Category Archives: Books

Pieces of the Puzzle

freeholdI wrote the other day, after finishing “Angeleyes” that I enjoy seeing the Freehold war from the perspectives of the different characters – particularly since Mike Williamson does so well at hopping into the characters’ skins and telling their stories from the inside. He’s explored the war from the perspective of a refugee from Earth, a special forces operative, and a human intelligence asset. Two years, a short story explored the war and the asymmetrical tactics employed by the Freeholders from the point of view of a low-level UN troop. (If you haven’t read this one, you absolutely should! It’s really one of his best!)

And now, Mike has written “Starhome.”

There are no battle scenes. There are no disturbingly graphic training or psyops descriptions. It’s written from the perspective of someone who never wanted to get involved in a war in the first place, but was forced into an untenable situation by circumstances far beyond his control. “One didn’t have to be involved in a war to suffer, nor even in line of fire. Collateral economic damage could destroy just as easily.”

Go read it. It’s short and well done, and you’ll enjoy the story for what it is – a short exploration of the situation by someone who just wants to live his life in his home.

I view the Freehold universe and the books written in it so far as a puzzle. They say history is written by the victors, and it’s true. But writing the Freehold war from all different points of view puts together pieces of a much more complete puzzle than the usual black or white, good or bad, honorable or corrupt outlook we get from any one character.

War isn’t easy. It isn’t cheap. Collateral damage doesn’t just include slaughtered women and children, casualties don’t just include troops in combat, and victory sometimes comes at a high cost.

By giving us pieces of the Freehold war puzzle, Mike shows us a more complete picture of warfare and humanity writ large.

Book Review: Angeleyes

Yes, I did at one point have a mini van. Yes, I did drive it. Yes, I had that license plate. Yes, I got it before “Freehold” was actually published.

Those of you who have been readers for any length of time know I’m a big fan of Mike Williamson’s work. It’s not because we’ve been friends for more than 15 years, or because I loved “Freehold” before it was ever published – I loved the concept, the universe, and the characters well enough to be a fan before being a fan was “cool.”

For a while, I had this license plate – before the van it was attached to was totaled on black ice in the winter of 2004. Mike recently sent me a photo of it. I never had any.

I think what Mike does better than most authors is character development. He has this innate ability to become the character – to crawl into their skin and speak in their voice, regardless of whether male or female. It’s something I appreciate, and it’s something I’m learning to do myself as I develop my writing skills. Mike does it effortlessly. His work doesn’t feel like an author writing in first person, or from the perspective of the character. It feels like you’re inside the character looking out, whether it’s a female facing a complete change of life, perspective, and environment, or an arrogant, testosterone-filled young guy, developing from an snotty, conceited kid into a lethal weapon, into a cold, calculating defender and patriot, into a father, into an old soul with a conscience. He does it effectively – almost as if tossing aside who he is and becoming who they are.

His latest “Angeleyes” is no exception. It will be available in hardcover on November 1. I wanted to get this review out before that time, so if you were trying to decide whether to purchase this book, you could make a somewhat informed decision. The blurb is pretty straightforward.

Angie Kaneshiro never planned to be a spy. She was a veteran of the Freehold Forces of Grainne, and was now a tramp freighter crew-woman who hadn’t set foot on the dirt of a world in ten years. Angie was free, and that was the way she liked it.

Then the war with Earth started. One thing Angie knew was human space. She knew where the UN troops garrisoned, the methods they used to scan and chip their own to control them. Even better, she had a mental map of the access conduits, the dive bars, and the make-out cubbies people used to get around restrictions.

The UN forces may hold most of the stations, the docks, and the jump points, but now the Freehold of Grainne has its own lethal weapon. The Intelligence branch sends a freighter crewed with Blazers, special forces troops. All Angie has to do is lead them through the holes. Responsibility for the explosions and wreckage will be theirs. But war is complicated, and even the most unwilling of heroes can be forged in its crucible.

I will not reveal a whole lot more plot than that, but I will say that “Angeleyes” is much more than what is written here.

Yes, it’s told from Angie’s perspective, but this book is not about Angie per se. Yes, she develops as a character and as a person from a selfish tramp to a true citizen of Grainne who is willing to sacrifice it all for the ideals on which the nation has been founded, and from someone who spent a whole lot of time ensuring she was never close to anyone to someone who found family in the unlikeliest of scenarios.

angeleyesYes, it’s Angie’s story and her development as a person. But it’s also a close examination of heroism, sacrifice, patriotism, rules of engagement in war, the warrior ethos, and the mentality that is necessary to protect the ideals you truly hold dear.

It’s a look – from one character’s perspective – at those who are willing to sacrifice everything for those ideals.

I’ve often asked what you would do in a zombie apocalypse – how far you would go to protect yourself and your loved ones?

“Angeleyes” examines those ideas through a wider aperture.

How far would you go to protect real freedom, your way of life, and your home? What would you sacrifice for your team, your military family?

Most of us would reply that we would sacrifice everything for our country – especially those of us who volunteered to serve in the armed forces – but can you really imagine what that could involve?

“Angeleyes” explores those ideas in very detailed, painful, personal ways, and aside from the action and the fascinating examination of the Freehold war from yet another perspective – one we haven’t yet seen – it’s those ideas that touched me most as an immigrant and an Armed Forces veteran.


Dragon Awards: the Aftermath and Beyond

I was going to ridicule Lena Dunham today, but screw her! The Dragon Awards have been announced, and they’re fantastic!!!

First, let me explain. DragonCon took place this weekend in Atlanta, where the very first awards for science fiction and fantasy were presented. The awards were completely fan-driven. You registered. You received a ballot. You voted for your favorites. Your vote was recorded. The winners were announced today! That easy.

Like the Dragon, our recipients are extraordinary and unique. Fueled by the passion for their art, they have spread their wings and soared above us all. Their inner fire, the burning in their hearts and souls, cannot be restrained. Once set free, their work, their fire, has influenced and inspired countless others, burned into our hearts and minds forever.

In the spirit of the Dragon and with infinite admiration, we created The Dragon Award as a token of their individuality and greatness. We are pleased to present all of our award winners with the essence of the Dragon, its fire, suspended perpetually as a permanent reminder of their contributions.

Dragon_Award-221x300There’s no cliquish “No Award” for nominees that didn’t fit a particular mold. There are no nomination rule changes designed to counter bloc voting keep out undesirables.

Fans vote for their favorite. That’s it.

And this year is epic! I’m so excited for some friends of mine, I could squee! There are some categories in which I didn’t vote, because I hadn’t read any of the works, and I don’t play video games or role playing games, but overall, this was terrific! Fans voted for their favorite artists, authors, and works based on what they liked – a truly fan-driven, fan-awarded endeavor.

  • Best Science Fiction Novel: Somewither by John C. Wright.
  • Best Fantasy Novel: Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia.
  • Best Teen/Middle Grade: Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett.
  • Best Military SF/F: Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber.
  • Best Alternative History: League of Dragons by Naomi Novik.
  • Best Apocalyptic Novel: Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole.
  • Best Horror: Souldancer by Brian Niemeier.
  • Comic Book: Ms. Marvel
  • Graphic Novel: The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman.
  • Best TV show: Game of Thrones
  • Best Movie: The Martian.
  • Best PC/Console Video Game: Fallout 4.
  • Best Mobile Game: Fallout Shelter.
  • Best Board Game: Pandemic Legacy.
  • Best RPG/Collectible/Card Game: Call of Cthulhu.

I just spoke with Nick Cole on Facebook. I have never seen anyone so excited, and I’m SO happy for him! If you haven’t read Ctrl Alt Revolt, go read it. Do yourselves a favor.  He’s great!

Nick Cole: So excited!!!! And thank you thank you thank you for your vote! I never win! What a day!!!!’

Nicki Kenyon: I’m currently imagining you hopping up and down. LOL! Awesome news!

Nick Cole: I was! My wife was doing cheerleader kicks!!!

And do know that Nick was facing some stiff competition, including from a novel I absolutely loved – Marina Fontaine’s “Chasing Freedom,” so you know it had to be good!

I’m so happy for both of them! Both are brilliant authors, so go and read!

I’m not a fan of Game of Thrones. I fell asleep when I tried to watch it. Not my thing. But I know a lot of others like the show, so more power to them!

honorFor Best Horror, I actually voted for Declan Finn’s “Honor at Stake,” and while he didn’t get the award, it’s a book I highly recommend you read. Declan first sent me a copy right before I went in for surgery, knowing I would be laid up and hungry for reading material. I’m SO grateful he did!

I will say, I’m not a vampire fan. Much like zombies, the genre is horribly overdone and difficult to do well and originally, so it takes a lot for me to enjoy a vampire story.

But Declan approached it from a different point of view. He examined the mythology from the perspective of a Catholic, and a doctor. He posed a plausible medical explanations for vampirism and for good vice bad vampires from a religious context.

The sociopath and the vampire – two characters you would expect to be evil (or anticipate one of them would sparkle, if you’re into that sort of thing) – are completely antithetical to what you would anticipate. Their actions define them, not their thoughts or their “nature.” I kind of like that.

evil laughBut putting all of that aside, Declan’s story is fun! It’s fast-paced. It’s action-filled. It’s sweet at times. It’s enjoyable, and it’s not over! There’s another on the way. *insert evil, satisfied laugh here*

If I have one criticism, it’s that the way he wrote the Russian character isn’t exactly accurate, both in language and in speech. But being from that part of the world, I’m picky.

Pick it up. You’ll enjoy it. Trust me.

I’m also experiencing tingly sensations at the fact that Larry Correia – the International Lord of Hate himself – has won the award for best Fantasy Novel! I have “Son of a Black Sword” in hardcover, vice in electronic form. The reviews – deservedly so – are stellar! On Amazon, 78 percent of reviews gave the novel five stars, and an additional 15 percent gave it four stars. Of the one-star reviews one admitted they didn’t read the book, because the Kindle version was too expensive. Another one thought he’d be smart and give it one star for keeping the reader on the edge of his seat! And a third claimed the book was too “sad.”

It’s interesting to note that when fans are legitimately given the opportunity to vote for the works they enjoy, there’s no “No Award.” There’s no wooden assholes. There’s no chortling, cackling CHORFs, snottily snickering how they kept the undesirables at bay.

There are fans. They vote for what they like, and the writers, artists, cinematographers, and others reap the benefits – the gratitude of thousands of fans, who enjoyed the work and wanted to reward their faves with recognition.

And that will inevitably cause the CHORFs to clutch their pearls, gnash their teeth, and snottily declare that the Dragon Awards don’t matter, because they’re not part of that elite clique of haughty Hugo recipients and nominees. They will mumble about how the pathetic Sad Puppies got so trounced, they had to go and start an award of their own, even though that’s a ridiculous contention. There will be slander in the press and on social media. Don’t believe me? It’s starting already. From File 770:

Gee, an award put together by puppies, was awarded to puppies.

Color me shocked. SHOCKED!

Here’s some sour grapes for you from the same site.

Good. The Puppies have been saying since these were first announced that they would be the “real” awards as far as they were concerned. They get to give each other awards, they’ll hopefully leave the rest of us alone, everyone wins. And as it’s a new award, there’s no cultural expectation getting in their way. They can talk on their own blogs about how the Hugos are irrelevant, and we can ignore them.

And more unfounded accusations from the CHORF set, because RABIDPUPPIESSADPUPPIES!

Congratulations to VD. Now he has found an award that actually is run by a cabal (albeit his cabal), maybe he’ll fuck off and leave the Hugo’s alone.

I encourage everyone to go look at the opening page of Somewhither on Amazon. Shocking piece of sophomoric crap.

For Puppies by Puppies, as mentioned above.

Evidence? Screw your evidence? Let’s make caustic accusations without a shred of proof to back them up, because we weren’t a part of this, and because we didn’t get our chance to castigate the puppies (whom we see as a boogie man under every bed) with “No Awards” to prove our superiority.

And then we have this mutant.


pearlsIt’s all good. I expect these bitter, sad little howler monkeys to hurl their acrimonious turds. It’s what they do in between pearl clutching and insulting those evil non-enlightened juvenile canines with wooden assholes.

It’s about time a real fan award took center stage. Congratulations to all the winners, and the Hugos can keep the assterisks.

Damien Walter’s Ugly Tie

tieThose of you who have kids may remember their gifts to dad early on, which usually consisted of a mangled ashtray they made in art class, which you kept as a sacred treasure because your baby made it (yes, I still have a ceramic hedgehog from one of mine). Sometimes, though, when there was nothing to present from art class, the munchkins would go out and buy a hideous tie for dad’s birthday – a tie he would be embarrassed to wear were it from any source other than the child.

Yeah, that tie.

You don’t want to wear it, because Punkin spent hard-earned allowance money getting you that ugly tie as a present, and you want to honor that gesture by wearing it on a special occasion, so you pat them on the head and hug and kiss them, and they feel so good, because daddy likes their present!

Well, yesterday was Larry Correia’s birthday. Larry – the author of some of my favorite books, and the SJW-proclaimed International Lord of Hate – got a present for his special day from the Guardian’s resident Oozing Vagoo Damien Walter – an article on Dimwit’s Guardian blog critiquing Larry’s novels, as well as some other authors whom I love.

Note also that Dimwit has made his Twitter feed protected, so only the correct sort of readers may follow him and read his 140-character brain droppings. Dimwit doesn’t exactly like criticism. Perhaps THAT’S why he hasn’t managed to shit out a book, even thought the British government has given him other people’s money to do so.

I’m not linking to Dimwit’s ponderous swamp of viscous (no, not vicious – I meant viscous, as in gelatinous or mucusy), mangled pseudo-thought. You can use the Google Machine for his snark-filled, condescending screed “Hugo Awards: Reading the Sad Puppies’ Pets.” It’s also archived here. If there’s one thing clear from Dimwit’s blithering excretion, it’s that even though he claims to have read these authors’ books and found them to be clearly substandard, his idea of “reading” involves skimming a few pages of a single work, skimming a few others – maybe, asserting how awful they are, and then basing his critique attack on other Sad Puppy authors on those limited, half-witted views.

And he claims the Guardian pays him to read books! Perhaps they should ask for their money back, because he’s quite obviously incapable of reading – or at least comprehending – books he claims are oh-so-low class, they’re comparable to straight-to-video Dolph Lundgren films. Those damn proles.

OK, I like Dolph Lundgren. He’s fun – something that Dimwit obviously avoids like a bad case of the herp (which, he likely wouldn’t get anyway, because – really – who the hell would want to fuck that omega male?) – and contrary to what some supercilious twat wads believe, entertainment can not contain haughty, overbearing social or political messages and still be worthwhile.

Also, Dolph Lundgren is much smarter than Dimwit, the self-described “male feminist” who hasn’t been able to birth a book, even though the British government apparently paid him a grant to do so, but who apparently teaches writing, even though he’s apparently incapable of reading an entire book, let alone writing one even with taxpayer money incentives. Maybe Larry’s writing is a bit too complex for Dimwit.

Dolph Lundgren has a degree in chemistry from Washington State University, a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology, and a Master’s in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney. He also stars in movies people actually see, and is a much more recognizable persona than Dimwit. So Dimwit denigrating Lundgren is as laughable as Dimwit denigrating Larry Correia, who somehow manages to write entertaining stories, makes a great living, has a huge fan base, and unlike Dimwit, can actually write a book – a number of them, in fact – that people love to read.

I also note that aside from a few outliers, Dimwit’s blog averages about as many comments per entry as mine does – UNLESS he is writing about the Sad Puppies, which brings out the pusillanimous Puppy Kickers to pile on and pat one another on the back about how enlightened they are for hating that pulp fiction pablum. This tells me Dimwit simply trots out the Puppies when things get particularly slow on his Guardian blog, because let’s face it, folks – Dimwit needs the hits.

And that’s pretty much what he’s done in this latest gutless harangue.

For the last few years, the Hugo awards for science fiction have been campaigned against by a group of writers and fans calling themselves the Sad Puppies – mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative. Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity, the Puppies have deliberately block-voted for certain titles to get them nominated for Hugos at the expense of a wider field. They say it is their goal to “poke the establishment in the eye” by nominating “unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy-handed message fic”. I say it is to sponsor awful writers.

So Dimwit starts out with a deliberate lie, given that Sad Puppies 4 was run by all women, who are overwhelmingly libertarian, and that those “certain titles” recommended by the Puppies were voted on by anyone who has read a work and liked it, and included such SJW favorites as Ann Leckie.

Never let facts get in the way of your attempts to gain readership at the expense of the people whom you revile, but whose accomplishments you couldn’t hope to match, let alone exceed, Dimwit.

The Puppies have two criteria for what they deem excellence: does it turn a buck? And has the author dared to say anything, ever, that they disagree with? This, paired with their conspiracy theories about some big sci-fi publishers, means that they tend to champion mostly self-published authors. Nothing about quality – though you don’t need an in-depth knowledge of sci-fi to understand that a short story called Space Raptor Butt Invasion (yes, really) has not arrived on the Hugo lists because of its calibre.

Wow, what utter dreck! Fans nominated works they liked using whatever criteria they wanted. The organizers of Sad Puppies 4 spent a lot of time compiling recommendations based on those nominations in a completely open and transparent process. Larry Correia repeatedly and quite openly stated why he started the campaign in the first place – another piece Dimwit is apparently incapable of understanding. And, the Sad Puppies had nothing to do with “Space Raptor Butt Invasion,” no matter how hard Dimwit twists and strains to make that connection.

With this year’s Hugo awards coming on Saturday night in the US, I thought I’d read some of the authors championed by the Puppies. (Don’t ever say I don’t do anything for you.)

If you find meaning in straight-to-video Dolph Lundgren films, then Larry Correia’s novels will be your kind of read. Correia, accountant-turned-author-turned-Sad-Puppies-creator, kicked off his Monster Hunter series with Monster Hunter International, about an accountant whose boss turns into a monster. So he shoots him. In fact, much of the Monster Hunter series relies rather heavily on people the hero doesn’t like turning into monsters … so he can shoot them.

There’s a problem here. Dimwit either engages in seriously sloppy writing, or he read a few pages, saw a reference to a gun, shat himself in utter terror, and couldn’t continue reading.

Yes, the novel’s main character does shoot his boss at first, but since his boss is a werewolf, shooting him does nothing, so Owen Zastava Pitt subsequently kills his werewolf boss by chucking him out of a window, and dropping a desk on him. So by implying that Z kills the monster by shooting it, and then making absolutely false claims about the rest of the series, Dimwit is either a mediocre and careless writer, who hasn’t understood what he read, or he hasn’t actually read anything but the first few pages of Monster Hunter International, saw the passage about the shooting, got scared, hid under his desk for a while until the tremors subsided, predicted he’s read all he needs and that the rest would be much of the same, and proceeded to write about it.

My bet would be on the latter.

Because if it’s the former, then he’s guilty of the kind of writing crimes of which he accuses authors he doesn’t like.

Dimwit goes on to trash popular novelists such as Sarah A. Hoyt and Brad Torgersen, John C. Wright and Dave Freer, and anyone else whom he considers part of the Sad Puppy cisheteropatriarchaloppressors. He doesn’t get into details, other than to claim sentences are “mangled,” whatever that means, and accuses these talented writers of “vomiting onto the page” whatever passes through their heads.

This coming from someone whose claim to fame is proclaiming himself to be a “male feminist” and spewing out such literary feculence as “My Lovesick Zombie Boy Band.” I get this feeling Dimwit is just too stupid to understand words on a page, so he denigrates the authors in hopes of concealing his own inadequacies.

But the Sad Puppies don’t want any of their books to end up on bestseller lists or TV screens. It’s the same frustrating paradigm that British MP Michael Gove hit upon when he said that people were sick of experts, or what Donald Trump plays upon when he rails against “professional politicians”. We’re seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect played out on a mass scale, and the Sad Puppies are just a speck in that wider problem.

No, of course Sad Puppies don’t want their books on bestseller lists! Larry Correia winding up on Entertainment Weekly’s bestseller list and on the New York Times bestseller list must have been an accident! He didn’t want any of that! Totes unintentional!

You know, it’s amusing to see Dimwit flailing – allowing Larry not only to live rent-free in his head, but to flood the toilet, toss around stale pizza boxes, run up the pay-per-view bill, and stain the shag carpet. Larry had nothing to do with the Hugos this year. He declined his nomination last year. He’s ignored poor Dimwit, because Larry is doing what Larry does best – writing entertaining books for his fans and having fun.

And yet, here’s Dimwit, once again trying to get Larry’s attention, like a slow child presenting daddy with that ugly tie for Father’s Day.

Yep, this article is Dimwit’s ugly tie – published right on time for dad’s Larry’s birthday.

Meanwhile, the talented, smart, generous authors beloved by fans and reviled by the SJW Howler Monkeys as melancholy juvenile canines, will continue selling books and thrilling their audiences.

That’s nice, Dimmy. Maybe daddy will wear your tie next time.

Book Review: Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine

freedomIt’s always fun to read a novel written by a fellow immigrant – especially one who escaped from the same region of the world as I did, who consciously chose to become an American, and who appreciates the principles of freedom on which this nation is based. My fellow immigrants, especially those who were born and raised in oppressive environments have a unique appreciation for America. When you grow up in a place where you don’t have opportunities to excel, where corruption is the status quo, where what you read, watch and listen to is regulated by an ever-intrusive state, and where the citizens are rewarded for reporting suspicious activity to a tyrannical government and have no problem turning their friends and family in for a little extra booze or toilet paper, you feel like you begin to breathe again when you step foot onto U.S. soil.

So what happens when your adopted country careens toward the very thing you escaped?

Not every immigrant can write a killer novel, but Marina Fontaine has. Marina’s first novel “Chasing Freedom” avoids the usual mistakes by first time authors and liberty advocates who preach to death the ideology at the expense of the plot. Her book is not a delivery for her ideology. It’s an adventure story about love, perseverance, courage, corruption, the will to fight, and the will to live. I’m not going to post spoilers, because I do want you to pick up this book and read it.

I will tell you it’s focused on a dystopian America that is the logical conclusion of where we are headed if certain elements of society have their way – surveillance state, secret torture rooms for those daring to resist, corrupt government bureaucrats, propaganda, scarce resources, and lack of tolerance for dissent. Amidst over-regulation and lack of respect for human life, a resistance movement grows, featuring characters willing to sacrifice everything to gain freedom. The book focuses on the movement and how it grows. It tracks the resistance fighters from their teenage rebellion years to adulthood. It shows the progress they make and the emotional growth they experience on the way.

You can see how it would be easy to get preachy in this type of plot, but Marina avoids that trap, and presents a story filled with intrigue and action – a story that moves, a story that captures attention, and a story that impacts the heart. She doesn’t engage in lengthy descriptions of how horrible this futuristic America is. You will not find John Galt-length speeches in this book. She allows her characters’ distinct experiences to deliver that message. She doesn’t divide her characters into BAD GOVERNMENT and GOOD REBELS. She presents them as human, faulty, and real.

No, there’s no attempt to awkwardly shove diversity into the novel. It exists organically within the story, and there’s no need to push it.

Yes, there are hideously evil bureaucrats in this book, but not every character is black and white, not every resistance fighter is an angel, and not every government employee is a power-hungry, evil, sub-human piece of garbage.

And finally, what I really enjoyed about “Chasing Freedom” was that it didn’t focus on the darkness. Yes, it’s a pretty depressing vision of America. Yes, there are points that will break your heart. But at the same time, it’s a story of optimism – a refusal to surrender to the darkness and a brighter future.

Pick it up. You’ll like it.

%d bloggers like this: