Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Lost Boy, Found Boy by Jenn Polish

In a futuristic world, Neverland is a holomatrix, Hook is a cyborg, and Tinker Bell is an automated computer interface. Peter is desperate to save his lover from a military draft that, unbeknownst to him, Mir volunteered for because they are desperate to be able to fly. So, naturally, Peter programs an entire island—Neverland—as a refuge where Mir can fly without having to fight in a war. But he doesn’t locate Mir right away; instead, he fights for control of the island with automated interface Tinker Bell, and in his attempts to find Mir, others arrive on the island. But Peter’s single-minded focus on Mir generates repercussions for everyone.

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I enjoy fairytale retellings. They’d also know that I try to read diverse stories and authors. I’ve had some pretty good reads with Nine Star Press in the past (check out my review of Dali), so when I saw Lost Boy, Found Boy on NetGalley, I figured I’d give it a try. While the idea of Neverland being an escapist virtual construct in a dystopian future of endless war totally jived with the Peter Pan fairytale, the execution fell flat. I think that one of the issues with the story was that the author tried to stick every possible LGBT character that they could.

Peter is a trans boy, who has a romantic interest in his enbyfriend, Mir, and they live in the “boys” section of their space ship. Tinker Bell is a sentient machine (computer program?), identifying as female, who is in a relationship with the lesbian “Wendy.” Captain Hook is a cyborg who has unrequited love for Peter.

Each chapter begins with what I can only assume are Tinker bell’s “thoughts,” but I mostly skipped over them. It started out as a paragraph, and by the end of the story was several kindle pages. With non-human characters, I thought that perhaps the author would explore transhumanism or technological singularity, but that didn’t pan out. (ha ha, get it?)

The story was convoluted with this dystopian space war and before they could get drafted, they enlisted so that “they could fly.” The motivations and the world that they lived in were sparse, and perhaps worldbuilding would’ve improved the story. I also think that the sheer volume of LGBT characters was just too much. I think that that more than anything would be a turn off for cis and/or heteronormative readers. Which is a shame, because as LGBT characters and fiction become more prevalent, people grow more accustomed to the idea, and those that see LGBT persons as “other” become more accepting through mere exposure.

There were just too many checkmarks in the “needs improvement” column for Lost Boy, Found Boy. It’s hard to quantify my feelings on this story with a star rating. I really did not enjoy the story, and with so many issues, it should be a two-star rating, and thusly, not reviewed on this blog. My ire isn’t up enough to give it two stars, and rage-blog a two-star story like I’ve done in the past, and some of the flaws I perceived might be plusses to an LGBT reader. I think in the end, I’ll award Lost Boy, Found Boy three stars, and say that I’m disappointed at opportunities missed.

Hi hey hello! My name’s Jenn Polish (they/them pronouns, please!), and I write things! Welcome! Welcome to the strange inner workings of my nerdy, dragon-loving, superhero-oriented, lesbian fairy tale-spinning mind. I’m a New Yorker (Queens pride!!) who’s been writing about as long as I’ve been playing basketball (so, a long time). When I’m not writing, I’m teaching writing — and learning a lot about it, because my students are absolutely brilliant — at CUNY LaGuardia Community College. In addition to teaching writing, I am immensely proud to teach in the Theatre Program at LAGCC.

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One Way, by S.J. Morden

ONE WAY opens at the dawn of a new era – one in which we’re ready to colonize Mars. But the contract to build the first ever Martian base has been won by the lowest bidder, so they need to cut a lot of corners. The first thing to go is the automatic construction… the next thing they’ll have to deal with is the eight astronauts they’ll sent up to build it, when there aren’t supposed to be any at all. Frank – father, architect, murderer – is recruited for the mission with the promise of a better life, along with seven of his most notorious fellow inmates. As his crew sets to work, the accidents mount up, and Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all. As the list of suspects grows shorter, it’s up to Frank to uncover the terrible truth before it’s too late.

A murder mystery set on Mars? Yeah, I’m in. NetGalley has been pretty bad lately, so it was nice to see a book in my wheelhouse. The science was hard enough to interest sci-fi nerds, but not so technical that it was like reading a service manual. It’s pretty easy for the reader to figure out “whodunit,” but watching the characters figure it out was fun to read. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I pretty much knew whom the murderer was when the crew wakes up on Mars. The writer tries to deflect, but I held on tight to my suspicions. There are these “classified documents” that adorn each chapter, and while they do dump information, I felt that methodology of info dumping and foreshadowing to be distracting and unnecessary.

The book is compared to Andy Weir’s The Martian, and although One Way happens on Mars and stuff goes sideways, they are very different stories. Publishers like to compare their new acquisition to a genre standard, but the fans know the difference between a murder mystery and a survival story. Publishers also like to tout things like the author was “trained as a rocket scientist” to lend credibility. Often, this is to get around some flaw in the writing or story. I live in a community that has an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where they literally train rocket scientists, and they’re about the dumbest bunch of entitled hacks I’ve ever met. This doesn’t seem to be the case for One Way, but since we’re comparing it to Andy Weir’s The Martian, Weir never worked as a rocket scientist, and had to do extensive research to get the science right – and for the most part, Weir’s writing was accurate.

But I digress. I enjoyed One Way. I knocked it out in two days, which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. The ending isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it is satisfying. I look forward to reading No Way. Four stars, and recommended to science fiction and/or murder mystery fans.

Dr. Simon Morden is a bona fide rocket scientist, having degrees in geology and planetary geophysics. Unfortunately, that sort of thing doesn’t exactly prepare a person for the big wide world of work: he’s been a school caretaker, admin assistant, and PA to a financial advisor. He’s now employed as a part-time teaching assistant at a Gateshead primary school, which he combines with his duties as a househusband, attempting to keep a crumbling pile of Edwardian masonry upright, wrangling his two children and providing warm places to sleep for the family cats. As well as a writer, he’s been the editor of the British Science Fiction Association’s writers’ magazine Focus, a judge for the Arthur C Clarke awards, and is a regular speaker at the Greenbelt Arts Festival on matters of faith and fiction. In 2009, he was in the winning team for the Rolls Royce Science Prize.

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Wish Man – an interview with Frank Shankwitz

So, Frank, you just finished a movie.
Yeah, we completed filming “Wish Man” in October of last year. [It was] quite the production. We started the whole thing in 2014 and it took that long. It’s a feature motion picture, and the average movie is seven years from inception to release. We’re doing it a little earlier just because of the cooperation with the community and other people.

Let’s back up a bit. Some people may not know who you are. Frank, you started Make-A-Wish.
I was the creator and co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. My wife and I started that back in 1980. Through the grace of God and modern medicine, and so many volunteers and people, it has grown from 1980, now to 63 chapters in the United States, 36 international chapters on five continents, and we’ve granted now, over 415,000 wishes worldwide.

And that started with you and one little boy?
Exactly, a little boy. Some [people] may remember “CHiPs,” the television show. I was introduced [to a] little boy, seven years old. Unfortunately, he had terminal leukemia. His mother told us that his heroes were Ponch and Jon from the TV show, “ChiPs,” and when he grew up; he wished he could be a highway patrol motorcycle officer. So, the family contacted our department. The [Arizona] Highway Patrol did everything they could for this little boy. [They] made him the first and only honorary highway patrol officer in the history of the [Arizona] Highway Patrol. The biggest thing was to make him a motorcycle officer- which I did. Unfortunately, he died a couple days later. He’s buried in a little town called Kewanee, Illinois, and my commanders asked if I would go back with another motorcycle officer to give him a full police funeral- which we did. We were joined by Illinois state police, city police, county police. [It was] just this most amazing thing to bury this little boy. He was buried in uniform. He has a grave marker that reads, “Chris Greicius – Arizona Trooper.” Coming home, I just started thinking about how this little boy had a wish, and we made it happen. Why can’t we do that for other children? That’s when the idea was born.

So, a couple of books are out. In fact, last time I had you on, you brought a book that’s called, “Once Upon a Wish.” It was written by Rachelle Sparks.
She was a local newspaper reporter up here for the [Daily] Courier. [She] contacted me one day, and we did an interview. She said, “Let’s write a book about this. About the Wish children and some of their wishes.” So we did that. [We] called it, “Once Upon a Wish.” A few years ago, I released my own book called, “Wish Man.”

And it was “Wish Man” that they contacted you and said, “Let’s do a movie.”?
Yeah. Again, it was in 2014. The publisher had given a rough draft [to] 333 Studios out of San Diego. [They’re] an independent film company, and they had read [Wish Man] and said, “We’re gonna fly over to San Diego.” I said, “Okay, who doesn’t like San Diego?” That went through the owner and also a director and screen writer. They said, “We want to do a movie about your life.”

It’s a period [piece,] from age ten, to when I started the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1980. I thought they were talking a documentary, and I said, “Well, that’s okay,” and they said, “No, a full feature motion picture.” I [was] just kind of hesitant on that, but they talked me into it.
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Six Random Questions With Arwen Paris

I know it’s been a while since I’ve interviewed anyone, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it :) Since I reviewed Arwen Paris’ Fate of the Stars last week, and I may have been a little overly-critical about her novel, I asked Arwen a few random questions about her debut novel, and what ever else I thought of to ask her. So read this, go buy her story so that she can keep writing more stories.
 

What has been the most challenging part of publishing your book?
You know how most authors have that first book they wrote, the really ugly one they lock away someplace dark? Yeah, I just couldn’t bear to do that. What’s worse, is that I actually finished book two for NaNoWriMo before I finished the first book! Getting Fate of the Stars written, rewritten several more times, edited and rewritten again has been a grueling and educational process. Let’s just say, I can’t wait to write a fresh book.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m getting book two in the Fate of the Stars series, Rival, ready for the first round of edits.

What other books have you written and/or are working on for the future?
Oh my gosh, I have an excel spreadsheet I keep of all the series I want to write. After I finish up the Fate of the Stars series I’m really excited to work on my next project – a YA Fantasy!

What’s your favorite supernatural creature?
I know what you’re thinking. She should choose Elves, her name’s Elvish for the love god! But I have to admit that I’m a dragon lover. That’s probably why I’m switching to fantasy for a bit after this series.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Writing is art, and it grows and matures the more you practice. So never stop writing, and never stop learning to write better.

What’s your favorite quote?
I loved Dune by Frank Herbert when I was a kid. I could read that whole book in less than eight hours. But this quote really struck me to the core: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” It’s a good mantra for writers too.


Fate of the Stars, by Arwen Paris

When the fate of the world rests upon you… Allison Delaney wants to spend her senior year healing from the loss of her father, to leave the shadows of his death and her junior year break-down behind. A Labor Day beach party seems like a good place to start…but there’s more danger lurking than anyone could imagine. Death is coming to Earth if the pods of infectious creatures aren’t stopped. But only one human can help… To live or die is no longer a choice. Eenoki is a protector of life but must have a sentient host to fight the invasion. A teenage girl would not be the best choice, but out of desperation Eenoki invades Allison’s mind and body, granting her unnatural abilities and strengths – and helping her escape certain death when the first wave of pods land. As destruction rains down on Earth’s population, Allison realizes to save everyone, she must make the ultimate choice: Reject her human side and bond with Eenoki to become the Earth’s Priestess – or be killed along with the rest of humanity.

Sigh. ALIENS INVADE EARTH! If only there were a human that a helpful alien entity could occupy and be the savior of mankind. What’s this? A 17-year old girl who just suffered a tragedy and is wise beyond her years because of it. She’s an outcast because of something she did? No worries, the smoldering hot guy is secretly in love with her and will abandon all reason to help her on her quest to get rid of the aliens.

Don’t worry, another alien race comes along and wants to not only rid the Earth of the alien invasion, but DESTROY HUMANITY to save the galaxy. The melding or possession or whatever won’t quite work, so the 17-year old girl will only have some of the powers required to defeat both alien interlopers. She’ll have just enough power to be a threat to other humans, but not accepted by the aliens, even though this sort of thing is how their religion works.

Like young adult readers see things, everything in Fate of the Stars is in black and white. Good and evil. Popular and outcast. The writing is at times concise, but other times, it’s rather purple. While I could understand why young adult readers might relate to this, the fact that the story happened to Allison, instead of her driving the story was a disappointment. The story was campy, but in a good way.

Allison was understandable in the beginning, but became more and more angsty and annoying as the story progressed. The rest of the humans are cardboard cutouts, including the best friend and smoldering hunk. There was just so much waffling in this story. The story sets up a bunch of great ideas, and then pitches those ideas out the window in favor of YA cliché.

I think that the series has some great potential. Fate of the Stars is Arwen Paris’ debut novel, and that shows. It’s not a dig on the author, and I suspect that more novels in the series will only get better as the author figures out what she wants to write. I dissed the story in the first two paragraphs, but that’s because I’ve read this exact same story by other authors, and they did a better job. I’m confident that with a few more books to her credit, Arwen Paris will be an excellent author. I’d totally read the next book in the series, and look forward to what this author has in store for the future. Three and a half stars.

Arwen Paris is the author of young adult fiction. Her debut YA Sci-fi Urban Fantasy novel FATE OF THE STARS released September 1, 2017. The second book in the Fate of the Stars series RIVAL is coming in 2018. The actions packed pages of her novels are filled with characters that are forced to face fears they never expected. When she’s not writing, you can see posts of her (too many) vacations that keep her sane. Arwen lives in Washington, has a big crazy family & after the day job, she writes Fiction For the Fearless – #F3Fanatic

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The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe

It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in. And then you’re dead. When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. Then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back. Cut off from the world, the remaining islanders must fend for themselves. Supplies are dwindling, fatalities rising, and panic is turning into violence. With no cure in sight, Kaelyn knows their only hope of survival is to band together. Desperate to save her home, she joins forces with a former rival and opens her heart to a boy she once feared. But as the virus robs her of friends and family, Kaelyn realizes her efforts may be in vain. How can she fight an enemy that’s too small to see?

After reading the Earth & Sky series, I had an idea what to expect from The Way We Fall. Crewe writes teen characters that seem realistic in the way that teens see themselves. In YA, a common trope is that the teens are as smart as the adults, if only they’d get a chance to shine. The teen (or teens) get the chance to “show up” the adults with their unique way of looking at things. I really enjoyed that after all the effort and angst that Kaelyn put into finding the link, her dad is like, “Yeah, we figured that out weeks ago.”

It’s not that I don’t find smart teens to be unrealistic- my own teen confounds me with some bit of logic from time to time. But teens are just too inexperienced to really shine in the way they they think they should. Which is fine, people need time to make mistakes and learn and grow. YA novels attempt to force the protagonist to grow up by inserting tragedy – often by the loss of a parent. I saw in the reviews that someone complained about one of the teens being a budding expert in botany. I do not find this aspect to be unbelievable at all – teens are definitely driven, with a single-mindedness that often confounds. With my own teen enrolled in an agribusiness and equine high school, with dual enrollment in a community college, I’ve seen teens that know a heck of a lot more than I do in those fields.

The setting and premise of The Way We Fall is an interesting one: An unknown virus affects the inhabitants of an isolated community, and everything goes sideways, including those responsible for keeping everyone safe. Nothing new there – people have been writing about that forever. The story ends without much resolved – a pet peeve of mine. But, it’s a common trope, so I grumble and move on.

Megan Crewe writes well, and the re-release doesn’t have any of the typos I’ve come to expect from Disney-Hyperion. Like most YA, the language and vocabulary is simple. Also like most YA, there is quite a bit of teenage angst. As often with series books picked up by a large publisher, the first is a true glimpse to what the writer intended, and later books seem to have the spark revised out. I’m definitely curious how subsequent books in the series fare. I’d rate The Way We Fall 3.75 stars, and I’ll read the next book in the series as soon as I can get ahold of it. With the entire series being available own Kindle Unlimited, that should be pretty soon.

megan-crewe

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she’s spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.

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Traveler in the Dark, by Deidre Gould

Sixteen hundred years ago, they fled Earth. Now their long journey may finally be at an end. None of them have ever walked on soil, felt rain, or breathed unrecycled air. Their resources nearly spent, they sent a last exploratory mission to a new planet. It’s ideal… but they are not alone. In the struggle for survival, they must make a choice. Sacrifice another species or accept their own extinction. And time is running out.
 

I liked the concept of Deidre Gould’s Traveler in the Dark. I found the story engrossing, and it was hard to put down as life’s demands took away my precious reading time. I found the portrayal of the multi-generational surveyors and their initial reaction to the alien planet after a lifetime aboard a spacefaring habitat to be quite believable, and in line with expectations based on my studies of human behavior.

What I did find a little hard to swallow was the “villain.” In Traveler in the Dark, the villain is not really a person or a group of persons, but a thought. An idea. Albeit an extreme form of environmentalism, it’s presented in such a way that rings true to extremist behaviors. The reader is allowed an almost child-like naiveté through the actions of Issk’ath. The trope of an alien intelligence trying to understand humanity, and humanity’s distrust of that intelligence has been done many times, and I enjoyed Gould’s take on the subject.

The writing did suffer from a major issue though. The characters are briefly introduced by first and last name, referred to in dialog by other characters by first name (or nickname), and the author’s narration by last name. By the end of the book, I still had a hard time telling who was who. I found this handling of the names to be confusing, and not consistent with my experience as a sailor since most, if not all, space fiction is based on naval traditions and terms.

Considering my reviews in the past, I’d think that this book would be a four-star read, but for some reason, I just grokked this story. I’m eager to read more books in the series, but I’m afraid that they will pale in comparison. I’m not a fan of environmentalism novels—Ben Bova and Kim Stanley Robinson have both killed a story by being too heavy handed on the environmentalism. I’m gonna go ahead and award five stars. The story is not without its flaws, but I think it’s a solid read.

Deirdre Gould lives in Central Maine with her three children and husband. She’s also resided in northern Idaho, coastal Virginia and central Pennsylvania, but all of them just led her back home.The winters sure are cold, but that just means the zombies run slower. The area is isolated, but that just means the apocalyptic diseases don’t spread as quickly. And the storms are bad enough that no one thinks you’re crazy for “prepping.” It’s kind of ideal for a post-apocalypse writer when you think about it.

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Prime Meridian, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
 

With Prime Meridian, I expected a space sci-fi, but ended up with a life drama. I liked the dystopian world that Amelia lives in. It’s so poignant and tells a story we’ve heard time and time again in real life. She was on track for a stable life, and then everything went sideways. The years rolled forward, and she finds herself in a situation many of us face every day. But she still dreams of Mars.

Sometimes, it’s hard to like Amelia, but as in life, no one is perfect, except on Facebook. The relationship between Amelia and Lucía is so wonderfully written, and so “real,” I wonder if it is the fictionalization of actual events. I applaud writers that can pack so much story into a novella, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia does just that. The division between the haves and the have nots is perfectly realized in this novella.

Prime Meridian is a powerful novella, and although the cover and description led me astray, I’m glad that I got to read this excellent novella. Definitely a four-star read.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, won a Copper Cylinder Award and was nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Aurora and Sunburst awards. Her second novel, Certain Dark Things, is a noir with Mexicans vampires. She co-edited the anthology She Walks in Shadows (winner of the World Fantasy Award) and is an editor at the magazine The Dark.
 

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The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Disgraced government operative Colonel Chu is exiled to the flooded relic of New York City. Something called the Light has hit the streets like an epidemic, leavings its users strung out and disconnected from the mind-network humanity relies on. Chu has lost everything she cares about to the Light. She’ll end the threat or die trying. A former corporate pilot who controlled a thousand ships with her mind, Zola looks like just another Light-junkie living hand to mouth on the edge of society. She’s special though. As much as she needs the Light, the Light needs her too. But, Chu is getting close and Zola can’t hide forever.

The Burning Light, by Bradley P. Beaulieu has a lot of plusses on the balance sheet. The tale of Manhattan post-apocalypse is fleshed out in such a short story. The division of society we experience today continues in this futaure. Even the villain makes sense with a back story that makes her drive to eradicate Zola, and the Light believable. But, what the heck is the Light? Is it a drug? Is it some sort of AI gone rogue? Is it an ancient evil bent on enslaving humanity? Is it angelic grace from the TV show Supernatural? After reading, and ruminating on the story, I still have no idea what it was.

While the characters were written well, and they all passed the sniff test, they weren’t relatable. I wasn’t able to connect with any of them. I didn’t care if the light did whatever the light was trying to do. I didn’t care if Chu killed the junkies or Zola. The ending was a letdown. I’m not sure if the author intended the ending to be happy or sad, or what… I didn’t get it.

I’m glad that TOR is producing more novellas, and they seem to have a decent digital price point. I think The Burning Light shows just how difficult it is to create a deep story within the constraints of short fiction. Despite my complaints, I’d still recommend reading The Burning Light. I’d rate it at four stars, and I look forward to reading more novellas from TOR.

Bradley P. Beaulieu began writing his first fantasy novel in college, but life eventually intervened. As time went on, though, Brad realized that his love of writing and telling tales wasn’t going to just slink quietly into the night. The drive to write came back full force in the early 2000s, at which point Brad dedicated himself to the craft, writing and learning under the guidance of writers like Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Tim Powers, Holly Black, and many more. Brad and his novels have garnered  many accolades including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo.

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The Good Guys, by Steven Brust

Donovan was shot by a cop. For jaywalking, supposedly. Actually, for arguing with a cop while black. Four of the nine shots were lethal—or would have been, if their target had been anybody else. The Foundation picked him up, brought him back, and trained him further. “Lethal” turns out to be a relative term when magic is involved. When Marci was fifteen, she levitated a paperweight and threw it at a guy she didn’t like. The Foundation scooped her up for training too. “Hippie chick” Susan got well into her Foundation training before they told her about the magic, but she’s as powerful as Donovan and Marci now. They can teleport themselves thousands of miles, conjure shields that will stop bullets, and read information from the remnants of spells cast by others days before. They all work for the secretive Foundation…for minimum wage. Which is okay, because the Foundation are the good guys. Aren’t they?

So I feel it necessary to emphasize that I got an early copy via NetGalley. I think that perhaps the publisher should’ve waited until after another edit before making ARCs available. I must assume that the edited version to come out in March 2018 will have fixed many of the issues I encountered. And issues there were many. Including editing notations within the body of the text. Indies are universally panned for the slightest faux pas, and there is this feeling by both readers and publishers that indie publishers are somehow not good enough to get a traditional publishing contract. There are a lot of people who see self-publishing as garbage. While I’ve read some really wonderful indie books over the years, I’ve run into some real clunkers. Stories full of clichéd storytelling, bad formatting, and an overall inferior product. Those books don’t usually end up on this blog. For every 100 books I do read and review, there are probable 25 or so that I don’t finish.

The Good Guys may have well been one of those poorly published indie works that so many people poo-poo. The story premise wasn’t bad: A team of secret underpaid people track down rogue magic practitioners in modern America (and Europe) and give the smack-down to those that don’t come quietly. Yep, read that story time and again – and by better authors. I’ve been told that the author of The Good Guys, Steven Brust, is quite popular. I’ve never read any of his other works before. But The Good Guys was terrible. Not terrible enough to DNF, but it was a grind to finish reading. Many of my complaints were likely the result of some very poor formatting and/or editing. The POV seemed all over the place. I’m not sure if there was just some missing scene break art or what, but I found myself having to re-read to figure out whose POV I was reading. On top of that, of the many character POVs, one was in first person, while the rest were in third-person perspective. The singular first-person perspective makes sense at the very end of the book, but while reading it, it’s just annoying. I’d rather read the exact same story from Clara Coulson. A much more polished manuscript, and frankly, a better story – one not full of dated clichés, and views better left in the 1950s.

My suggestion is to skip the overpriced TOR ebook (I just looked, $13? What the fucking fuck, TOR?), and get all four City of Crows books by Clara Coulson. Coulson’s stories are better, and for only a dollar more, you get a much longer and more satisfying read. I would probably check out another book by Brust, but if it’s a stinking turd like this one, I’m out. I’m not just disappointed by this book; I’m offended that anyone would put it out there. Two stars is my rating, and unless the rest of this review is unclear about how I feel, don’t waste your money on The Good Guys.

Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers’ group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede, and also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

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