Thursday, 31 March 2016

Regeneration Cover Design Process Guest Post

I really enjoyed Gemsigns and Binary, the first two books of the ®Evolution trilogy, so I was ecstatic when the publisher offered me a review copy of the third book, Regeneration.  I was also asked if I wanted to help promote the book with a guest post by Stephanie Saulter, talking about how she and the publisher collaborated to come up with the cover.  

Cover art is an important aspect of book sales, so it's cool reading about the back and forth process with the author, getting the details right so the picture conveys the right feeling for the book.  I really like the cover they came up with.


To celebrate Regeneration’s US cover reveal, I thought I’d tell you a story. A true story this time, and like many truths, one that confounds conventional wisdom – in this case, the oft-repeated tale of woe in which an unapproachable and unaccountable publishing behemoth slaps an unrepresentative (or just boringly generic) cover onto a book and sends it out into the world, insensitive either to the text or to the opinion of the person who wrote it.
Sadly, we’re not talking urban legend here: this does happen. Even famous, best-selling authors bemoan having no input, nor even seeing their covers before they’re published. Sometimes, when the wrongness of what they’ve done hits a particularly frayed public nerve, the resulting furore becomes fierce enough to force a change on the part of the publisher. But the conventional wisdom remains that authors, as a matter of course, have no say in how their books are packaged.
Here’s the thing: while this may be often (and appallingly) true, it’s by no means universal; and it does a disservice to the publishers who do work with and listen to their authors to tar them with the same brush. Despite being neither famous nor best-selling (yet, they insist, just not yet), my publishers have always shown me my covers as works-in-progress. They have always asked for my feedback, and I’ve never been ignored. It’s been my experience through six covers now: the UK and US editions of Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, published by Quercus Imprint, Jo Fletcher Books in both markets (although the two series wound up looking quite different to each other).
Never has this spirit of enthusiastic, respectful collaboration been more evident, or more important, than in developing the US cover for Regeneration. It was the first time that I found myself not just suggesting tweaks to an image that I was basically OK with, but having to explain what was wrong with it and asking for it to be significantly reworked. Now that the final happy result has been revealed to the world, I want to share the story of its evolution from that somewhat shaky beginning. I pitched the idea to Quercus, who have very kindly agreed. We both think it’s important to demonstrate how things are done when they’re done well. And to tell more than one kind of story.
The following is lifted largely from our email correspondence, with some additional context from Quercus on how they approached the cover and responded to my comments.
Designing the US cover for Regeneration, the final book of the ®Evolution trilogy

The US covers for Gemsigns and Binary

Round 1
Quercus’ original idea:
We were lucky to have the same cover designer, Daniel Rembert work on GemsignsBinary and now Regeneration. We have been very conscious of wanting all three covers to be coordinated so that the sense of a trilogy would be recognizable. There are several dynamic plotlines to pick from, but we chose to focus on the gillungs’ story – as it directly reflects the progression of the gems from chattel fighting for their rights, to better integrated members of society, to community leaders and innovators. We wanted the image to be underwater but to convey the idea of the quantum battery technology and its use as a power source.
Quercus initially approached Stephanie with the below first cover ideas for Regeneration:

Stephanie’s original thoughts:
“These are beautiful as a picture, but: why is the central image of a naked nubile female? And: who is she supposed to be? The only teenage gillung woman in the text is Agwé, and Agwé is black. So if it’s meant to be Agwé it needs to look like Agwé, which means properly dark skin and CLOTHING. But much as I love her — and believe me, my soul would soar at the sight of beautiful black Agwé with her glowing green hair and cherry-red bodysuit as the cover image — she’s very much a secondary character, so I’m not sure why she’d be the cover? That suggests a YA novel. And she certainly wouldn’t be in such a passive pose, none of them would. If we’re going to do a gillung underwater against a turbine they should look more engaged, more dynamic.
“I think part of what’s thrown me as well is that this composition is such a departure from the Gemsigns and Binary covers, which had been developing a motif that I really liked: the raised arms/ fist, the crowd of people, the sense of an engaged urban community. Regeneration continues that whole theme of the collective and the communal, and brings it to a climax with the intersections of family, friends, workmates etc.
“(I’ve lost a bet with myself; I thought it might be an underwater viewpoint, but looking up through the water at the quayside crowded with people and the huge egg-shaped Thames Tidal building rising up alongside. Something that, when the reader got to the penultimate chapter with Gabriel desperately trying to get people to leave, they’d look back at the cover and go ah-ha! …Not saying it should be that, mind, it just seemed like it would be an obvious continuation of the motif.)”

Quercus’ cover design team went back to the drawing board with Stephanie’s suggestions in mind.

Round 2
Quercus’ thoughts
“Stephanie provides fantastic, detailed feedback and we went back to the designer with it. We have been back and forth with the designer about these covers from the very beginning, so it’s no surprise that the first interpretation wasn’t quite right.
Featuring a gillung is essential, we agree, and I think the color palette here is good—figuring out how to pull off the composition in a way that captures the same sense of dynamism and community focus as the previous cover designs is just part of the challenge. We were not feeling 100% about the main figure (if we were to use her, our designer would definitely need to finesse some of the detailing with the wet suit and the skin tone but we really loved the general composition/direction.”

Stephanie’s thoughts:
“I too much prefer the overall direction of this composition, and in general I like the first image, with the central figure rising vertically and purposefully, best of all. The background figures are better in this as well; in the others it’s not clear whether they’re swimming or drowning, but in the first one it’s pretty evident they are all in their element. However I also like the fact that more of the topside buildings are visible in the second image; it sort of contextualises the swimmers. So I don’t know if it’s possible to maintain that general upward thrust of the figures in the first image while having more of the buildings from the second image as well? (I realise part of this also has to do with where the title sits on the cover, and the designer will no doubt play around with that far more efficiently than I can visualise it!)”
“As for the central figure, yes she’d need to be a bit darker and more detailed. I’d love her to be a teeny bit curvier and her hair a bit more cloud-like. The main thing to remember about the gillungs’ physicality — apart from skin tone — is that they are powerful people. This is a very subtle thing; I don’t mean to suggest that they should be large or blocky, but if you think of any aquatic mammal from otters to whales, there is a sort of muscular solidity about them.”
“You said you’re not 100% certain about the main figure; are you thinking about alternatives? Who/ what would you use instead? Because it does need a strong central component, I think, and at the moment she’s it …”

Round Three:

Quercus’ thoughts:
“We are always grateful for Stephanie’s very helpful and comprehensive feedback. Our designer has incorporated some of these tweaks. The differences are subtle but effective.”

Stephanie’s thoughts:
“I really like this, and I think it does the job well — it’s both attractive and accurate, if you know what I mean. Holding the earlier two covers up to look at all three in a row, it’s clear that although the images are different from each other they are thematically related, having a sort of family resemblance — the altered human figure against a crowded urban backdrop, the sense of energy and urgency. I like the cover itself, but also the sense of a continuum.”

The final cover:

Available in bookstores and online, May 2016!

Daniel Rembert's design work can be found at

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Story Bundle: Aurora Award

Douglas Smith has curated the most recent Story Bundle, and it's full of Aurora Award winners and finalists.  If you're not familiar with the Auroras, it's Canada's speculative fiction award.  The included titles are:

As with other bundles, it's pay what you want for DRM free copies of the first 5 titles, or get all 10 if you pay over $15.

To read more about the bundle and the included books, check out their website.

And if you're not as keen on SFF, they've also got a weird horror bundle.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Not a Review: The Broken Hearted by Amelia Kahaney

Not a Review looks at books I got a good way through before giving up on them. I’ll explain why I read so much and why I didn’t finish.  These are - by their nature - going to be predominately negative reviews.  They’ll also contain some amount of spoilers (though I’ll try not to give anything major away without a warning).

Pros: great protagonist

Cons: very obvious twist

For Parents: off page sex, fair amount of violence

Read 100 pages of 336, skimmed to the end.

Anthem Fleet is from the good side of town and the daughter of a wealthy family.  But her life isn’t perfect.  She’s not sure she wants to go as far with her boyfriend as he’s been pushing lately and her mother hasn’t recovered from the death of her older sister, for whom she was born as a replacement.  Then she meets a guy at a dance from the wrong side of town and suddenly life’s amazing as she ditches ballet to see her new beau.  Until everything goes horribly horribly wrong.  Now she’s got a clockwork heart and a bounty to pay.

I really liked Anthem.  She’s a bit naive for a 17 year old, but you’re told she’s lived a somewhat sheltered life.  She’s got some regular school girl problems of wanting to fit in and be popular, not being sure about her relationship and feeling pressured to have sex, family troubles, etc.  She’s taken ballet for years and it’s a central part of her life.  

I’ll admit I thought the metal heart on the cover of the book was meant to be a euphemism, so I was surprised when she actually undergoes surgery and comes out with an actual clockwork heart.

I liked how intelligently her parents respond to the bounty request, even though they seem to drop the ball a lot with other parenting concerns (especially after she disappears).


For some reason the book irritated me.  In large part this was because I could see the glaring twist coming, which kept being pushed back and pushed back until I wanted to throw the book and say ‘get to it already so you can subvert it somehow’.  I ended up skimming the majority of the book to see what happened and find out when the twist was finally revealed, and it was very late in the game.  So late there was no time for any subversion.

It also kind of annoyed me that Anthem seemed to go from guy to guy.  She leaves her boyfriend for the new guy, then after the twist is revealed immediately realizes she likes another guy.  Considering how badly her previous crushes were I felt she should take some time to consider the sort of guy she actually wants (as even the guy at the end had some major red flags).

I was also shocked at how quickly things went with the second guy, and how little she considered the potential consequences (nor did she consider how convenient the timing of everything was).  I know teens feel things deeply, but she falls fast and hard and goes to extremes for him when things go bad.

I suspect teens who may not be as jaded and aware of certain tropes will really enjoy this book.  Anthem is a determined woman who takes matters into her own hands and actually achieves quite a lot.  The heart twist was interesting and there are some good fight scenes.  But for several reasons it wasn’t a good choice for me. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Shout-Out: The Last Girl by Joe Hart

A mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 percent to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women.

Zoey and some of the surviving young women are housed in a scientific research compound dedicated to determining the cause. For two decades, she’s been isolated from her family, treated as a test subject, and locked away—told only that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population.

Captivity is the only life Zoey has ever known, and escaping her heavily armed captors is no easy task, but she’s determined to leave before she is subjected to the next round of tests…a program that no other woman has ever returned from. Even if she’s successful, Zoey has no idea what she’ll encounter in the strange new world beyond the facility’s walls. Winning her freedom will take brutality she never imagined she possessed, as well as all her strength and cunning—but Zoey is ready for war.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Geeky Baking - Lego Chocolates

Looking for a nice gift for a geeky love interest?  I've seen lego gummies in several places, but when gifting things to adults gummies aren't necessarily the best choice.  So I took my faux lego moulds (purchased off of ebay) and made chocolates instead.

I made several coloured blocks using a mix of coloured candy melts and flavoured baking chips.

I melted the chocolates in a bowl in the microwave and poured them into the moulds to harden.  Now, I used some flavourings with the plain candy melts so they'd taste different.  Just be aware that essences and extracts aren't the same thing.  The strawberry essence I used (a few drops was sufficient) was strongly flavoured.  The maple extract I used required more drops to add the flavour and significantly darkened the chocolate (as the extract acted like black dye).  Also, the butterscotch and peanut butter chips I bought didn't melt nearly as well as the chocolates.  I ended up having to squish the clay like mixture into the moulds with my fingers.

The brick colours/flavours I used:

white - mint chocolate drops (the ones I used had little candy bits on the ends, which looked great in the bricks)
off white - sugar cookie flavoured candy melts
red - red candy melts + strawberry essence
blue - blue candy melts + maple extract
green - butterscotch chips + green food colouring
brown - peanut butter chips

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Shout-Out: Got Luck by Michael Darling

Police-officer-turned-private-investigator Goethe “Got” Luck is known for rolling with the punches and never taking anything too seriously. When he picks up a seemingly dead-end murder case, his life begins to take a crazy turn. Shot at, chased by people he has never met, and attacked by an invisible liondog, Got quickly learns that there is more to this world than meets the eye.
He discovers the Fae. The Eternals. They who dwell in the Behindbeyond. Once, they ruled over ancient realms, but over the centuries, their power dwindled. Now someone wants to restore their rule and subjugate humankind. All it will cost is thousands of human lives.
The clock is ticking. Getting the world out of this one will take a couple friends, more than a few well-placed insults, and a whole lot of Luck.


The book is 99 cents at Amazon US from today until March 30th ($1.29 in Canada).  The publisher is giving away 3 autographed copies of the book on their website, and 5 copies on GoodReads (this giveaway opens March 27th, US only).

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Book Review: Fallout by James Decker

Pros: great protagonist, fascinating world, interesting aliens, complex plot

Cons: minor plot complaints, Sam survives a LOT of dangerous situations without injury

Though months have passed since the events that took place in Shiliuyuan station, Sam Shao is still haunted by what she saw there and what she knows Sillith’s virus is doing to the people of her city.  She wants to expose the truth of the alien haan, what they really look like and have been doing, and so has teamed up with some other dissidents to help expose the aliens’ true form.  But there are a lot of new problems: Alexei is enamoured with the new Gonzo religion that worships the haan, there are hundreds of missing people, and some of her allies want to take their protests to a new, violent level.

The Burn Zone ended with several revelations that deeply affect Sam.  This book starts with her dealing with the fall out of what happened, even though some time has passed.

She’s a great protagonist.  She’s been through some horrible stuff and is quite tough because of it.  That does make it difficult for her to progress in her relationships.  She’s kept Vamp at a distance and her relationship with Alexei is combative, despite her love for her adopted brother.  She’s dealing with a lot and so ignores some important clues that those around her need help and attention, which causes her problems as the action progresses.

The world is fully realized.  It’s easy to picture the streets of Hangfei as Sam goes from place to place.  There’s variety in the different neighbourhoods and a sense of history.

While you don’t learn much new about the haan, they continue to be mysterious.  And the new haanyong - humans who have been ‘evolved’ into haan like creatures - are pretty scary.

The plot is really complex, though Sam does do a lot of running around to keep things moving.  There’s a ton of action, though I was surprised at how many dangerous situations she walked away from without injury.  I was also surprised by how naive she was about how people would react to seeing the true face of the haan.

While I predicted one aspect of the ending, several other things surprised me and I was left… unsure how I felt about Sam’s reaction to the various revelations. 

It’s an entertaining book that will keep you turning pages.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Shout-Out: The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel

When her crewmate Danny is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps engineer Commander Elena Shaw is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?
While retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the destruction of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw tribe PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined—a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy . . . and beyond.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Video: The Mechanics of Storytelling 1: Show Don't Tell

SF Signal posted a hilarious video by exurb1a explaining Frank Herbert's Dune. I looked at what else he's done and found these gems.  As with the Dune video, there is swearing.

He's also made The Mechanics of Storytelling 2: Scarcity, which is worth watching.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Book Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Pros: interesting characters, fascinating world-building

Cons: limited plot

The Wayfarer is a ship that punches tunnels through space, connecting major hubs so other ships can travel between them faster.  When they’re offered the chance to tunnel to a new area, they say yes, even though it means travelling over a year to the entry point in space that isn’t quite friendly.

This is a space opera that focuses on the crew and the world they inhabit by way of a simplistic plot.  The crew encounter a number of problems on the mission, some personal, some interpersonal, and some brought on through outside forces. 

I found the crew a lot of fun.  You get to know some of them and their foibles a lot more than others.  Corbin, for example, is introduced as a jerk and a loner and then pretty much ignored until a crisis focused on him arises.  Other characters get a lot of page time, like Kizzy, the mechanic, and Sissix, one of the alien species on board.  Having said that, I never really connected with any of them, and so never felt particularly strong emotions during their crises. 

Where the book really shines is the world-building.  The alien races are brilliantly done, with unique languages, cultures, dietary preferences, gestures, sexualities and more.  There are minor info dumps through conversation explaining some of the races’ habits, but they’re integrated well and feel mostly natural.  You’re given enough information to understand the differences between races, and how they interact, without being bogged down in details.

If you’re looking for action and adventure you won’t find it here.  If you’re looking for a fun, interspecies crew and learning about a new world this is a great book.  The climax is exciting and there’s a good denouement that wraps things up well.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Shout-Out: The Reburialists by J. C. Nelson

Burying the dead is easy. Keeping them down is difficult.
At the Bureau of Special Investigations, agents encounter all sorts of paranormal evils. So for Agent Brynner Carson, driving a stake through a rampaging three-week-old corpse is par for the course. Except this cadaver is different. It’s talking—and it has a message about his father, Heinrich.
The reanimated stiff delivers an ultimatum written in bloody hieroglyphics, and BSI Senior Analyst Grace Roberts is called in to translate. It seems that Heinrich Carson stole the heart of Ra-Ame, the long-dead god of the Re-Animus. She wants it back. The only problem is Heinrich took the secret of its location to his grave.
With the arrival of Ra-Ame looming and her undead army wreaking havoc, Brynner and Grace must race to find the key to stopping her. It’s a race they can’t afford to lose, but then again, it’s just another day on the job . . .

Friday, 11 March 2016

Stranger Than Fiction: Swearing

A lot of newer gritty fantasy introduced swearing to fantasy worlds, which can sometimes bump you out of the narrative if the words aren't used carefully.  They help make books feel more real - after all, most people swear to some extent.  But what words were used historically, and why were they considered so bad?

David Waid has a short post about historical swearing, which he ended with this video of Melissa Mohr talking about her book Holy Sh*t: A History of the English Language in Four Letters at the Politics and Prose bookstore.  It's a fascinating talk (only 17 minutes + some Q&A).  She goes over how privacy affected what words are considered taboo, and why religious and body obscenities have so much power.

I really want to read this book now.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Shout-Out: The Courier by Gerald Brandt

Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier. A nobody. Level 2 trash in a multi-level city that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border—a land where corporations make all the rules. A runaway since the age of fourteen, Kris struggled to set up her life, barely scraping by, working hard to make it without anyone's help.

But a late day delivery changes everything when she walks in on the murder of one of her clients. Now she's stuck with a mysterious package that everyone wants. It looks like the corporations want Kris gone, and are willing to go to almost any length to make it happen.

Hunted, scared, and alone, she retreats to the only place she knows she can hide: the Level 1 streets. Fleeing from people that seem to know her every move, she is rescued by Miller—a member of an underground resistance group—only to be pulled deeper into a world she doesn't understand.

Together Kris and Miller barely manage to stay one step ahead of the corporate killers, but it's only a matter of time until Miller's resources and their luck run out....

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Video: The Trouble with Transporters

This is a great video by CGP Grey about transporters: great form of transportation or suicide box?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Book Review: The World Inside by Robert Silverberg

Pros: fascinating world, fascinating characters

Cons: if you’re prudish you won’t like this book

Centuries in the future the human population has increased dramatically.  Most humans live in 1000 story towers separated into cities with their own schools, hospitals, etc.  Fed by communes outside the towers that urban dwellers will never see as they live their lives fully contained within their buildings.

This book starts with the premise that humans have moved into towers, foregoing privacy for a sexually liberal society and then shows what life is like for a handful of those inhabitants.  It’s a fascinating look at a certain kind of utopian society - and how unhappy many of its inhabitants are under their veneer of acceptance.

The stories vary in terms of interest, though each shows a different aspect of life.  The first involves a lot of exposition as a urbmon dweller explains the tower lifestyle to a visiter from Venus, where the lifestyle is quite different.  Another story shows a young woman’s terror over the prospect of being forced to move to a new tower.  Most of the stories are from the point of view of the higher middle class, though there are glimpses of how the lower, physical workers, and higher, government workers live.

Like many utopian/dystopian books there’s a huge emphasis on population and sex in this book.  There’s a brief contrast in one of the stories between how the people in the towers encourage having children while those of the communes must keep their populations in check.  While the free sexual mores are meant to reduce conflict, jealousies still arise, though not the way you might expect.  There’s a LOT of sex going on in this book.  It’s not graphic and is there to make several points, but consider yourself warned.

I’d expected the book to end with the departure of the Venusian visitor so I was a little surprised when a different character got a second story.  The story did wrap things up well though, touching - however briefly - on the other viewpoint characters.

This is a pretty interesting book.  There’s no plot but the world and characters are quite interesting and will keep you turning pages.  I did find one story, about a musician, a little boring, but the others were quite fascinating.  I’d put it with Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day in terms of dystopian worlds that might not be so bad to live in.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Shout-Out: Japan Sinks - Sakyo Komatsu

After dropping anchor for the night near a small island to the south of Japan, a crew of fishermen awaken to find that the island has vanished without a trace. An investigating scientist theorizes that the tiny island has succumbed to the same force that divided the Japanese archipelago from the mainland ― and that the disastrous shifting of a fault in the Japan Trench has placed the entire country in danger of being swallowed by the sea.

Based on rigorous scientific speculation, Japan Sinks recounts a completely credible series of geological events. The story unfolds from multiple points of view, offering fascinating perspectives on the catastrophe's political, social, and psychological effects. Winner of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and the Seiun Award, this prescient 1973 science-fiction novel foreshadowed the consequences of the 1995 Osaka-Kobe earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Video: Hell's Club

This is a clever mash-up of club scenes from a host of movies by ANTONIO MARIA DA SILVA AMDSFILMS.

There is a place where all fictional characters meet. . Outside of time, Outside of all logic, This place is known as HELL'S CLUB, But this club is not safe.

If you like this, there's a part 2 that has some aliens...

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Shout-Out: Chosen Soldiers by R. H. Scott

After the missiles tore up the Earth, societies crumbled, leaving scattered patches of humanity struggling to survive. Slowly, a group came together, helping each other regrow a world worth living in.

And then the Others attacked.

Realizing the need to truly protect themselves, they formed the Academy: a place where young people could be built into an elite military force. The training is intense…and so are the consequences for failure.

Sloan Radcliffe is not a failure. In fact, she’s the best of the best—the girls’ Senior Champion—and the only one who can match her is matched to her: her betrothed, Jared Dawson. They are the perfect couple: exemplary fighters, pure leaders, and exceptional role models. But as their time at the Academy draws to a close, Sloan is starting to see signs that maybe their life is built upon secrets…and that secrets are never a strong foundation.

With the battlefront looming and whispers growing louder, Sloan is caught up not only between her loyalties to her people, but also to the man she loves.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Unsung Stories Launches Unsung Signals

Unsung Stories is a British genre fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Publishing that looks for:

...the fuzzy bits between genres: hard, soft, gooey and fuzzy sci-fi, high, low, top, middle and bottom fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, steampunk, cyberpunk, space opera, weird, dark, comedy, satire and anything else that falls somewhere between any or all of those.
Launched in January, Unsung Signals is a digital only line that publishes mid-length fiction, stories that are too long for magazines but too short to be published as books.

And like everything else we do, we are accepting un-agented submissions. So if you have work between 5-30,000 words long – a novella, a collection of stories, something great that's just that bit too long for everywhere else – let us know. You can submit via our form.
Their first title is Winter, a novella by Dan Grace where:

...a violent future of the failed Union meets the mythic and pagan past. As man reaps the harvest of war, utopian hopes vie with apocalyptic fears. Winter sets in.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Not a Review: Infoquake by David Louis Edelman

Not a Review looks at books I got a good way through before giving up on them. I’ll explain why I read so much and why I didn’t finish.  These are - by their nature - going to be predominately negative reviews.  They’ll also contain some amount of spoilers (though I’ll try not to give anything major away without a warning).

Pros: some interesting characters, fascinating world

Cons: Natch’s lack of ethics made him unlikeable, lots of set-up for little payback, mystery kept too long   

Read: 392 of 484 pages + skimmed to end

Natch, head of his own fiefcorp, wants to make the number one spot on Primo with their newest bio/logic system NiteFocus 48.

Infoquake sets up the Jump 225 trilogy by introducing the major players and futuristic world. Split into several sections, the first introduces Jara, a data analyst who works for the Natch fiefcorp. The second section goes through Natch’s life, explaining how he got to be where he is now. The third section, around 300 pages in, has Natch agree to take on a mysterious project. Only in the fourth section does he - and by extension the reader - finally learn what this project is, and what the trilogy is all about.

I really enjoyed the first section of the book.  Jara is an interesting character, stuck in a job she’s grown to hate, but who is easily manipulated by her unethical boss into doing things she doesn’t agree with.  She’s counting the days until her contract expires.  You’re thrown into the book with little explanation of the terms used, which was a bit confusing, but was overall a great way of immersing me in the new world. 

The second section was interesting, though I didn’t like Natch and as time went on I actively started to hate him.  This section had a lot of world building, explaining a lot of terms and ideas, giving me a better grounding in how things work in this future.

The third section lost me.  I felt I had a handle on what was going on and how things worked, but this section seemed to bring in a whole new series of factors - more unexplored history, more unexplained terms.  I understand that Natch would be drawn to the mystery - and be willing to take it up with limited information, but I was losing interest in the story.  I also find it hard to root for a character when I don’t really want to see them succeed.  Rather than draw my interest, the mystery made me realize how little I cared for these people and this world.  I spent a week avoiding the book, reading a page or two and finding some other task to do.

Section four is where I finally gave up.  The reveal was such a let down.  Despite all the groundwork laid by the earlier sections I had no idea what the technology was supposed to do.  Learning that the characters didn’t either didn’t make me feel any better.  I wanted to know what happened so I skimmed the rest of the book.  The ending… was even more of a let down as it basically stops.  There’s no real climax - though maybe the presentation of the technology was meant to be the climax and I didn’t get the proper feel of that because I only skimmed the lead up to it.

I also realized, after skimming the ending, that there’s a comprehensive appendix at the back that explains terminology and history.  Wish I’d realized that earlier - though the book does a decent job of giving you necessary information eventually, I’m sure the information contained in the appendix would have clarified things for me.

Now, the presentation did - finally - explain what this new technology does, and it is quite fascinating.  So maybe the next book, which I assume picks up immediately where this one ends, will be fascinating too.  However, while the politics and world are pretty interesting, the people just aren’t compelling enough for me to push through and read more.