Tag: review

Review on Internet Archive


Here’s another example of what a review can look like. This reviewer put a little more thought and effort into it, which I appreciate, of course, but I wouldn’t want anyone to feel that they have to live up to this example were they to do a review of their own. As I’ve said, anything, anywhere would help. Even a one-liner.

Here is one person’s review of Green Comet on its Internet Archive page.


Reviewer: megatotoro – Five Stars – December 29, 2012

Subject: Green Comet from the Eyes of a Non-Native English Speaker

I finished reading Green Comet a few days ago. It has a solid plot resting upon an original idea: comet inhabitants. I say it’s solid because the author leads readers throughout the technical difficulties of such a setting and make it highly credible by means of precise and detailed descriptions. The characters, although fantastic, are also credible and realistic thanks to the advances in science. Now, this is not only a story of science (science-fiction), but also one of the most basic elements in human nature: doing one’s best, risking life, finding (and keeping) real love, and facing extreme danger bravely in spite of our very own fear. The narrative figure does not get in the way: it helps to disclose the characters’ emotions without giving too much information away or forcibly keeping relevant details.

Green Comet makes us imagine the endless possibilities for progress that technology offers and at the same time makes us question our personal attitudes and goals in life thanks to its round, well-developed characters. They are loyal, brave, loving, and hard-working…but also far from perfect: they must fight against their individual fears, doubts, and prejudices to conquer themselves while facing their worst threat as a people.

This novel is deep and quite technical yet enjoyable and able to make you smile and even laugh.

If you want to read a fine piece of writing in which the marvels of precise engineering blend with the subjectivity of human(?) nature, take a look at Green Comet. I am glad I read it.

Thank you, megatotoro. Your words encouraged me when I read them. They can’t help but inspire others.

rjb

Write a Review

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This is awkward, asking for help when you’ve already done so much. You’ve already helped me more than you know just by downloading my books, and even more by all the encouragement you’ve given me. Some of you have even gone to the trouble of dropping a comment on the Green Comet website. So, thank you, and you should feel no obligation to do any more.

Even so, it might be the case that some of you wanted to do more, but didn’t know how. Or it might not have occurred to you that there was anything you could do. If that is the case, then I should be letting you know that there is something. In the years I’ve been doing this experiment — writing stories and giving them away to see what happens — I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that people expect a nice cover. They expect some extra information around the story, like blurbs and synopses, and even something about the author. I’ve gradually done all that and it’s getting better all the time.

There’s one thing I can’t do for myself, though. I’ve learned that people also expect reviews. Of course, there is some of that on my own website, and there is one review on the Green Comet page at Internet Archive. But there’s nothing on the sites where the book was uploaded by Pronoun. (If you go there you will see that I was required to set a price for the book. I also made sure to point out that it’s Creative Commons, though.) So, if you want to help me even more, and you have the time and inclination, you could go to one or more of these sites and post a review. It will help the book look more legitimate. Even a one-liner would be enough.

Thank you for all you’ve done, and I certainly don’t expect any more. But if that is your wish, then here are the sites.

Amazon
iTunes
Barnes and Noble
Google Play
Kobo Books

rjb

The Lafayette Campaign

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Review – The Lafayette Campaign – Andrew Updegrove

Available at Amazon in both digital and paper form. Link through the author’s site.

Author’s website.

AndrewUpdegrove

You might remember Andrew Updegrove from the post What is Open Source Pharma. His law firm works in that area, among others. Andrew also has a blog where he’s exploring “the evolving self-publishing labyrinth.” Part of his exploration is experimentation, where he tries various things and reports on the results. To give himself material to experiment with, he writes books. Today’s review is on one of those books.

The Lafayette Campaign is a thriller, the second in a series about Frank Adversego, a tech prodigy who uses his skills to stop nefarious plots. The first book is called The Alexandria Project. From the description of The Lafayette Campaign:

America is rushing headlong into another election year, but something is wrong – the polls don’t match reality. It’s up to cybersecurity super sleuth Frank Adversego to find the Black Hats who are trying to hack the presidential election, and stop them before they do.

Frank Adversego is a grumpy middle-aged man. When we meet him, he’s on the road looking for some isolated wilderness where he can get some writing done. His quest for freedom from people and their annoying demands is frustrated, first by an attractive French woman with a broken bicycle wheel, then by government agents in a helicopter. He wants to tell them to get lost. He’s done being a hero. But they know his weakness. He can never resist the urge to solve an interesting problem. In this case, someone is spoofing poll results, which is threatening to have the wrong person nominated to run for President. And there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t so the same for the election.

Updegrove has written a thriller, but that doesn’t stop him from presenting it with a cheeky sense of humor. His protagonist’s disdain for the antics of politicians and those who report on them is demonstrated with vivid clarity. In fact, Frank is an intellectual with an obvious contempt for fools. Even sports aren’t safe, as shown in his opinion of hockey.

The book is written from the omniscient point of view, so we learn all the characters’ motives first-hand. That can be tricky, but Updegrove manages to pull it off. I found some examples of dialog that felt forced, as if he wedged in too much to be sure he told it all. And I found some of the descriptive passages to be too wordy, as if he was indulging a love affair with words. The book would benefit from some ruthless trimming.

These cavils aside, I can still recommend Andrew Updegrove’s The Lafayette Campaign. As it says in the description:

The Lafayette Campaign provides a satirical take on American politics and our infatuation with technology that will make readers pause and wonder: could this really happen?

All this and some lessons in computer security too.

rjb

Review of Green Comet

Credit Visitor7 - CC-BY-SA

Credit Visitor7 – CC-BY-SA

A while back I came across a copy of Chris J Randolph‘s book, Stars Rain Down. I read it and found it good — an action-packed science fiction adventure. We met each other in virtual space and, as things happen, he offered to read and review Green Comet. What follows is that review.

Public Domain

Public Domain

Review — Green Comet
by Jim Bowering

Jacket Description:

“As Elgin wakes from a centuries-long sleep, it’s to the memory of danger and loss. Even in the confusion of re-animation, he wonders if this time she’ll be there. But then he remembers the mysterious Visitor and the perilous mission that took Frances from him, and darkness closes in again. Even so, there’s always the hope that this time will be different, that they will have found a way. It was always like this. Hope would always rise again, no matter how often it was struck down.”

I recently had the pleasure of reading Green Comet, the first novel by Jim Bowering. It’s an interesting and well-written book that would have been perfectly at home among the classic science-fiction of the 1950s, when scientists were heroes and love was a simple matter. It’s a strong debut showing for the author but not without its faults.

Note: This is an in-depth review with some minor spoilers.

The novel begins with the main character, Elgin, waking from cryogenic hibernation on the titular Green Comet, an inhabited ball of ice hurtling through space. During the next few chapters, we’re treated to the disorienting experience of his slow return to consciousness, interspersed with the history of his (unnamed) homeworld.

The author doesn’t go into much detail about that planet, and we’re left to imagine that it’s generally Earth-like, while the dominant race would appear to be identical to modern humans. The one startling difference from our own world, and the one that sets up most of the novel’s intrigue, is the large quantity of nearby comets… so many, in fact, that at least two are visible in the sky at any given time.

After one of these comets nearly wipes out the species, they begin to take the dangers of their solar system more seriously, and thus begins their quest to not just tame the comets but eventually colonize them. This is spearheaded by a growing population of synesthetes, people whose senses mingle in peculiar ways, giving them unexpected talents, and it’s these unusual folk who fill out the novel’s cast.

In the present, Elgin is slowly introduced to the realities of modern life inside Green Comet, guided by a kind-hearted and childlike steward named Minder. The life Elgin once knew has changed in subtle ways after nearly two millennia of sleep, but there are some disturbing developments centered around his part in the comet’s history. He and his friends have since become legends (even religious figures, in some cases), and the story behind this forms the core of the narrative.

To that end, the story then jumps back to when Elgin first came to the comet, and proceeds in a mostly linear fashion until the final pages. We learn of his unique talents as an engineer, his adventures playing a futuristic sport called Flashball, and (eventually) his love of the brilliant Frances.

Most of Elgin’s challenges are related to his work as an engineer, while the largest conflicts are interpersonal matters and public debates. This holds true until the book’s denouement, in which a lingering threat finally surfaces after a remarkably long and deliberate build-up. The tension reaches a peak there, and we’re also treated to the story’s most touching and poignant moments… but the climax ultimately amounts to more of a fizzle than a bang.

After that, the narrative shifts into fast-forward as the intervening 1,800 years are accounted for. Loose threads are tied up and all the remaining questions are answered, rolling on to a finale that leaves the reader on a slightly mysterious though hopeful note.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the book. It had a warm spirit and sense of adventure, and the author’s scientific concepts were well thought out and interesting. From the biological modifications the colonists underwent to the kinds of food and furnishings they used, it’s clear Mr. Bowering put a lot of thought into how exactly people might live inside a comet. Some of his other concepts, such as the use of ice for much of their construction, stretched my disbelief somewhat uncomfortably, but never to breaking

The story features a small cast of characters, and though charming, I didn’t always feel that their personalities were deeply sketched out. We spend most of our time with Elgin who is bright, honest, and kind, but the story leans heavily on his innate synesthetic talent, which allows him to simply tell when something is “right.”

The most memorable character by far is Elgin’s best friend, Buzzard, who is portrayed as autistic (though it’s never said outright). Despite his social and physical awkwardness, the character is beloved by everyone in the comet, and (in my opinion) was always a welcome presence in any scene.

On the other end of the spectrum is Frances, Elgin’s love interest and (in many respects) the most important character in the novel. Described as smart, commanding, and compassionate, I nevertheless feel like her character was underdeveloped, and hampered by the fact that we mostly see her through the loving glow of Elgin’s gaze. We know all too well how Elgin feels about her by the end, but the character nevertheless remains something of a cipher.

Also of note in this regard is the game of Flashball, which the characters spend a lot of time practicing and playing throughout the novel. Even though it takes up considerable narrative space, I still don’t have much idea how the game is played, and that’s something I’d definitely like the author to have expanded on more.

The writing is solid and I was very rarely lost or confused about what was happening, even in a low-gravity environment where all the characters can fly and walk on walls. The prose is fluid and pulls you right along, with only a few awkward passages in the early parts that might have benefited from another editing pass.

That being said, the writing is often dispassionate and doesn’t show much style or flair, with the author frequently recounting events in an expository or summary style, free of perspective or emotion. This is especially disconcerting when dramatic moments are glossed over, with the focus instead placed on the quiet interpersonal scenes that follow. This is the case for many of the debates that are the key conflicts through the second act; we know broadly what happens and how the characters react, but these would have been excellent places to really dig in and describe so the reader can experience it for themselves.

At the top of the review, I mentioned that the book would fit in well with classics from the 1950s, and that’s a feeling I found inescapable while reading it. The characters are all moral and forthright; problems are solved through judicious applications of science and teamwork; and the entire story has a certain child-like naiveté and coyness that’s quite
charming. For my own personal taste, I tend to prefer a bit more grit, disgust, and dishonesty, but Green Comet won me over with its relentless hope and happiness.

The book is well copyedited and formatted (I found precisely one typo and one formatting error during my read). The subject matter should be suitable for audiences of any age, though younger readers will struggle with some of the more obscure vocabulary.

Considering the price (as free as air) and permissive license (Creative Commons, attribution, share alike), I can strongly recommend Green Comet, and I wish the author the best of luck with his next outing!

Chris J. Randolph

Credit Wellcome - CC-BY

Credit Wellcome – CC-BY

Thank you, Chris, for such an in-depth review of Green Comet. Almost as many words here as in the book. I hope it didn’t leave you feeling like this fellow.-)

Now, go to his website and check out his books. It’s the least you could do.-)

rjb

Stranger Things Happen

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Review – Stranger Things Happen – Kelly Link

Quirky short stories – 82,000 words

Available at Feedbooks

Author’s website

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Kelly-Link

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link is a collection of eleven short stories. It’s available in various formats, including ePub and Kindle, at Feedbooks. Kelly has released the digital version under a Creative Commons license, bless her heart, so it’s free to download and read.

As I was reading Stranger Things Happen I found myself thinking of Roald Dahl, especially the kind of short stories he published in Tales of the Unexpected. I was also reminded of Ray Bradbury’s October Country. The characters and events are almost ordinary, except they’re not. You quickly learn to accept that you will be taken places and shown things that are anything but ordinary.

The man who can’t remember his name, writing letters to his wife, whose name he can’t remember either? He might be dead. The librarian whose girlfriend takes him to meet her parents. Her mother has a wooden leg and her father a collection of false noses, which he needs. The librarian has to learn what it is to lose something. The young woman who walks across half a continent on broken glass to retrieve her young man from the Snow Queen. The young man who picks up a beautiful young hitchhiker on the way to Milford Sound. Every story is filled with vivid images of worlds that are slightly off. If, like me, you have an occasional taste for quirky stories, you should enjoy Stranger Things Happen.

Visit Feedbooks to download Stranger Things Happen, and visit Kelly Link’s website to see what else she’s up to.

rjb

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