Author: Lance

Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than 20 stories published or on the way, and two e-books coming soon: "Thorvald's Wyrd", and "Turn the World Around". And he needs a more exciting short bio.
Book Review: An Ancient Peace

Book Review: An Ancient Peace

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This is the sixth book set in the same universe, but the first of a new sub-series, I think following at least some of the main characters (one for sure, and definitely most of the principles have been around. I kind of knew going in that I wasn’t starting at ground zero, but figured if the writing was good, I’d probably be fine.

And I was right, mostly. This isn’t a bad jumping off point into the universe, but I was definitely missing some things, some nuances in the society that previous books built, some in-universe jokes and references.

But it still worked okay. Ms. Huff establishes quickly that this is a setting with some previously filled in background, dropping bits and pieces as you need them to figure things out as you go along. There are, at one point, quick summaries of previous plots made by a background character to another background character to establish the main protagonist as someone not to be f’ed with and also to provide some great rationale for her PTSD-related issues.

In a way, this book is filling in some more background, and the variety of species, each with a distinct, if still relatable, outlook and the interaction between members of those species is where the book lives. The primary characters have an easy familiarity between them, built from friendship and shared struggles. They mesh together well and the understand species and personality differences can be both sources of conflict and amusement, sometimes at the same time.

The “bad guys” on the other hand, aren’t bad in their own eyes, which is nice, but aren’t particularly likeable or relatable. The only reason they have to be together is the money they’re going to make at the end of things if successful, and no one seems to care much how many of them make it to that success until it looks like they’re not going to make it on their own. The leader has different motivations, of course, which makes things a little more stressful for everyone there.

As for the overall plot, well, it’s essentially a race to see who gets to the big gun first, and the bad guys have a head start. To be honest, it’s fairly linear and predictable. There’s never really any doubt about how things might turn out for the bad guys. The good guys have different measures of success depending on who knows what when everything is over, which makes the denouement period interesting.

Overall rating: 3 stars. It was a decent read, and I liked it, and while it stands okay on its own, I suspect it would get an extra star if I had more of the background from the previous books. Maybe that’s the direction I should take.

Be well, everyone.

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Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise

Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise

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Part of my quest to read all of the Hugo and Nebula novel winners. This book won both in 1980.

This is probably what Robert Heinlein would have classed as a “gadget story”. Granted the gadget is awfully big, a ground to geosynchronous orbit space elevator, it’s still a gadget. And if some of the characters are more dimensional than in the typical gadget story, that’s a good thing.

At its heart, this is a novel about the quest towards an idea and turning that idea into reality. There’s a lot of well thought out science and engineering going into this book, and the characters are all competent folk in their own fields, which run the gamut from space engineer to dedicated monk at an isolated monastery.

There isn’t a lot of conflict or adventure to be had here. Aside from the space elevator itself, and a few tense moments during a rescue sequence, this is more a story about ideas. Ideas like the big engineering projects that will take us forward, like science being what will get us to those big projects in the first place.

And I rather enjoyed that the hero of the story, if hero is the right word, is an engineer. A brilliant and supremely competent engineer, to be sure, and one who builds big and dreams bigger.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars. I liked this better than Rama, the last Clarke book I read, mainly due to actually being able to get to know the characters, particularly the main POV, but other books of his rank a lot higher with me. At the same time, there really weren’t a lot of emotionally intense moments.

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Book Review: Cibola Burn

Book Review: Cibola Burn

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Book four in The Expanse series, and the one I’ve enjoyed the least so far. I did still enjoy it, but not as much.

This is a different kind of book than we’ve gotten in the series so far, smaller in scope in a lot of ways, but set up for a lot of character development that isn’t realized as well as I would like. For a book that was so focused around Holden and Amos, I should have gotten to know them a lot better, but Amos was totally in a supporting role, and Holden is seen too much through other people’s eyes, mostly a woman who thinks she’s in love with him for a big chunk of the book (she isn’t, but she thinks she is.)

It’s also a book that can’t quite decide what kind of book it is. Science Fiction, certainly, but beyond that? It’s at times an exploration and settlement story, a “natural” disaster, an action adventure, a survival story, a posthuman experience, a rescue, and even a political thriller for a few moments here and there.

On that last, how the UN figures that it has any jurisdiction in another star system is completely beyond me. The characters in the book all seem to buy it, so I have to, but it seems ridiculous on the face of things to me.

The minor characters with their own POV scenes mostly came through better than those I consider the primaries, though none as well as Miller’s former partner, Havelok who shows the most growth of personality and the most change of any character in the book. It helps that I like the directions he grew in, especially considering his starting point.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars, which I’ll likely round up on Goodreads, mostly due to the strength of previous books in the series. This is a bridge book, with a smaller, far more localized scale than previous stories in the series. It hints at larger events to come in the next book, but gets a bit lost in pseudo-natural disasters, blind obedience, and death slugs.

The idea of cloud-dwelling bacteria colonizing our eyes is kind of neat, though.

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Celebrations in August

Celebrations in August

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The Year of Celebration Continues!

I’ve been crazy busy of late, so this post didn’t go up before August started, mostly because I couldn’t find time to write it. Because it’s so late, it isn’t going to have the same level of detail as the last one, but here’s what I’m celebrating in August.

01 August – World Wide Web Day – surf a little, just for fun, and without feeling guilty about it.

02 August – Ice Cream Sandwich Day – mmm, ice cream

03 August – White Wine Day – a breakfast sort of wine, no?

04 August – Dad’s Birthday (he’s 73 this year)

It’s also International Beer Day – make sure it’s a good one

05 August – Underwear Day – please wear clean ones

06 August – Friendship Day – remind a friend you’re happy they exist

07 August – Civic Holiday – it’s this thing in Ontario to get an extra long weekend. We like it.

08 August – Happiness Happens Day – help it happen for someone

It’s also International Cat Day – different from every day how?

09 August – Book Lovers Day – again, different from every day how?

10 August – Duran Duran Day – possibly the greatest hair band of the 80s

11 August – Mom’s Birthday (she’s 70 this year)

It’s also Play in the Sand Day – even if you don’t have small children, playing in the sand is worth the time once in a while

12 August – World Elephant Day – keep an eye out, they’re smarter than you think

It’s also Vinyl Record Day – vinyl never really went away, but it’s just not integrated into our culture the way it used to be. Nostalgia anyone?

13 August – Left Hander’s Day – it’s not always easy to be left handed in a right handed world.

14 August – Creamsicle Day – haven’t had one in years. It might be time.

15 August – Relaxation Day – ah, if only I had the day off.

It’s also Pythagorean Theorem Day – that piece of high school geometry no one thought they’d ever use, but everyone remembers.

16 August – Sister’s Birthday – let’s just say she’s younger than I am and leave it at that.

It’s also Wave at the Surveillance Cameras Day – am I the only one who doesn’t need a special day to do this?

17 August – Get Smart About Credit Day – it’s never too soon or too late to start.

18 August – Men’s Grooming Day – really, guys, take a little time.

It’s also Bad Poetry Day – release your inner Vogon.

19 August – Homeless Animals Day – ever thought about taking one in?

It’s also International Geocaching Day – download the free app and go find a secret treasure you didn’t know was there.

20 August – World Mosquito Day – not my favourite disease carrying insect, but at least they’re food for animals I do like.

21 August – Poet’s Day – and you should be one of them.

22 August – Take Your Cat to the Vet Day – if you’ve been holding off, now is a good time to ensure your Feline Overlords’ health.

23 August – Ride the Wind Day – get out and enjoy the air in your face.

24 August – Vesuvius Day – on this day in 79CE, Vesuvius erupted, wiped out two cities, and killed thousands. That we still know about this today is a joint tribute to Roman record keeping and archaeological persistence.

25 August – Sean Connery Day – not just the original James Bond, but if that’s what you remember, hum the theme song.

26 August – Dog Day – give yours a treat and take them for a walk. You know, like every other day.

27 August – Just Because Day – do something just because you want to. Make it fun. And preferably legal.

It’s also International Bat Day – mosquito hunters extraordinaire in my neck of the woods.

28 August – Bow Tie Day – make no mistake, they are cool.

29 August – Individual Rights Day – there’s a long history of struggle and fighting for individual rights. It’s not over here, much less in other parts of the world.

30 August – Grief Awareness Day – remember that everyone you meet has lost someone close to them. A lot of us may still be grieving.

31 August – We Love Memoirs Day – your grandchildren might, too. Write down some treasured memories and keep them safe.

It’s also Burger Day – this year, make mine vegetarian.

Be well, everyone.

And celebrate something.

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Writing Report for 08 August 2017

Writing Report for 08 August 2017

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There should have been one of these last week, but I guess that will just make this one a little longer. Projects completed:

  • Last week, I finished off the Star Trek Marathon logs, at least the written versions of them. All 53 drafted. A little polishing at a later date and then recording sometime after that.
  • Late this afternoon, I finished the read through on the “final” draft of Scattered on the Wind. Time to find some beta readers for this one, and a couple of other things.

Which makes the “next 10”, in currently anticipated completion order:

  1. Star Trek Comic Strips
  2. Haiku Selection
  3. Novella/Novelette Review Catch Up
  4. Shrine 1st Draft
  5. LoC 2 Plot
  6. Star Trek Book/Comic/Merch
  7. Fallen Heroes Outline
  8. Palace Plot
  9. Fractured Unity 1st Draft
  10. LoC 2 Outline

There are a couple of short forms at work here.

“Star Trek Comic Strips” is actually tentatively titled “Star Trek: The Badly-Drawn Stick-Figure Comic”. I have the rough plots for all of them and have some truly horrible first sketches done for seven or eight strips out of a planned twenty.

LoC = Lords of Creation, which is the name an adversarial alien species gives to itself in Universal Destiny, something else I need beta readers for.

Be well, everyone.

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Book Review: Gloriana

Book Review: Gloriana

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Part of my quest to read all of the World Fantasy Award novel winners. This book won in 1979.

This book starts out so description laden it’s hard to stay awake. On several occasions, that description slides into list making and the lists are long enough that it feels like that scene in Holy Grail when we’re learning about what people ate when the Lord bestowed the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch on his followers, except no one is available to say, “Skip a bit, Brother.”

When we finally do get to the point where there are characters, we skip from character to character without warning or apparent reason and the chapter breaks seem completely arbitrary. That arbitrariness doesn’t change a whole lot.

The British Empire is big and early, but otherwise this is clearly an alternate Earth and Gloriana is a representation of Elizabeth I, if in a slightly later time.

There are paragraphs lasting pages, with such overdone lavish description that you get lost between sentences, particularly when those passages interrupt actual storytelling, of which there’s precious little.

And a main point of the book is that Elizabeth, I mean Gloriana, in spite of being the Empress of some large fraction of the world, is an incomplete woman because she can’t have an orgasm, no matter how hard she tries or with who or how many people.

Really.

The main antagonist, an artist of deception and eceipt by the name of Quire, makes her fall in love with him with a flick of his fingers, more or less, and because he’s annoyed with his former patron, Gloriana’s closest advisor, Montfallcon, who just doesn’t get him.

Other members of the court have a variety of sexual tastes and fetishes, none of which are really relevant to what there is of the story, but which nonetheless play for a lot of wordage.

Overall rating: 1.5 stars. Because I did finish it, but this was not a good read for me. For two-thirds of the book, nothing really happens, there’s just a slow buildup of tiny events that add up to maybe a long novelette’s worth of story. When there are actual events finally going on, they’re still mostly boring. And the Queen achieves her ‘fulfillment’ (and orgasm) while being raped by Quire, a point which seems missed a lot.

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Book Review: Proxima

Book Review: Proxima

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So there were things I really liked and things I really hated about this book.

The science works well, from the physical construction of the new world around Proxima Centauri (Per Ardua, named for the RAF motto Per Ardua Ad Astra, through adversity to the stars), is a well-visualized and well thought out world with an interesting population of alien creatures. Back in the solar system, things work just as well, with a good mixture of extrapolated technology and technology indistinguishable from magic that makes hard SF set a couple of centuries in the future work.

And I like several of the characters, two of my favourites (for completely different reasons) being artificial beings. I’d like to know more about Yuri’s past than we eventually get, but the gradual reveal of important bits works for the story.

On the other side of things, and these will take longer, are the things I don’t like.

The story has too many jumps in time, making big gaps in the narrative. This looks like an attempt to skip a lot of supposedly boring bits where nothing really happens to the characters but life. Not a new idea, and it’s been used well in the past, but it doesn’t work for me for some reason.

I find the idea of colonizing another world (in another solar system) the same way the British colonized Australia in the 18th century, with criminals and forced transportees, completely unrealistic. There would be no shortage of volunteers, regardless of the ease of finding people you don’t want to keep around anyway.

The sexual/gender dynamics in the book are disturbing, at least, though that may be at least partially a natural outgrowth of the manner of people the author mostly populated the story with. Misogynistic doesn’t seem to be too strong a word here, though. Women are more or less property, and the violence, abuse and rape allowed to happen indiscriminately on the transport ship under the eyes of the guards and crew is extremely disappointing from a storytelling perspective. It doesn’t get any better when the colonists are dropped on the planet.

On the political side of things, we have an escalated version of the Cold War, only with bigger technology and worse potential outcomes. No worry of Mutually Assured Destruction here, though there should have been, and how the destruction comes about is something that everyone involved in the planning should have foreseen. I hate it when a plot hinges on smart people doing stupid things.

Overall rating: not quite 3 stars, but definitely more than 2½. Proxima cliffhangers very well, but I’m not sure I’m keen on where it seems to be leading. No spoilers from me, but looks like it’s going to be a ridiculously overused trope. It was billed as the first book in a trilogy

Part of the problem of this being an incomplete story on its own is the primary storylines being only vaguely related, stretching the definition of vaguely a bit. There are only a couple of points of contact. I’m going to assume things come together more in the second book. Or maybe the third to wrap things up.

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Book Review: A Daughter of No Nation

Book Review: A Daughter of No Nation

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So considering what happened when I read the novel preceding last year’s Aurora Winner, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t read the book that comes before this one in the series, but I didn’t actually plan it that way, or even think about it. While it’s obvious within a few pages that this is a sequel, you probably don’t need the first book to enjoy this one. It may help with a few little things, but A Daughter of No Nation is fairly self-contained.

Fairly.

There’s an alternate/parallel/future world that may or may not be Earth. People live there. It’s 90% or so ocean. They call it Stormwrack. Sophie’s real parents are from there. She got to travel there and hang out with her half-sister and aunt for a while, having a few adventures. This is easy to figure out from the narrative, and early.

But there’s political and legal fallout from her first visit, actually, from her very existence. Mix this with a mystery and then a conspiracy and a little bit of exploring the world, and you’re holding A Daughter of No Nation.

Sophie tends to be a little on the melodramatic side as well as feeling, by virtue of coming from a technological world, that she knows better than the savages around her. This belief seems to persist no matter how many times, in how many ways, she’s smacked in the face of it.

Enjoyment of the book comes less from Sophie than from the characters around her and the worldbuilding that’s clearly gone into Stormwrack. There’s a whole society here, a collection of societies, and we get tiny pieces of a number of them, personified in other characters. Stormwrack is a big world and this story only just starts to scratch the surface. There are a still a lot of unanswered questions about a lot of things. In fact, most of the questions about the world and its people we started the book with remain unanswered, almost everything beyond the immediate mysteries and conspiracy, plus a few more raised in the course of the story.

Whether fully intended, this has been set up to be a potentially long series.

Overall rating: 2.5 stars, which I’ll probably round up to 3. A lot of things can make a book live or die, but if I don’t enjoy my time with the primary protagonist, I’m probably not going to read further, so I’m fairly unlikely to read the first book in this series or the next.

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Book Review: Age of Myth

Book Review: Age of Myth

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I was a bit worried going in. I quite enjoyed the Ririya Revelations and was worried that Mr. Sullivan is pigeon-holing himself into only writing in a single world with this third series. My other concern was that I was getting another primitive barbarian story with the old “elves are gods” trope as a central facet.

The second piece of that is accurate, although the author takes steps to break down that barrier throughout the book. Whether the author has pigeon-holed himself into a single world remains to be seen, but it’s happened before.

First, the issues I had.

The first third or so of the book is slow, as in pacing. Things don’t happen very quickly and there’s a lot of setup going on. Mr. Sullivan is laying great groundwork for things that are coming later in the story (and probably later in the series), but it’s at the expense of things happening that advance the current story very quickly.

Overall, the plot is a little on the obvious side, very linear and straight forward. There are tense moments and scares, but nothing really twisty.

The elven sorcerers have way too much power. They can literally rearrange the landscape to suit their needs at any given time. The main bad guy, one of those sorcerers and on the verge of considering himself a god, is so clearly the bad guy and so obviously over the top, but no one else seems to even notice, or realize that he doesn’t have the best interest of elven society at heart.

There are some subverted expectations, and good ones. The mystic is a teenage girl, the barbarian hero has got it bad for the chieftan’s widow (I’m not sure if this is an oedipal thing or cougar hunting, but I’m sure more will develop later), and the elves aren’t quite so monolithic a culture as they first appear – plenty of fractures developing while we watch.

And the characters do grow on you, especially Raithe (the barbarian who set everything in motion by killing an elf), and Persephone (the widow), though for completely different reasons.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars. Fun, but I don’t know if I need the next book or not at this point. The basic story is taken care of in this volume, and it’s a happy-ish and satisfying ending for the survivors, while offering reminders that there are still major events to come.

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Writing Report for 24 July 2017

Writing Report for 24 July 2017

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So I’m going to stop calling this weekly reports and just put one up when I’ve got something significant to report.

I have made progress since the last one, and since it’s been four weeks since the last update, I’ll put more detail here, but I think, going forward, I’ll only put up updates when I’ve marked a project as complete or when I’ve hit a major milestone.

Recent accomplishments:

  1. Shrine – I’ve gotten back into the dictation thing, and I’m making a thousand-ish words progress per work day on this, less on days off. Fourteen chapters of 40 are drafted, and I’m into the fifteenth. Also, I haven’t diverged from the original outline too much. That 40 will probably end up being 42, though, as there are a couple of chapters I think will wind up getting split.
  2. Star Trek Marathon logs are now going very well. I found an old draft of many of the original version on my Google Drive. Instead of having to write the next couple of dozen fresh, I can take the previous versions and modify them to match up with the overarching story as it’s currently built. I expect the speed of progress to increase here.
  3. Scattered on the Wind final draft progresses, and I’ve finished the read through, with a few changes in word choices here and there and only one substantial change in one chapter, to the end of Chapter 12. There are 30.

The current “next 10” projects remain the same, but the completion order is probably not what you see below. Some things are bigger than others and some just take longer. Example, while the first draft of Shrine is number one on the list, there are three things (maybe even four) I actually expect to be done before it. First draft of a novel is always one of the biggest projects I can have going.

  1. Shrine 1st Draft
  2. Star Trek Marathon Logs Redux
  3. Scattered on the Wind Final Draft
  4. Star Trek Comic Strips
  5. Novella/Novelette Review Catch Up
  6. Haiku Selection
  7. Fractured Unity 1st Draft
  8. LoC 2 Plot
  9. Fallen Heroes Outline
  10. Star Trek Book/Comic/Merch

Be well, everyone.

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