Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Guide to Dyscrasia Fiction

Here's a guide to Dyscrasia Fiction.
A fourth book is in the works (working title "Helen's Storm")

New to the series? Start with Helen's journey in Helen's Daimones

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Literate Thief - Review By SE

Literate Thief by Walter Rhein
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Highly recommended dystopian reading; intellectual heroic fantasy that unfolds fast furious .

"Never let a lesser person hold dominion over your sense of worth. If you doubt your own logic, you become vulnerable to oppression, violation, and control"- scholar Adam Lockhart

Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark inspired this Slaves of Erafor series (a dark muse for sure). When and how should passive intellectuals fight back against blind oppression? It is a timely philosophical question for many, especially in a day in which faux news is eroding our confidence in society's collective intelligence. At what point is violent revolution warranted? Rhein offers an entertaining adventure that invites us to consider such dilemmas. Don't worry, it reads as fun escapism--not a manifesto.

This is a stunning sequel to the The Reader of Acheron, which introduced us to Kikkan (an educated brute, a freed slave--he's the pipe-wielding dude on the cover) and the duo of Cole & Quillion (nuanced mercenaries). The three men go on a mission, inspired by a rare scholar named Lockhart: find a teacher, a literate thief, in Edentown. They are continuously dogged by an oppressive, illiterate government. Acheron was ambitious and rewarding, introducing us to a future in which reading is prohibited; Thief is even better.

Stylistically, the Literate Thief is very realistic (no mythological monsters or contraptions exist) but it does "feel like" Steampunk Fantasy. Its tone is more Grim than Hopeful, but that reflects the daunting conflict our heroes face. Its faces several humans against (a) organized authoritarian government, (b) a drugged, apathetic populace, and (c) an impoverished ruined city-scape. There are several instances you will hope that they can escape into the infested, haunted subway for relative safety from the dangers above.

Walter Rhein mixed up just the right number of opposing & cooperative players and places. As much as the Literate Thief fleshes out the World of Erafor, it opens up new vistas into weird science (futuristic alchemy & drug use) while exposing more mysteries. One the one hand, the geography crystallized: places like: San Borja, San Aryan, Brinewater, and Edentown all became distinctive characters unto themselves; on the other hand, characters like Quillion, Cole, and Kikkan demonstrate wild heroics while revealing more about themselves... and new people (i.e., the antagonists Orion and Janus, and the roving library-scholar) offer up an atlas full of new stories. There is a thief of course: Simyon, a friend of the seductive archer Valeria; they make a great pair. But is Simyon the titular Thief?

Drugs play a prominent role. First there is Bliss, that is voluntary, and involuntary, imbibed by the abundant, lower classes; these addicts become so consumed they resemble mindless, cannibalistic demons. There is also an unnamed steroid-like substance the governing brutes consume, which may be harvested from the humans they torment.

The Slaves of Erafor is an unfinished series, so don't expect all mysteries to be explained. I haven't felt the giddy need to read the next book (in progress) since I was a teenager devouring series like Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar or Margaret Weis's Dragonlance.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Books for Beverage Program

Another dyscrasia victim! 

After listening to the audio book of Spawn of Dyscrasia, Matt earned a Starbuck's Blonde Roast as part of the Book-for-Beverage program: buy any version of Dyscrasia Fiction book [eBook, Paperback, or Audible] and I'll buy you a drink [tea, coffee, smoothy, shake, beer, whatever].

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Mar-Apr Groupreads

All are welcome to join the

 Sword & Sorcery Group on Goodreads

Our March-April 2018 Groupread Topics are:

A) Ursula K. Le GuinLink to Ursula K. Le Guin groupread
Honor her passing by reading and discussing anything by her, like A Wizard of Earthsea or The Left Hand of Darkness

B) Thieves: Link to groupread on "thieves": Books like: The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's BraidsThe Legend of Eli MonpressBroken BladeThe Hammer and the Blade

Banner Credits:
2018 Charles Vess illustrations for forthcoming Earthsea omnibus
1979 Walter Velez's Cover for Thieves World
2015 Arman Akopian Cover for Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues

Thieves World by Robert Lynn Asprin Blackguards Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues by J.M. Martin 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Challenge! Discovery reviewed by S.E.

Challenge! Discovery
by Jason M. Waltz
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogue Blades Entertainment has a great track record for delivering anthologies (Return of the Sword, Writing Fantasy Heroes,Rage of the Behemoth, and more). Challenge! Discovery is the 2017 edition, which posed a challenge: look at the cover, and write a story about it. The illustration features a scantily clad female warrior and a panther emerge from jungle ruins.

The concept is cool, but the entries range in quality, and I disagree with the judges. Apparently the last two won 1st and 2nd place by the judges, but if I were to rate by (a) inspiration from cover and (b) storytelling (good pacing, show not tell, etc.) then I would have chosen 2 of the below:
- "Inner Nature" by JOHN KILIAN
- "Someplace Cool and Dark" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN
- "Witch with Bronze Teeth brushed" by KEITH J. TAYLOR

1) "Witch with Bronze Teeth brushed" by KEITH J. TAYLOR: 5-star blend of military Warhammer-esque battle and zombie horror

2) "Fire Eye Gem" by Richard Berrigan: 3-star; too corny for me; features a do-good Kimmeriorian barbarian named ‘Jack’?. ugh

3) "Inner Nature" by JOHN KILIAN 5-star, started ok and but ramped-up very satisfyingly

4) "The Ash-Wood of Celestial Flame" by GABE DYBING; nice fairy tale elements

5) "Someplace Cool and Dark" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN: 5-star, it is first person, weird funny and dark.... and I heard this exact story before! It took me a while to figure it out, but I heard him read this at the World Fantasy Convention 2016. A bonus essay on the writing of this story is added and is as engaging as the story

6)"World inside the Walls" by Frederick Tor : 3-star. Nice inspiration from the cover, but delivery style was dry narrative

7) "In the Ruins of the Panther People" by DANIEL R. ROBICHAUD: 4-star. Started slow and has cheesy romance lines, but ends with a huge bang, science-sorcery Meat Stamp! Loved the Meat Stamp!

8) "The Serpent’s Root by DAVID J. WEST, young adult pacing, but fun. 3.5; not obviously connected the cover as the other stories.

9) "A Fire in Shandria" by FREDERIC S. DURBIN; 4-star. Decent Amazon warrior story with a dragon (not sure why there was a dragon and not a panther)

10) "Cat’s in the Cradle NICHOLAS OZMENT (awarded 2nd place): 3-star Inspired by the cover for sure, but for a short story most of its pages are dedicated to non pertinent content. Pacing off.

11) "Attaberia" by HENRY RAM - (awarded 1st place): 4-star. Viking story with nice concept; starts as a 5 and ends as 3 (there is a disconnect between the tension & remoteness of a mysterious island and the inhabitants).

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Chronicles of Hate - Vol 2 - review by S.E.

Chronicles of Hate, Volume 2 (Chronicles of Hate, #2)Chronicles of Hate, Volume 2 by Adrian Smith
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sequel to Chronicles of Hate, which I reviewed earlier.

In short, this follows suit. New readers should start with Vol .1. Also, readers need to be comfortable "reading" visual images sans words. Of course, they must also like gritty, mature drawings of scantily clad women and undead warriors.

This sequel has the same style as the first: very dark & contrasty monochrome drawings, very small word count (~ 1 word per page). Adrian Smith leaves visual clues that identify the various clans. These can be subtle, but they are there. For instance, those aligned with the Mother Earth crew wear crescent moon ornaments. Many of the bad-guy clans are harder to distinguish, except for the Tyrant.

The story progresses very well and delivers on our hero "Worm" attempting to revive Mother Earth. Prior purchasing, I was worried that the story may not develop enough. But this was satisfying.

The culture of thee world develops more. It is more clear that each clan has a leader and a champion. Adrian Smith's illustrations are generally splendid. If you ever looked into any Warhammer/Games Workshop art (which Adrian has made many) and wished you could immerse yourself in a similar world (this is not part of Warhammer's TM Olde World), this is your chance.

Currently, there is a Kickstarter Campaign (by CMON with Adrian Smith) to realize this HATE-full world into a competitive board game. Pitched as an exclusive KS order, it may be difficult to get later (this runs thru mid-Feb 2018). This did inspire me to get Vol.2 and back the KS. The world of HATE evolves!



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