I was going to blog about the awesomeness that is Pacific Rim. Seriously, guys – giant robots smashing the shit out of giant kaiju! What is there not to love about that? I wanted to talk about the amazing effects, the reason it works even though it’s absolutely fucking ridiculous. In fact, right after the movie, I tweeted:
My Pacific Rim review: Absolutely fucking ridiculous. Absolutely fucking tremendous. 5 Stars.
And really, that does say it all. But I wanted to blog about why. Thankfully, I don’t need to, because the excellent Peter Watts has done it for me. He says exactly what I thought about this film, so go and read his post here.
The joy of dumbness.
…in terms of sheer dumb popcorn-munching fun, no other movie I’ve seen in the past year comes close to Pacific Rim.
I’ve recently had a week’s holiday in the sun. The best thing about holidays is the unfettered reading time. Of course, seeing another place, spending quality time with my wife, snorkeling amazing coral reefs and all that was fantastic too and it rates up there with the reading time, but, you know, reading. It’s brilliant and on holiday, apart from all that other stuff and drinking, it’s all about reading.
I read an interesting bunch of stuff while I was away, so I thought I’d share it with you.
Joyland by Stephen King
This is King at his best. Poignant, beautifully drawn characters and a fantastic sense of place. I love a good carny story and this is just that, wrapped up in some crime and a touch of the supernatural. It’s a short novel and showcases King’s talent for story. It’s also a good ending, which is something King often falls down on for me. It’s still something of a deus ex machina ending (King’s usual flaw) but in this case, it makes sense and it’s well foreshadowed. A highly recommended read.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This is a simply outstanding novel. And that it’s her first novel is mind-blowing! Her portrayal of the people and place at the time of the story’s setting is flawless and utterly convincing. An incredibly powerful book, beautifully written. I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, and this story is based on true events, but in this case I loved every page. Kent’s research was exhausting for this book and it really shows. One of the best things I’ve read this year.
The Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes
This is a dark fantasy novelette available to read at Tor.com. This is the direct link to the story – http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/06/burning-girls It’s a tale of Jewish folklore and magic and a journey to the new world. It’s superbly written and well worth the time, especially as it’s free!
Critique by Daniel I Russell
This is a very well-written journey through desire and addiction, but not addiction to drugs. It has gross-out moments that work very well within the context of the story. There’s no great surprise to how it pans out – you can pretty much see what’s coming – but it’s handled really well nonetheless. It’s a horror story, but this is still something a bit different done very well. The cover is truly awful, however, and does the book no favours at all.
A Killer Among Demons, edited by Craig Bezant
Caveat – I have a story, The Beat of a Pale Wing, in this collection.
However, aside from my story being in it, this is a fantastic collection. Craig Bezant, the editor, should be proud of a job really well done. He’s collected ten stories of supernatural/paranormal crime and the first thing you realise is just what a tremendous job he’s done collecting ten brilliant but very different stories (if I do say so myself!) The variety here is impressive and the quality very high. This is an anthology that will hopefully get noticed, because it’s different and very good. Highly recommended.
Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Etheridge
This is a dark fantasy/horror novel, a Stoker Award winner no less, but I had serious problems with it. I’ve just posted a full review over at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over there for a read of why this didn’t work for me nearly as well as it should have. Which is annoying, because I really wanted to like it and it had such potential. But even though I didn’t like it, I still enjoyed reading it. It’s excellent writing. Ah, click the review link to save me saying it all again here.
So all in all, I had a pretty solid selection of holiday reading.
Mea culpa. I am guilty of this and I’m putting my hand up right now to accept that and change my position. I’m getting more than a little sick and tired of authors demanding things of their readers. Back in 2011, I wrote this blog post where I said such things as “You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility” and “it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something.” While I still believe that stuff has true value, the last part is bollocks and I take it back. You don’t have to do something. You don’t have to do jack shit.
I also posted a thing recently which listed all the ways readers could care for authors – it was a funky little infographic and had things like leaving star ratings at Amazon and Goodreads, reviewing, telling friends and family and so on. Again, all those things are great, but you don’t have to do anything.
If you bought a book, give yourself a pat on the back, because you are a fucking legend. You did all you had to do. Anything else is gravy. I do log all the books I read on Goodreads. I usually leave short reviews, and cross-post to Amazon if I can. I’m one of three contributing editors at Thirteen O’Clock, a dark fiction review site. But you know what? I really enjoy all that stuff. I’m happy to do it. But I don’t have to do any of it and neither do you.
I honestly believe that reviews are the lifeblood of authors. Whether those reviews are on a dedicated blog, at sites like Goodreads or over a beer in the pub with your friends, only honest word of mouth really works. That’s the holy grail of marketing right there. People talking up your shit is the stuff of dreams. But if someone bought your book, enjoyed it and never mentioned it again, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t slacked off in their readerly duties at all.
Too often now I’m seeing things like the stuff I posted before, but it’s starting feel wrong. Where my intention in posting it was a genuine entreaty for mutual support between readers and writers (who are often the same person, incidentally), I’m seeing a more and more militant approach lately and it’s pissing me off. It makes the stuff I wrote before seem just as militant and I don’t like that. I don’t want to demand anything of my readers. Fuck me, you bought my book! I’m dancing like a freaking numpty over here, because that is the absolute top of the line result right there.
If you want to do more, like write reviews, tell your friends, even buy more copies as gifts for like-minded friends and family, then you shit solid gold and your breath smells like roses dipped in chocolate and don’t let anybody tell you different, because you went above and beyond, dear reader. You, sir or madam, are a diamond encrusted behemoth of a human being. Because you didn’t owe me anything. No one does. But if all you did was buy and read my books, you still have gold shit, chocolate-rose breath and diamond encrusted body parts, because there’s nothing “all you did” about it. You bought and read a book. You. Fucking. Rock.
So yes, I do still stand by the value of all those lovely things readers can do, but I retract any assertion that they have to do those things. Because it’s getting kinda creepy and nasty out there and the last thing we need to do is be creepy and nasty around our readers. Talk about taking a crap in your food bowl. Readers are awesome and that’s all writers really want – to be read. So buy the book, read it and hopefully have a good time. If you choose to signal boost that book in any way, you’re brilliant. If you don’t, you’re still brilliant, because you’re a reader. And you don’t owe anyone anything.
Things have been pretty quiet around here for a while, for which I apologise. I’ve been flat out with many things lately and it’s always the blogging that suffers at those times. After all, the writing is the main thing and everything else comes secondary to that. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is stupid or lying. Write!
Anyway, just thought I’d drop in and as I’ve nothing much else to say right now, thought I’d share this new Goodreads review of Dark Rite:
This is a novella at the end of the day, and works perfectly in that form. The story fits the format well, and keeps the pace cracking along from first page to last, and can easily be read in one sitting. To be honest you’ll want to, as once you get started this is a difficult book to put down.
I’d recommend this one for fans of early Stephen King and Richard Laymon and anyone who wants a good creepy horror.
Got to be happy with that! Have you got your copy yet? Click on the book cover to the left for all the details.
Right, I’m off to get more writing done. Catch ya later.
I’m back from Conflux 9 and a damn fine time was had by all. Great to catch up with old friends, make some new friends and drink too much. I’ll write up a proper report soon, probably tomorrow. I’m too brain dead today and have a bunch of classes to teach, so might go for a little lie down for while beforehand. But I came back to some very nice reviews of Dark Rite, which is always wonderful.
Firstly, the very cool Damien Smith wrote us this review for Thirteen O’Clock, where he says: “a rollercoaster ride that kept me turning the pages until I was almost late for work” among other nice things.
And US author Terry Ervin II had this to say:
“Unraveling the mystery of his dad’s death turns into a nightmare as Grant finds himself mired in a dark cult’s secret that long ago engulfed a small town, and threatens Cassie, a girl he’s fallen for. Grant knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t mean the demon worshipers have to win.
As the plot began to unfold, I found myself unwilling to put the book aside until I reached the end.”
–Terry W. Ervin II, author of Blood Sword
Bloody lovely. But for now, a snoozzzzzzzz…
Black Feathers is the first volume in a new horror series by Joseph D’Lacey. The story follows two main threads simultaneously. We have young Gordon Black, a thirteen year old boy living in a slightly alternate version of our own modern day. In Gordon’s England, the world is sinking into economic collapse and being ravaged by various naturally destructive phenomena like solar flares and earthquakes. The land is ruled with an iron fist by The Ward, a combination of brutally right wing political party and zealous corporate conglomerate, driven by a greed for money and power. The people of most countries have voted The Ward into control globally after the successful lobbying of the party to convince the populace that only The Ward can protect the people against the swift descent into Armageddon facing them all.
Concurrent with this story is the tale of Megan Maurice, a young girl living far in the future, in a green and pleasant post-apocalyptic land where people have returned to living with the Earth, putting back as much as they take out and revering the Great Spirit and The Earth Mother. Megan is approached by Mr Keeper, a very revered holy man among the people, and he tells her that it is her destiny to walk the Black Feathered Path. This is a path of Shamanic learning, where she puts herself in the path of the stories of the Crowman, for someone must keep the tales alive in order to never lose the knowledge.
By now I’m sure you’re getting the feel for where this book is going. Gordon’s family are abducted by The Ward, but Gordon escapes and goes on the run. He is told he must find The Crowman, a terrifying creature of modern legend who some say is pure evil and others say is a force for good. As Gordon runs, the world descends quickly into its destructive cycle as the Earth Mother shakes off the scourge of humanity and The Ward are desperately hunting Gordon, as he is prophesied to usher in the end times, which is something they can’t allow if they are to maintain their grip on power and profit.
It should be quite clear by now that this is a book with a very clear and unashamed agenda. D’Lacey has an affinity for the Native American mythology of the Earth and it manifests throughout this narrative. The thing is, D’Lacey is a brilliant writer and while the message is something of a sledgehammer throughout, the story, the characterisation and the sheer beauty of the prose make that okay. This is an excellent story, very well told.
If you’re a regular here, the name Emma Newman probably rings some bells. It should, because she’s a mighty talented person and I’ve talked about her a bit. I was lucky enough to be asked by her publisher to pre-review and blurb her short fiction collection, From Dark Places. You can see that review here. I was also happy to host one of her Split Worlds stories here last year.
Well, now the Split Worlds has expanded into the first of a series of novels, published by Angry Robot Books, called Between Two Thorns. And the reason I’m talking about it now is because there’s a sweet little pre-order special offer happening.
Between Two Thorns is an urban fantasy novel. Here’s the blurb:
Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.
The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.
There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.
But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?
Sound interesting? Well, here’s the offer:
Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!
Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in All Is Fair – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.
You have to admit, that’s a pretty cool prize.
How to Enter
Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).
If you order from Forbidden Planet or robottradingcompany.com (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT angryrobotbooks.com and they’ll assign a number to you.
Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:
Forbidden Planet (signed paperback) http://forbiddenplanet.com/
Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook http://www.
Amazon (paperback) UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/
The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)
US Edition (bigger) http://www.bookdepository.co.
There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here: http://www.enewman.co.uk/real-
Greg Mellor is a relatively new voice in Australian science fiction, but his debut collection from Ticonderoga Publications places him firmly in the upper echelons of SF writers at work today. Wild Chrome is a collection of 21 short stories, ten of them new and original to the collection and the other eleven reprints from such august publications as Clarkesworld, Cosmos, Aurealis and more.
Mellor has a background in astrophysics and is one of those writers who can dream big ideas and back them up with believable and potentially realisable science. His stories play mostly around the ideas of the post-human singularity, the arguably inevitable conjoining of humanity and technology, which opens up all kinds of questions about mortality and our place in the universe.
Mellor manages to keep an entirely human aspect in all his work, however big or deep the subject matter. That is, unless it’s one of his stories from the point of view of an alien species, and then he manages to write a very convincing non-human.
Not every story in this book hits the mark dead on, but all the stories are imaginative and entertaining, really nailing the excitement and wonder that we should expect from science fiction. And some of the stories are nothing less than brilliant. I’m looking forward to anything else Greg Mellor writes, but he’s set himself a high bar with this collection.
I’ve said many, many times here that reviews are the lifeblood of an author’s career. And reviews can mean literal reviews, posted at places like Amazon, Goodreads and so on, as well as reviews in newspapers and on dedicated reader blogs. But reviews can also refer to readers simply talking about a book they enjoyed with friends, family and colleagues. That may lead to those people buying the book, so it works just like reviews are supposed to. But not all reviews are created equal.
In essence, any review is valuable. Even if you didn’t like a book and you give it a bad review and a low star rating, it’s still useful to potential readers and it may lead a different reader to think, “Well, the problems that person had with the book don’t sound like problems to me, so I’ll give it a go.” And besides, you can’t please all the people all the time, so a good spread of reviews and ratings shows honesty and means we don’t start to suspect that Auntie Mabel and the Sockpuppets are the only people reviewing the book.
For example, American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a book universally recognised by readers and awards alike as being quite excellent. But not everyone likes it. On Amazon it has a 4-star average rating, but that includes 92 1-star reviews. (I’d be ecstatic with 92 reviews of any kind, but that book has over a thousand in total!) Anyway, my point is that not all reviews are going to be good ones and giving a one or two star review is fine. If you’re reviewing the book.
Wondering what I’m talking about? Look at this fucking idiot:
In case you can’t read that, it says:
Taming a Seahorse was good. However, Monday I purchased another Spencer book, and it took sooooooooooooo long to get to my Kindle, I was 20 pages into another book………………..
And the idiot gives the book a 1-star review. I’ve deliberately blurred the name, as I’m not here to witch hunt. It’s just one of many reviews I’ve seen that are like this. This “reviewer” is directly damaging the author’s career by reducing their rating average for reasons that are nothing to do with the author or the book and for things over which the author has no control. The “reviewer” even says they thought the book was good, but they’re giving it a one star review because the Whispernet service was slow delivering a completely different novel by the same author. The degree of stupid here is staggering. What the fuck did the author do to deserve this one star review, exactly?
It’s just petty hollering because the person wanted to have a moan about something publicly and arbitrarily tacked that whinge onto one of Parker’s books. If anything, they should have simply complained to Amazon directly (which, admittedly, is like trying to water a garden bed by pissing on the roof).
This is not an isolated, or even uncommon, incident. These fuckknuckles are everywhere. There are even blogs set up to collect all the reviews that are small nuggets of human idiocy distilled into illiterate paragraphs. This is one of my favourite examples of blogs like that, but I can never get past a few entries before the red mist of rage descends: http://leasthelpful.com/ Seriously, it starts off quite funny for the first one or two, then I begin to despair at the stupid, then, after half a dozen or so, I just want to go out and block the blow hole of a dolphin until it drowns. Then hit stupid people with the dead dolphin.
Reviews are awesome and anyone who takes time to review a book is a fantastic person who will be rewarded with cookies and whisky. But only people who review the book. If you’re using a review and slamming an author’s work in order to whinge about postage times, delivery networks, the fact that your dog shat in your bed (which you deserved, by the way) or anything else, then you’re a broken, stupid person and you should have your internet privileges revoked. Please, won’t someone think of the authors?