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review 2016-10-18 17:01
What Do You Do When Your Hero is the Villain?: Calamity | Review
Calamity: The Reckoners, Book 3 - Brandon Sanderson,MacLeod Andrews,Audible Studios

A very satisfying finale to a favorite YA Superhero/villain Fantasy.

 

When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David's fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.

 

David knew Prof's secret and kept it even when Prof struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Once the Reckoners' leader, Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He's disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there's no turning back....

 

But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics - Megan proved it. They're not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $4.49 (must purchase Kindle first, prices may change)

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible. It is available only from them or on mp3 CD from Amazon.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 51 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is the third & final book in "The Reckoners" trilogy. A spin-off series called "Apocalypse Guard," taking place in a parallel world, has been announced but won't begin until 2018.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous books.**

 

SUMMARY:

I know that quite a few people were disappointed with the resolution/revelations in this book, feeling that they were anti-climactic. I can definitely understand where they are coming from. However, since I have been reading this series for the characters, I was completely satisfied with the way things progressed and how they turned out. Note: there were some deaths, which made me sad.

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review 2016-01-27 16:38
The Great Symmetry by James R Wells (Audiobook Review + Bonus Author & Narrator Interviews)
The Great Symmetry - James R Wells,James R Wells,Mitchell Lucas
A SciFi adventure of underdogs against the evil corporations, which occasionally reminded me of the movie “Serenity.”

Exoarchaeologist Evan McElroy has made a discovery about a long-extinct alien race. But his sponsors realize they can make huge gains if the new findings are kept completely secret. As Evan flees for his life, his trajectory awakens a long-buried struggle. The Infoterrorists, who believe all ideas are screaming to be free, have waited years for the right moment to take on the seven great families that control all of civilization. This could be their opportunity. Or it could be time for millions to die.

Disclosure: Hovering over the cover and purchasing may give me a small commission (yippee, book $).

The author is offering 2 Giveaway opportunities for this book. A free Audible copy to one of my readers (US only, see the Rafflecopter below) and a free signed print copy to the first reader/listener to find a hidden Easter egg in the book (North America only, see the final paragraph of this post).

 

SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 of what is currently planned as a trilogy with a prequel. According to the author, Volume II “will be released late in 2016. The audio book will follow shortly afterward.”

“You can’t stop the signal.” (Mr. Universe, Serenity), but these corporate madmen with their out of control “spin” and willingness to reach for the nukes are sure going to try.

There are too many characters to discuss them all here (although I didn’t have any problem keeping track of them). Our central trio of Evan, Mira, and Kate are well balanced and each bring something different to the table. I am looking forward to seeing what’s next for them.

In this universe, the 7 major “families” (i.e. corporations) that run everything control the media by inventing and disseminating the “True Story.” And if you don’t fall in line they will “zero” you, leaving you homeless and outcast. And all you people who don’t read every word of the Terms when you sign up for something (does anybody) had better beware. Something as innocuous as signing up for a grocery discount card can ruin your life.

My favorite piece of tech was Evan’s spacesuit. In most SF novels, the suit has a limited computer with basic readouts or maybe a battle HUD. This one was fully interactive. And it had removable gauntlets (with an inner glove), which allowed for manipulation of small objects. (Kip from Have Spacesuit, Will Travel would be extremely envious.)

I appreciated the linear storytelling and felt that the backstory was presented at a good pace. I did think that Evan’s story about what started all this was more than a bit anti-climatic considering how long it was held back. I think it would have played better if it had come earlier.

NARRATION: I liked it. Good pacing and production. / His deep voice prevented him from doing natural sounding female voices. I appreciate that he didn’t try, but just went a bit higher. / A bit slow in the non-action scenes, I occasionally listened on 1.5 speed (instead of my usual 1.25) / The one negative was that his very low voice challenged my $5 earbuds. It was much better on the external speaker.

FAVORITE PART(S):

“Those, my friend, are carrots. Never seen one before?” Mira grabbed the tongs and snagged a few for herself.

“Of course I have! But those are not carrots. Carrots are straight, are twenty centimeters long, and deep orange. And smooth. These are pale yellow, and lumpy. With purple splotches. Look, this one splits in two! And what is that white fibrous stuff?”

“They’re actual carrots, the kind that grow in the ground.” She held up a pair of the roots in the serving tongs and offered them to Evan.

“In the ground? As in, dirt? Worms? Oh, that is so unnatural. Mira, this mutant food isn’t going to work for me. Is there any Certified Safe food here?”

--

The sense of anticipation during the climactic scene where the crazy general is preparing to unleash destruction and several people are working independently to stop him

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a new name for wormholes / mild infrequent swearing / Evan & Kate’s “unmarried” state
OTHER WARNINGS: one of the major female side characters has a wife & kids

MY RATINGS:
Enjoyment: HIGH
Re-readability: AVERAGE
Narrator Impact: AVERAGE

I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast dot com.

The Great Symmetry by James R Wells; read by Mitchell Lucas; produced independantly in 2015 / Length: 9 hrs 45 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon plus iTunes

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BONUS NARRATOR INTERVIEW

 

Who was your favorite character in the book and why?

Definitely Mira. She's smart and tough. She's a badass.

 

Who was the easiest to narrate? The hardest?

The easiest to narrate would have to be Evan. I didn't have to do a voice for him. The toughest would probably be Axiom. That guy was hard on the vocal chords.

 

What motivated you to become an audiobook narrator?

I'm a huge fan of audiobooks. I used to listen to them for years at my old job to help pass the time. I'm also a voice actor for independent video games as well, so I already had my foot in the door as far as the initial investment in the recording gear. To me it was inevitable that I would find a way to narrate audiobooks as well.

 

What's the best part about being a narrator? The worst?

The best part of being a narrator is getting to read books for free! But seriously I get to read some great stuff I might never find otherwise. On the other hand, you need to have a thick skin if you want to do this for a living. Not everyone's going to like your stuff. And they let you know.

 

People can learn more about me and contact me at my website: www.mitchellslucas.com

 

BONUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW

 

A bit of biography that you may or may not know is that I am a great-grandson of science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells.

 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character(s)?

The Great Symmetry is about new ideas trumping the established narrative. I'd like to see an insurgent studio assemble a cast of talented but unkown actors to make something that's fresh, centered on characters and their growth through the story, and devoid of the long and tedious arcade-game "action" sequences that proliferate through many science fiction movies you see these days. [I have to say that The Martian was a great recent exception]

 

Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?

I love print books, always have and always will. Since I spend too much of my day looking at a computer or similar device, when it's time to read for myself I want to hold a book with printed pages.

 

But my preference is not the same as what the market wants. When I intially released The Great Symmetry, I didn't understand the importance of eBook and audio. These days my eBook version is by far the lead seller, while audio is about to overtake print. I'll always have a print version of every full length novel I publish, if only to prove to my family that I wrote another book, but I now realize print is not going to be the most important medium.

 

What motivated you to sit down and write your first book?

I have always wanted to write science fiction, and I made many attempts to write The Great Symmetry (under various prior titles) for 25 years. But just a couple of years ago, a theme started getting my attention and not letting go. I kept coming across stories about the ongoing attempts of those in power to define the accepted social narrative and marginalize those with different points of view, but then being frustrated by the imagination and artistry of motivated people who bring fresh ideas back to our mainstream conversation.

 

It's amazing how often one determined person or small group can make a change in how we all think of a topic. Although The Great Symmetry is a science fiction adventure story, it's also a celebration of the freedom of ideas.

 

To learn more, check out his website at www.TheGreatSymmetry.com

 

Just for fun, I sprinkled hidden references to well-known novels and current events through The Great Symmetry. Most have them have been found and remarked to me by at least one reader, but there are still a few holdouts, such as a pointer to one of America's most famous criminal cases. For the first listener or reader who finds that one and sends me a note, I'll send you a signed first edition (North America only, please).

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review 2016-01-27 06:37
Prototype D by Jason Morrow (Audiobook Review + Bonus Author Interview)
Prototype D - Jason D. Morrow,Jason D. Morrow,James Foster
Had some difficulties connecting with this post-apocalyptic tale, but I’m a fan of the protagonist Des.

A hundred years after the world is decimated by nuclear wars, humanity has been reduced to a surviving city of people called Mainlanders. They have food, water, and a wall that separates them from their enemies - the Outlanders. Branded as savages, the Outlanders have grown in number and their attacks against the city have become more brutal. Increasingly, they threaten to overtake the city, bringing with them the doom and destruction that has plagued mankind for over a century. What the Mainlanders need is a weapon.

Disclosure: Hovering over the cover and purchasing may give me a small commission (yippee, book $).

 

SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 of a series that, according to the author, will have 4 books in total. The ebook of Book #2, Prototype Exodus, was recently released and the audio should be available in April.

I am sad to say that this book never rose above average for me, due to the difficulties I had connecting with the majority of the characters and with the plot. However, I really liked Des and am looking forward to reading his further adventures.

Character comments: Hazel (Des’ inventor) - Her neglect of her father and treatment of Esroy made her hard to like. / Esroy (A.I.) - I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. / Gizmo (the Pollyanna style companion robot) - he would probably drive me nuts if he were mine, but he was fun to read about.

The beginning was great. I loved Des right away and felt like the opening chapter presented his situations clearly and sympathetically. He was the true heart of the story. I also liked his interactions with Hazel’s father. I only cared about the rest of the story in so far as it dealt with him.

The book has some well-written and intense action sequences, for people who like those. The ending resolved the current situation, but leaves many changes to be dealt with.

Note: this book contains no significant swearing and no sexual content, which was much appreciated.

NARRATION: Smooth and nice sounding, no falsetto females / Listened on 1.25 speed (my usual)

FAVORITE PART(S): The opening scene, where Des awakes and immediately begins to demonstrate his humanity, despite being a robot. / Quote: “he had never seen the sun before. He could have scanned the archives embedded in his memory, but having knowledge of the sun and actually experiencing its warmth were two different things.”

WARNING: Some intense “fear of heights” scenes

MY RATINGS:
--Enjoyment: AVERAGE
--Re-readability: LOW - but I am planning to read the sequel.
--Narrator Impact: AVERAGE

I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast dot com.

Prototype D by Jason D. Morrow; read by James Foster; produced independently in 2015 / Length: 10 hrs 42 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon plus iTunes

If you think you might like it, but aren't sure, the Kindle version is currently free on Amazon here.

 

BONUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW

 

Tell us something about your lead character(s) that we don't already know.*

Near the beginning of the book, Hazel, the creator of Des, has to use an activation code in order to make Des come to life. The activation code is 03311596. This is the birthday of the French philosopher and mathematician, Renè Descartes (pronounced day-cart). Des is named after Descartes because of the philosophers writings entitled Passions of the Soul. That, and I like the name Des for a robot.

 

Another character, Esroy, is a lot less involved. My wife and I were teaching in at a school in South Korea last year and there was a little boy who went by the name S. Roy. I thought it sounded like another good robot name and I came up with Esroy.

 

I love to sprinkle little bits of my life into my books. Oftentimes it has to do with locations. If you ever find coordinates or familiar-sounding towns or cities in my stories, there’s a good chance I’ve been there.

 

*He revealed it here first!

 

Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?

I use all of these. Audiobooks are a must for long trips across the country. Ebooks oftentimes offer a great deal since it costs nothing to produce a copy. But a book with pages always feels right. I mostly like paper books because you can always tell how far you have to go by where your thumb is placed. Turning that last page is always a bittersweet moment, too.

 

How long did it take you to write this book?

From start to finish, Prototype D took about two months to complete. Once I have a book planned out, it doesn’t take very long—just the daily grind. The editing process can take a while. It can be the most fun part and the most frustrating, but it’s also the time when you get to see the whole book come together.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

I think sometimes the hardest part (but also the most exciting) is starting a book, particularly the first book of a new series. For me there is a lot of planning involved and getting everything together to try and make the best story possible. In this stage you have to decide what is worth pursuing and what has to stay behind. One of the hardest parts is discovering that a storyline you love ends up getting edited out because it simply isn’t necessary to the overall plot.

 

That said, I wouldn’t have written eleven books now if I didn’t enjoy it. And there is always more on the horizon. In fact, I just released the sequel to Prototype D last week. It’s called Prototype Exodus. Ebook versions are available everywhere, and the audiobook should be ready in April of this year.

 

Readers can sign up to my mailing list by visiting jasondmorrow.com. I don’t send spam and usually only send out an email when I release a new book. Also, if anyone is interested, my wife and I have a blog and youtube channel for our travels across the world. goodmorrows.com or youtube.com/morrowsinkorea

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review 2016-01-25 21:20
The Martian Conspiracy by John Read (Audiobook Review + Bonus Author Interview)
The Martian Conspiracy - John Read,Chris Abell,John A Read
A rousing near future SF adventure reminiscent of classic favorites from my youth.

The year is 2071. Devastated by the loss of his wife and son, NASA engineer John Orville signs up for a new life on Mars, implementing Project Bakersfield, a plan to combat deadly Martian storms. After a military unit lands on Mars, supposedly for a training exercise, Orville discovers the true purpose of Project Bakersfield. With the military unit going rogue, and a massive superstorm threatening imminent destruction, John Orville must fight to save the colony.

Disclosure: Hovering over the cover and purchasing may give me a small commission (yippee, book $).

 

SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 in a planned trilogy. According to the author, Book #2 - The Callisto Deception - will be published in Summer 2016 and #3 (tentatively titled The War of Storms) will be out “8-12 months later.”

Although the protagonist is an adult, this book reminded me of an updated version of some of my favorite Robert Heinlein juveniles. You take a bright but unexceptional individual and throw them into space, then watch what happens. The book is packed with excellent characters, including:

Our Hero (John) - NASA nerd turned driven survivor turned action hero, not afraid to think outside the box, willing to do what’s right in difficult situations.

The Comic Relief (Leeth) - an adventurous sort of everyday hero, he’s a nurse who chooses to use his skills in disaster relief areas and other difficult situations. And he’s Aussie, mate.

The Girl (No spoilers = no name) - being a woman myself, I was happy when Mr. Read added one to the mix (although it came fairly late in the book). Unlike me, she is a kick butt military officer who can hold her own with the men. Like John, she stands up for what’s right despite the possible consequences. And she represents an opportunity for a dash of romance. (Not with John, thankfully. I’m still holding out hope that he will eventually reunite with his wife.)

I am not a scientist myself, but the technology in the book seemed realistic. There was a good balance of including advanced technology but not dwelling on the details to the point of tedium. A few things that stood out for me were: the way the internet was used to track/connect individuals following the disaster (this is already happening now in a less organized form) / the fact that few people know how to drive their own cars (we’re taking the first steps towards this) / and the great VR exercise machines (just because they’re cool).

The story starts with a great big bang. Mr. Read manages to introduce John and create an emotional connection with his wife and son in a very short time, before everything hits the fan (i.e. California). After that, the first 25%, before we head for Mars, seemed a bit drawn out. I’m not sure what could be removed (maybe Eddie, but I’m thinking he might make a reappearance in a later book). I think the decision to jump forward a year once he arrives on Mars was a good one. It eliminates any additional dragging before we get to the “conspiracy,” and allows John to be confident/skilled in his job.

The latter part of the story is one action scene after another with barely any time to breathe in between (in a good way). And that last action scene was craaazy. The ending satisfactorily concludes the main “conspiracy” plot but leaves our crew with some serious issues to deal with in the next book.

NARRATOR: Great job. Good accents and character distinction. The production was smooth; and female voices (although not very womanly) were acceptable.  I listened on 1.25 speed (my usual).

FAVORITE PART(S): I appreciated that, while it was made clear that John is severely emotionally impacted by the loss of his family, the book didn’t wallow in the fact. / Fav scene - John trying to put his pants on in zero-g.

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Swearing (esp the 6 F words), although it is MUCH less than another recent Martian story we’ve all heard about. / humorous use of GOD as an acronym / Leeth’s attachment to alcohol.

MY RATINGS:
--Enjoyment: HIGH
--Re-readability: HIGH, I will probably skip straight to the point where he boards the ship for Mars.
--Narrator Impact: HIGH - When I first started the book, Mr Abell sounded a lot like the narrator of one of my Heinlein audiobooks (I was surprised when I checked and it wasn’t him). This increased my enjoyment of the book, since it instantly put me in the right mood.

I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast dot com.

The Martian Conspiracy by John Read; read by Chris Abell; produced independently in 2015 / Length: 7 hrs 32 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon plus iTunes

BONUS AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character(s)?

I picture John's Orville's character as played by Edward Norton. In the story, John's character goes through a radical transformation. He starts as a lowly engineer, someone who gave up on several dreams to work a stable job and support his family. His decision to leave Earth is a transformation, he leaves his old self behind, becoming the hero who helps save the Martian colony. Norton's ability to play a character who goes through this level of growth is demonstrated in several roles, from Fight Club to American History X.

 

What motivated you to sit down and write your first book?

My whole life I've had short stories floating around in my head. One involved a virtual reality program that inadvertently changes the past, another was about humanity needing to evacuate the Earth. These stories never went very far, a few pages at most. Then I did a presentation on reusable rockets, a hot topic in the space community today. I realized that if rapid reusability of spaceships becomes as commonplace as the reusability of airplanes, then the solar system is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes. I started writing as if this was true. I asked myself, where would we go first? Well, Mars of course! So I started writing about a day in the life of an engineer on Mars. Before I knew it, I had thirty pages, I had a backstory and even a villain!

 

Turning this into a book was a different thing altogether. When writing fiction, you can't explain your world, you need to show it to the reader. So I started deleting all the explanations and adding more plot. This continued for some time, deleting explanations and adding plot. It was addictive! I couldn't stop! When I thought I was done, I hired an editor. He read the manuscript and basically said, "Rewrite the whole thing, add more violence and drama and remove more of the explanations." So I did. What was left was an extremely fast paced book with loveable characters.

 

What is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest? (You heard it here first)

The hardest thing about writing for me is changing the plot. Once something is written, even if it's a draft, it becomes a canon of sorts in my mind. But it's not canon. Until it's published, everything can change. When a beta reader or editor says that something doesn't work, I trust them, but actually making the change is very difficult, especially if what I'm deleting is a thread that weaves its way throughout the novel.

 

The easiest part for me is editing. Editing is time consuming, but turning a first draft into a second or third draft is pretty straightforward (unless there are major plot changes).

 

I'll add something to this question, and that is: "What is the most fun thing about writing?" Its driving down the road listening to punk rock when an idea hits you so hard you have to pull the car over. It's waking up from a nap and realizing you've figured out how to get the characters out of their latest trap. It's sitting in a boring meeting at work and realizing some deep truth about your main character. Its times like this you shout "Eureka!" At the top of your lungs as you realize the book is going work, that people are going to be at the edge of their seats as they read it, that all your hard work is going to pay off, and that your short time on Earth will all be worth it because you've brought joy to a segment of humanity using nothing but words on a page. [GMB: Isn't this a wonderful sentiment, I love it.]

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