyed it well enough. Our antagonist gets drawn further into the virtual world, dealing with larger and larger threats. My main gripe with these types of stories consists of how they become a bit more ridiculous with each book. The first book seems like any MMO I have played in the past, with set rules and expectations. Later books have massive numbers and rule breaking events you would never see an any MMO. And, of course, the protagonist discovers some power/rule/glitch/etc that breaks the world even further. When it pushes the envelope too far, it breaks my immersion. With that said, this one does have me wondering what will happen to our goblin friend next, so I’m down for the next book. (3/5 Stars)
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis – Every non-fiction book I read from C.S. Lewis is a real treat. Do not get me wrong. I know that people love his fiction writing, including critics. However, they never resonated with me. That’s a story for another article. However, his books on theology absolutely amaze me. When I speak with atheists about the reasons they do not believe in God, most point to the problem of pain and suffering. How can a loving God allow cancer, the Holocaust and slavery? Mr. Lewis methodically answers this deep question with intelligence and empathy. I wish all of my friends would read this. (5/5 Stars)
Slugfest by Reed Tucker – I got this book on a recommendation of a friend. It details the history between Marvel and DC Comics, blow by blow, through the decades. From the early days, DC lead the way with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Yet, somewhere along the way, upstart Marvel shook up the status quo, and eventually took over as number one. To this day, they continue to lead in sales figures. Mr. Tucker gives you the steps and missteps each giant took on their way through the silver age of comics up through their domination of the movie industry. While a bit dry at times, I enjoyed this as a lover of comics. For that audience, I say this is a must read. (4/5 Stars)
Neutron Star by Larry Niven – I grabbed this book on Kindle after hearing it recommended on the Writing Excuses podcast (which I highly recommend for those who enjoy writing fiction). This book contains eight short stories all set in the same universe. Most focus on Beowulf Schaeffer and the alien race known as the Puppeteers. The author does a great job with the sci-fi setting, telling stories I could not see done any other way. However, there’s an odd contrast for me in his writing style. On one hand, Mr. Niven goes into great depth explaining how hyperdrive works, or how the gravitational pull of a collapsed star may affect a ship. Clearly, he has done his homework and it gives an authenticity to his work. On the other hand, he names planets odd things such as “We Made It” and calls races common words like “Puppeteers.” In more humorous fiction (such as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), I see this technique used often. However, in more serious science fiction, such as Star Trek, you expect more ‘down to earth’ names used. And these names are used often, which keeps yanking me a bit out.
I love the imagination used, but I often have a hard time following the action scenes. Some of this has to do with too much science thrown into those scenes at times, and others could just use some polish. It does not help that the Kindle version of the book has a few glaring editing issues. With that said, the stories will full engage the imagination of any sci-fi fan. I enjoyed the read and learned a few things about writing short stories here. (3/5 Stars).