The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


The author sent me an autographed copy of her novel to review:

This is by far the most exciting novel of the series to date. I think the author’s prose is getting better along with a stronger understanding of the serial’s direction. The first novel, Ashlynn's Dreams (see my review of 5/31/2014) was a very sound YA novel; the second novel, Nadia's Tears (see my review of 9/12/2014) was a little confusing and somewhat bland. This third novel is a big time comeback. The story started off chock-full of characters (not to my liking), but eventually proceeded to the original Devya characters. I think the biggest mistake fledgling authors make is putting names and background to characters that are not important to the story. I don’t want to be too analytical because I liked this YA novel...but let’s get rid of the cartoon book covers. This makes your hard work look like it’s a funny book. There is nothing wrong with a YA book having a adultish cover, like Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles (see my review of 3/28/2013). I know it is easy to excoriate an author’s  work when I haven’t written a novel, but from the outside looking in, it is easy to see the flaws and the favorable attributes. Like I said, I don’t want to trivialize so lets talk about the story.

The story starts off with most of the Devya’s Children family going to Pennsylvania for Malia’s adoption ceremony into the Davidson family. Christy Roman (Danielle’s friend from the second novel) reveals that her mom is dying of cancer. Danielle wonders if the gifted children can cure her. Previous characters, special agents Ann and Patrick Duncan, are at the ceremony. The gifted children go to the hospital escorted by Varick (you will have to read the first novel to find out how he became the soldier of the group). Once the children see that Christy’s mom is dying of cancer... Nadia (becoming Queen Elena in dreams again) and Malia come up with a plan to save Christy’s mom’s life. Malia spots some suspicious men in the hospital’s lobby. Who are they and what do they want? Danielle tells her friend Christy that if the gifted children can save her mom’s life, it has to be a secret because “There’s no guarantee they can win here, but if they do and people find out what they are capable of, their lives will be ruined.” You really have to read the previous novels to truly comprehend certain situations, or at least read my previous reviews.

On page 116, the gifted children find out that a newly born sibling, Anastasia, has been added to Devya’s Children family. “She was meant to have gifts like Nadia, but one of the scientists sabotaged the project”. The reader will meet Danielle and Dominique’s nasty Aunt Sophie and Uncle Phillip at the hospital. What is their motive for being there and what are they scheming? Anyway, three of the gifted children: Jillian, Malia, and Michio attempt to cure Christy’s mom of cancer, while the rest of the gifted children distract the nurses into thinking that they are having a prayer vigil in the room. Then misfortune happens...Okay, I think I whet your appetite enough for you to buy your own copy of this exciting third novel in the Devya’s Children series. And I haven’t even mentioned Dr. Karita Robinson, former associate of Dr. Devya and now Director of The Guardians (a secret U.S. government agency). Why is she suddenly in the hospital? I think that the author, Julie Gilbert, has learned how to put a multiplot novel together thus turning this third novel into a impressive Blue Chipper. Needless to say, I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: There are many YA books self-published each year. In fact, I believe only about three percent of books sent to major publishers, such as, Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins, are accepted. Sooner or later the Indies will be the major players. That would be just deserts! So what does all this mean? No more “book signing tours”, except for the rich and famous, such as, Bill O’Reilly, who keeps publishing his worthless Killing...whatever series. No money to pay for a good editor or continuity manager? As a matter of fact, I’m surprised how well these Indie books are written without the aid of a good editor. Who is proofing these books? I guess it’s mom, dad, husband, or wife. If so, they are doing a yeoman’s job.

According to Goodreads. com, one of the best YA Indie authors is Amanda Hocking:

"Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Her New York Times best-selling series the Trylle Trilogy has been optioned for films. She has published fifteen novels, including the Hollows and the Watersong series. Frostfire - the first book in her newest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles - is out now, and the second book -Ice Kissed - will be May 5, 2015."

Her first novel, Switched (A Trylle Novel) was a 2010 Indie. says about the  story:
 'When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right.  She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her.  Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit.  But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth:  Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home. 

Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening.  And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become…

As a special gift to readers, this book contains a new, never-before-published bonus story, “The Vittra Attacks,” set in the magical world of the Trylle.'

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel satirizing the complete destruction of the world is the cat’s meow. It was as funny as Joseph Heller’s, Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition (see my review of 2/17/2013) or the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. Wow, what a classic apocalyptic novel! And talk about short chapter about 127 chapters in only 287 pages. I’ve said before that short chapter books keep me awake and reading through the night. According to Wikipedia...“in 1971 the University of Chicago awarded Vonnegut his Master's degree in anthropology for Cat's Cradle.” All I know is that this novel is one pool-pah (shit storm) to the zah-mah-ki-bo (inevitable destiny) of mankind. The previous sentence contains bokononism speak. What? Yeah, it’s like the Hawaiian pidgin language...Eh! (you know) lolo buggah (crazy guy) don’t talk stink (speak bad about) about this book, bodda you? (does this bother you?). Okay, I’m having some fun, but if you read this novel, get ready to learn the Republic of San Lorenzo’s official incomprehensible version of the Basque language, such as Tsvent-kiul, tsvent-kiul, lett-pool store (Twinkle, twinkle, little star). These are not the brightest people living on this incredibly poor fictional island.

The narrator of this story is John (a.k.a. Jonah) with no last name given. He sets out to write a book about the father of the atomic bomb, Dr. Felix Hoenikker (who has passed away) and what he was doing when the bomb was dropped on Japan (he was playing cat’s cradle, which is not important to the story). He has three children: Frank, who likes to put models together; Angela, a nondescript tall drink of water; and, Newton, a midget in love with a Russian midget dancer. John doesn’t get much cooperation in his attempts to interview the children, so he goes to see Dr. Asa Breed, who was Dr. Hoenikker’s supervisor at the General Forge and Foundry Company in Ilium, N.Y. John learns that Dr. Hoenikker was approached by a Marine General to come up with a solution to harden the mud his marines were always slogging through. Dr. Breed tells John that the remedy for hardening the mud was never accomplished. But the reader finds out that the problem was solved by Dr. Hoenikker in the form of a blue and white chip known as ice-nine. On page 51, we learn, “Felix Hoenikker had put the chip in a little bottle; and he put the bottle in his pocket. And he had gone to his cottage on Cape Cod with his three children, there intending to celebrate Christmas.” Then, disaster struck. “The old man had died on Christmas Eve, having told only his children about ice-nine. His children had divided the ice-nine among themselves.” This chip could freeze the world’s waterways and end life on Earth.

Angela and Newton vanish, while Frank is believed to have been killed working in a hobby store. Unbeknownst to Frank, the store was a front for a stolen car ring. Then John reads in a New York Sunday Times supplement that Frank is a Major General for the president of San Lorenzo, “Papa” Monzano, a dying dictator. Now the story morphs to the Island. The flight to the San Lorenzo is hilarious. On the plane are H. Lowe Crosby and wife, seeking cheap labor for his bicycle business; the U.S. Ambassador Minton and his wife; and the previously absent siblings, Angela and Newton, and of course, our narrator, John. On the plane, we learn about Bokonon (a.k.a Johnson) and a Marine Corporal deserter took over the island, and “That Corporal McCabe and Johnson were able to take command of San Lorenzo was not a miracle in any sense...The reason was simple: God, in his infinite wisdom, had made the island worthless.” Ha-ha. Bokonon has become a outlawed holy man (by his own volition). “Papa” Monzano has a giant hook hanging off a crossbar mounted on two telephone poles to impale any one believing in the Bokonon religion, even though the entire populace including “Papa” believe in it. The believers lie down opposite each other and touch the soles of their feet together. Everybody seems to know that the religion is a spoof (including Bokonon), but there is nothing else to do on the island. Once the plane lands on the island, the story soars. I still haven’t told you about Mona (Papa’s adopted daughter) or what happens to the ice-nine. Will the world survive, or will the freezing chips be dropped in the bay?

This was such an entertaining novel that I don’t know how (including Heller’s novel) to categorize it. Is there a satire/funny science fiction genre? If so, this novel belongs in it. Vonnegut’s brilliance is so evident in this work. Wikipedia sums up Vonnegut’s talent by stating, “ His works are characterized by wild leaps of imagination and a deep cynicism, tempered by humanism.” Amen. I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: So are there other funny/sci-fi novels? Yes, what about Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. states, "Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, 'There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.'

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor."

And what about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979). states, “Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ('A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have') and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.”

And what about George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). Orwell states about his novel, “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.” This is not sci-fi, but certainly one of the best satirical novels of all time.

Is this the cat’s cradle game?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Graveyard Book

This is a guest review from my eleven year old grandson, Kai:

 Nobody Owens would be a perfectly normal boy if he didn’t live in a graveyard and wasn't able to see and talk to ghosts. I haven’t read anything like this before.

Nobody Owens used to have a family until his family was murdered by, as Neil Gaiman calls him in the book, The Man Jack.

Fortunately for Bod (short for Nobody, as his ghost friends named him), he had already learned to walk as a toddler and being curious had wandered into the graveyard near his house. He is adopted by the keeper of the graveyard, Silas, and all the ghosts within the graveyard.

Unfortunately for The Man Jack, the most important person he had to murder (Bod) had seemingly disappeared.

So Nobody Owens begins his life in the graveyard being educated by the ghosts, sleeping in the cathedral and being schooled and raised by his mysterious guardian, Silas.

But Jack hasn’t given up yet and will pursue Nobody Owens to finish the murder he started. But meanwhile, Nobody Owens will grow up solely in the graveyard while getting into some interesting situations and even being mistaken for an imaginary friend.

I think that this is a wonderful story, and I give credit to the author for thinking of it. I would recommend this to anybody, but mostly to the fourth to sixth graders. I would give this book a solid five stars.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Is this the murderer?

Nobody Owens in the graveyard:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Wallcreeper

Nell Zell writes a novel that is Much Ado About Nothing (sorry Shakespeare), although there are some funny spots in the novel like the comedic play. I’m not really sure what the purpose of this novel was. We have a expatriate couple living in a suburb of Berne, Switzerland doing whatever. Tiff and Stephen were married three weeks after meeting in a pharmaceutical company. Stephen, besides being a lab worker of sorts, is a birdwatcher. Stephen drives into a rock, or was it the bird. The sudden slight crash causes Tiff to have a miscarriage. Is this even possible? If I were writing this novel, I would come up with something more germane. Maybe seeing a strange bird, I would crash into a concrete medium. Anyway, nobody seems overly sad about the miscarriage; as a matter of fact, while waiting for Tiff to heal, he takes advantage of her other orifices. Other than the smell of some of these escapades, Tiff does not seem to protest.

Anyway, this injured bird turns out to be a Wallcreeper. Stephen takes it into their apartment and puts up pegboard filled with bacon bits for the bird’s enjoyment. The bird likes to say, “twee.” The bird is named Rudolf (Rudi), and after it heals, they open a window and it flies away. Meanwhile, Tiff has an affair with a Syrian Jew named Elvis, who sells beer and candy at a gas station. What? Stephen is having his affairs, including Tiff’s sister, Constance. Stephen joins the Swiss Society for the Protection of Birds so that he can view birds from their advantage points. Then the unexpected happens! Rudi comes back scratching at their window. Birdwatchers get wind of this event and visit the apartment with their cameras and video equipment. It is decided that a chip should be put on Rudi so they can release and track him. He is released into the wild. Stephen and Tiff track Rudi into a forest where he is building a nest.

Tragedy strikes! While building his nest, Rudi is attacked by a hawk, who buries his beak into Rudi’s chest and eats his heart (HaHa). Sorry, I just thought that part was funny. Don’t think that I’m giving away the story because it’s just starting. It seems that the couple were never the same again. Stephen quits his job and joins environmental activist groups in Berlin. Both husband and wife have more affairs seemingly without any cogitation behind it. Where does this novel go from here? You will have to buy your own copy to find out. I usually compare the author’s work with similar works in the first paragraph, but you will notice that I didn’t. That’s because this novel, while somewhat entertaining, didn’t seem to have a plot or direction to compare. I’m not saying this novel was a complete failure, lets just say, “caveat emptor.”

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: For the first time, I don’t have one, except that this is the first time that I read a book recommended by The New York Times Book Review that I wasn't thrilled with. Oh well.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Awesome! What did I just read? Was it a variation of an Aesop fable? A tale about an early entrepreneur? Or, a philosophical look at man’s dreams? I’m not sure, but it was a delightful tale. The story was simple, but having total faith in “The soul of the world” isn’t, is it? Am I to believe that if I followed my Personal Legend (always in caps in the novel), that “...when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”, so says the alleged King of Salem. Where is Salem, what year is it, and who is he really? None of this is divulged in the novel. Basically, the main theme of the novel is...if you follow your dreams, the world will assist you. Wow, I wish I knew that when I was a young man. If I saw omens, I didn’t know how to interpret them. I never heard of the Arabic word...maktub (it is written), and if I did, would I have had an easier climb to a possible success?

Or, is it as simple as stated in the “about the author” section at the novel’s end, “Paulo Coelho once said that following your dream is like learning a foreign language; you will make mistakes but you will get there in the end.” That might be true, but I don’t think any man ever had a conversation with the desert, the wind, the sun, or an opportunity to “speak to the hand that wrote all.” Are we talking about the big man upstairs? After reading this classic, I understand why it took Paulo so long to get the novel published. Paulo Coelho says, “I always knew that my Personal Legend, to use a term from alchemy, was to write.” It’s hard to decide what niche this novel belongs to. After reading this tale, I’m not sure. Anyway, enough said, lets talk about the eight characters in the novel (some have brief appearances, but all are important to the story).

First, we have our protagonist, Santiago, the sheepherder. He lives in Spain and wanders the countryside with his herd. The sheep trust him to find food and water (the only thing they want), and in return, they provide him an income when they are sheared. But Santiago has a recurring dream...a child at the Egyptian pyramids says, “If you come here, you will find a hidden treasure.”

Secondly, we have the gypsy woman who interprets dreams and agrees that there is a treasure awaiting him. She will take no fee but wants one-tenth of the treasure if he finds it.

Thirdly, we meet the King of Salem, Melchizedek. He says to Santiago, “Give me one-tenth of your sheep and I’ll tell you how to find the hidden treasure.” He tells Santiago the same thing that the gypsy woman said, but gives him two stones from his golden breastplate. They are urim and Thummim. The King says, “When you are unable to read the omens, they will help you to do so. Always ask an objective question.” Now if you think that I’m giving the story away, think again. I’m only on page 33.

Santiago sells his sheep, pays the King his one-tenth (six sheep), and boats over to Africa where he is robbed. Now broke, he finds a job with a crystal shopkeeper (the fourth character). Santiago improves the business dramatically and saves enough money to quit his job in less than a year. Santiago leaves the shop without saying goodbye to the shopkeeper and continues on his Personal Legend. Okay, stop worrying, I’m only on page 65.

Alright, I will not tell you anymore except that the remaining four characters are: the Englishman (the reader never finds out his name), Fatima (the love of Santiago’s life), the Alchemist (I loved this character), and lastly, the Coptic Monk. Folks, you are going to blow right through this fast moving novel. Is Santiago a man in search of truth like the narrator in Daniel Quinn’s, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (1995)? Don’t you love literature? After reading The Alchemist, I almost want to read The Arabian Nights, a very old collection of tales written by various authors. The key word in that statement is almost. Anyway, I highly recommend this classic novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: After reading about the tribal wars in The Alchemist, I started to think about Lawrence of Arabia. The best book about him seems to be Jeremy Wilson’s Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. states, “The exploits of T.E. Lawrence as British liaison officer in the Arab Revolt, recounted in his work Seven Pillars of Wisdom, made him one of the most famous Englishmen of his generation. This biography explores his life and career including his correspondence with writers, artists and politicians.” states, “The unabridged edition was selected by The New York Times as one of the six best nonfiction books of 1990. Now this critically acclaimed biography--abridged by the author--offers a portrait of the legendary modern-day knight, Arab revolt leader, British secret agent and World War I military genius. 32 pages of photographs.”

The author Jeremy Wilson said on 11/6/2011, 'I completed Lawrence of Arabia, The Authorised Biography in 1989. The full text ran to 1,200 pages – around half a million words. It was published in Britain that year by Heinemann, and in the US by Atheneum in 1990. The New York Times Review of Books ranked it among the fourteen best titles of its year. Their reviewer had written: “This biography will endure beside Seven Pillars as his monument, and any future book about T. E. Lawrence will be but a commentary on it”. Malcolm Brown, writing in the London Daily Telegraph, described it as: “the solid sheet-anchor study this subject has long required”. Kirkus Reviews labelled it the “definitive historical biography”.'

Another good book about tribal life is Ibrahim al-Koni’s Gold Dust. states, “Rejected by his tribe and hunted by the kin of the man he killed, Ukhayyad and his thoroughbred camel flee across the desolate Tuareg deserts of the Sahara. Between bloody wars against the Italians in the north and famine raging in the south, Ukhayyad rides for the remote rock caves of Jebel Hasawna. There, he says farewell to the mount who has been his companion through thirst, disease, lust, and loneliness. Alone in the desert, haunted by the prophetic cave paintings of ancient hunting scenes and the cries of jinn in the night, Ukhayyad awaits the arrival of his pursuers and their insatiable hunger for blood and gold. Gold Dust is a classic story of the brotherhood between man and beast, the thread of companionship that is all the difference between life and death in the desert. It is a story of the fight to endure in a world of limitless and waterless wastes, and a parable of the struggle to survive in the most dangerous landscape of all: human society.”

Poster of the 1962 movie:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Supernatural Enhancements

This is a guest review from Deron O:

This epistolary novel by Edgar Cantero starts off strong from its beautiful cover art to its intriguing dust jacket blurb to its first pages. You can’t not want to love this book. Unfortunately, with each page, the story flags to where you’ll wonder if you have the mental stamina to read the next page, and finally when you reach that last page, with dawning horror, you’ll realize that a sequel is being threatened and cry, “No más.”

A. (his full name is never revealed), a distant European relative of the Wells family, unexpectedly inherits Axton House, the Virginia estate of the recently deceased Ambrose Wells. Jumping from his bedroom window, Ambrose committed suicide, oddly in the exact same manner as his father. Multiple story threads weave in and out: hereditary suicides, a haunted house, and a secret society that gathers at Axton House each winter solstice, now just a month and a half away. A. and his friend Niamh, a mute teenage girl, are soon entangled in this unusual blend of a haunted house story and a mystery.

Don't expect much character development. A.’s and Niamh’s motivations are unclear. I wondered why they believed that Ambrose’s death was more than a suicide, why they were searching for a ghost, and why they were bothering to solve the riddle of the winter solstice gathering. For most of the book, I wondered why A. didn’t just sell the estate and go back to Europe or better yet, remain in Europe and have his attorney sell the estate for him. The last few pages eventually provide some insight but then left me asking why these facts weren’t brought up earlier in letters and diary entries as they plausibly should have been. The only reason was to manufacture a surprise at the end. Upon close examination, the motivations of nearly all of the characters are thin or unremarkable. There are characters whose motivation, once the flowery language is removed, is that they have nothing better to do.

After nearly three hundred pages and the mystery unravelling at a maddeningly slow pace, the author introduces a deus ex machina to propel the plot into the final act in the form of a 26 page exposition revealing the secrets of the winter solstice gathering by a character making his first physical appearance. So expansive was the explanation that it made the previous pages seem for naught. The author is clearly aware of the unusual length when A. writes that the conversion was “ of the longest I’ve had in my life.” (p 258) To make things worse, each revelation was far more interesting unrevealed.

A typical mystery novel affords enough clues to a clever reader to solve the mystery. In this novel’s climax, the antagonist is revealed, and as I should have unfortunately expected, his identity bore no relation to the facts presented before. In fact, the protagonists don’t identify him; he reveals himself. Again, Cantero seems conscious of all this when the mystified A. says, “...we never noticed (him)...” (p 353) As with the long exposition, the author realizes he’s made a mistake, but rather than correct the plot problem, he admits to it, as if his admission makes it okay. This is pure laziness. These are many examples of this same problem throughout the book.

I can’t wholly blame the author for all these storytelling gaffes. Where was the editor? The plot is a contortionist’s nightmare. I haven’t even mentioned the audio and video recordings that seem more gimmick than substance (reminding me of the worst found footage films) or the endless talk devoted to cryptography peppered over the course of approximately 120 pages.

On a positive note, rarely clunky, the prose flowed well with snappy dialogue. I was even more impressed when I learned that Cantero is Spanish and this is his first novel in English, a second language for him. There was no sign that Cantero wasn’t English speaking. Perhaps Cantero was being humorously self-conscious of his English when A. wrote in a letter that Niamh was ”...laughing at my prose and pointing out how pompous I sound. She says I read too much like Lovecraft.” (p 28)

This book could have be very good if the editor hadn't been AWOL. Can a book get a do over?

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The author sent me a copy of her novel to review:

I was surprised with the author’s storytelling ability and a little discontented with the prose (but to be fair...I just reviewed Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, one of the greatest descriptive writers of all time). The terraforming of a planet reminded me a little of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars (the process of making a planet habitable for humans). Is it possible to go 30 light years away and terraform a exoplanet (a planet that orbits a different star)? Well, it’s the year 2163, and Eliza Green assures me that she had a tech expert advising her on certain issues. You know what? I like reading a sci-fi novel without all that tech jargon unlike some authors who seemingly write to overwhelm your gray matter (do you hear me Vernor Vinge?). I also questioned instant communication between planets, but the principle of simultaneity has apparently been broached in Ursula K. Le Guin’s  classic sci-fi novel, The Dispossessed (1974). If the rest of Eliza Green’s trilogy is as original as this novel, it could challenge Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama four book series, only because the last three Rama books were mostly written by Gentry Lee and didn’t receive the same acclaim. How is that for pressure, Eliza?

What about the story? Well, it seems Earth is polluted (no sunlight gets through), it's way overpopulated with most animals, and plant life dead. Tasteless food is available via replication machines. The air is so bad that humans wear Gel Masks. The only positive, of sort, is that, with the new medical procedures, it’s not unusual to live well into your hundreds. Earth is ruled by The World Government (WG), headed by Charles Deighton, and protection (really?) is provided by Earth Security Centre (ESC), headed by Daphne Gilchrist. About fifty years ago, the WG found a exoplanet (Exilon 5) that could eventually replace Earth if we make some changes on its surface. So the humans terraformed the planet. Did we know that another race was living on the planet? That other race was the Indigenes. Most died during the terraforming bombings, while the rest moved underground. After 25 years, earthlings started inhabiting Exilon 5. The Indigenes were scarcely seen during the day because their skin couldn’t tolerate the sun’s rays, only surfacing at night to hunt in the outskirts of the six human cities. The Indigenes were very strong, could run five to six times faster than humans, and had superior eyesight at night. By the way, can trains on Earth really go 800 MPH? And unless I missed it, I never really found out what a ‘light box’ was. 

On Exilon 5, we meet Bill Taggart, who works for ESC, and is trying to capture a Indigene to bring back to Earth to study (at least that’s what he thinks). He hates the Indigenes because he thinks they killed his wife Isla. He has zeroed in on a Indigene named Stephen, who is trying to find out more about the humans by quizzing a eight year old boy named Ben on a park bench during the daylight. Wait, I thought you said they couldn’t take the sunlight? Yes, but Stephen’s inventor type friend Anton, developed a silicone skin to put over their own skin, although the protection is limited. Taggart’s supporting cast (the military) move in too fast and Stephen gets away. Taggart is summoned to Earth for a explanation. The two Indigenes, Stephen and Anton, follow Taggart to the ship and sneak (kind of) aboard. Can this ship really travel 30 light years in two weeks? I’m sorry that I’m questioning these things, because I really don’t want to hear the technical facts. As the trio heads to Earth, the novel takes a turn and the true plot emerges. And it isn’t pretty. Is it possible that the WG and the ESC have a different motive for bringing the Indigene to Earth? Has the first hundred pages been a big prevarication from the government? The next 250 pages are filled with many new important characters and big time twist and turns. I must say that this novel truly gets more astonishing as the story unfolds.

This story was so well developed that I can’t imagine how Eliza Green can sustain this rigmarole into two additional novels. Amazing, good luck. This sci-fi novel was a pleasant surprise, and I hope that I wet your whistle enough to buy your own copy.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: has listed the 50 SF Books You MUST Read. Is your favorite on their list? The following are some of the novels they ranked along with their comments:

Coming in @ number 50 is Embassytown by China Mieville, “Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.” See my review of 3/4/2012.

Coming in @ number 48 is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, “Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl - the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko - now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. And as Lake becomes increasingly obsessed with Emiko, conspiracies breed in the heat and political tensions threaten to spiral out of control. Businessmen and ministry officials, wealthy foreigners and landless refugees all have their own agendas. But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.” See my review of 1/30/2011.

Coming in @ number 29 is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, “The hauntingly prophetic classic novel set in a not-too-distant future where books are burned by a special task force of firemen. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. The classic novel of a post-literate future, 'Fahrenheit 451' stands alongside Orwell's '1984' and Huxley's 'Brave New World' as a prophetic account of Western civilisation's enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity. Bradbury's powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which over fifty years from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.”

Coming in @ number 11 is Ringworld  by Larry Niven, “Pierson's puppeteers, strange, three-legged, two-headed aliens, have discovered an immense structure in a hitherto unexplored part of the universe. Frightened of meeting the builders of such a structure, the puppeteers set about assembling a team consisting of two humans, a puppeteer and a kzin, an alien not unlike an eight-foot-tall, red-furred cat, to explore it. The artefact is a vast circular ribbon of matter, some 180 million miles across, with a sun at its centre - the Ringworld. But the expedition goes disastrously wrong when the ship crashlands and its motley crew faces a trek across thousands of miles of the Ringworld's surface.” See my review of 2/24/2013.

Coming in @ number 4 is Neuromancer by William Gibson, “The Matrix unfolds like neon origami beneath clusters and constellations of data. Constructs, AIs, live here. Somewhere, concealed by ice, Neuromancer is evolving. As entropy goes into reverse, Molly's surgical implants broadcast trouble from the ferro-concrete geodesic of the Sprawl. Maelcum, Rastafarian in space, is her best hope of rescue. But she and Case, computer cowboy, are busy stealing data from the almighty Megacorps. If the Megacorps don't get them both, perhaps Case will fall prey to the cheap treachery of Linda Lee, someone as lost as himself.”

AND Coming in @ number 1 is Dune by Frank Herbert, “The sweeping tale of the desert planet Arrakis, the focus of an intricate power struggle in a byzantine interstellar empire. Arrakis is the sole source of Melange, necessary for interstellar travel and also grants psychic powers and longevity, so whoever controls it wields great influence. The struggle of Paul Atreides, usurped Duke, to regain his seat has severe repercussions. Paul might be the end product of a very long-term genetic experiment designed to breed a superhuman--he might be a Messiah. Whatever happens, it will be felt throughout the Imperium.”

From the movie, Dune (I love this part):