Jan 22, 2016

PENNSYLVANIA, by Michael Bunker

Pennsylvania OmnibusPennsylvania Omnibus by Michael Bunker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Other people have had trouble describing this book without spoilers. Here's my own attempt: "Total Recall" meets "The Matrix" with an Amish protagonist. That should give you the gist of it.

I've met the author, and he told me that he reads a lot of Russian dystopian literature. He also told me that he doesn't do happy and neatly tied up endings. Based on that + his lifestyle in a Plain community, I assumed that his take on sci-fi would be dark and possibly dreary, with maundering insights about a pastoral lifestyle. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by a fast-paced, action-packed, intense science fiction novel. His writing style is much more Daniel Suarez than Dostoevsky. This was a thoroughly enjoyable story that kept me hooked and turning pages. The mystery pulled me along. A few ideas and characters really stood out. (If you've read it, I'm sure you remember Go Eagles! Super awesome in the audiobook edition.)

My quibbles are all spoilers. You'll need to head over to my review on Goodreads in order to view them. Feel free to friend me, while you're there!

Overall, I really thought this was a fun book, with more than enough intelligent mystery to keep me up late.

Jan 16, 2016


Laughing at My NightmareLaughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will stay in my mind for a long time. I want to thank Shane Burcaw for his unflinching honesty about painful and intimate parts of his life. I've read a number of memoirs/autobiographies, and I don't think I've seen this level of honesty before. He's willing to discuss his insecurities, his deepest fears, his shortcomings—and also his hopes, and the people he loves—all made fascinating through the lens of a debilitating disease that affects not only him, but also his family and friends.

I'm researching SMA for a series of science fiction books I'm writing. This memoir fulfilled my research needs and then some. I feel as if I have a much better understanding of what this disease is about and how it affects those who have it.

For another perspective on this neuromuscular disease, check out the awesome blog of Alyssa Silva.

Jan 11, 2016

Game Conference, Feb 20 - early bird tickets on sale

Early bird tickets for an awesome conference on Feb 20!

Posted by Abby Goldsmith on Monday, January 11, 2016
I'm on the Steering Committee for this conference, and super excited to see it coming together!

Jan 6, 2016

FLEX, by Ferrett Steinmetz

Flex ('Mancer, #1)Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read FLEX a month ago, dictated notes for my review, and now I can't access those notes because Dragon Dictation keeps crashing upon open. So I'll try to rely on my memory here.

There's a lot to love about this book. I'm a fan of Breaking Bad and "Firestarter," and this has some of the best elements of both. Paul is a law-abiding citizen who makes a drug in order to save his daughter—but once he gets sucked into that underworld, it's hard to get out. And his drugs are particularly pure, which makes them perfect aids for the worst criminals in society.

To me, the character relationships and emotions were very well-written. There's a swiftly moving plot, and some really fun dialogue and such. I'll definitely read the sequel!

Because I'm the world's most critical audience member, I do have gripes. I gripe about almost every story. In this case, my major gripe has to do with world-building and theme, which means I can't talk about it without giving spoilers. If you don't care about the cogency of a magic system or consistency in a story's premise, then skip this next part! It's an awesome book.

Major gripe:
At first, I loved the idea of obsessive behavior translated to sorcery. An art lover has power to make paintings come to life. A video-game collector has power to weave video-game-based spells. A bureaucrat insurance agent has power to override or examine anything related to paperwork. It's a fun idea ... except (view spoilers on Goodreads).

There was enough pure awesome joy and fun in this novel for me to enjoy it, despite what I saw as a flawed premise. I can't wait to see what this author does in future novels!

Jan 1, 2016

Book Review: FLUENCY, by Jennifer Foehner Wells

FluencyFluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading many of the negative reviews on Goodreads, it looks like people picked this up expecting cerebral Hard Sci-Fi, a la "Contact" or "Blindsight," and what they got was Hollywood action, a la "Sphere." Expectations were blown to smithereens. The science is glossed over and half-baked, while the focus is on sex and action--and psychology, although the exploration of that psychology may be on the shallow Hollywood side of things.

Personally, I liked "Sphere," and I liked "Fluency" for the same reasons. A group of humans are the first people to enter an unknown spaceship and make contact with something that affects them in strange ways. It may give them powers. It may kill them. It affects each person differently, and they need to figure out why. The people swiftly get tested to their psychological limits.

Maybe this ought to be classified as Sociological Sci-Fi. Whatever the classification, I read it within a day, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

To me, the worst quality of this story was an abrupt ending that left too much unaddressed. I love a great series, but I'm unsure where these characters are going, or what their goals are, and that's not good. This series doesn't seem to have a clear path. I'd feel more confident about it if The Swarm was more believable and well-defined ... but (view spoiler on Goodreads)

Due to those grievances, I never got fully immersed in the story. However, this was a very fun, light, and easy read, with a style reminiscent of Michael Crichton. I had a good time! The plot had several surprise twists which kept me smiling and turning pages. I may pick up the sequel, depending on reviews.