Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Review: The Predator and The Prey by K.C. Sivils

The Hard-Boiled Genre Recast to Future, Outer Space

The Predator and The Prey is the story of police Inspector Thomas Sullivan’s efforts to catch a serial killer and stop the theft of living-saving medicine on a distant mining planet, Beta Prime, 200 years in the future.  If you’re familiar with the fictional characters of Philip Marlow, Mike Hammer, or Sam Spade, and you put one of them in a future, outer-space setting, then you have a pretty good idea of the feel of this book.

Like the characters from the hard-boiled literary genre mentioned above, Inspector Thomas Sullivan is an antihero, more interested in justice than the letter of the law.  He’s also damaged, riddled with remorse for his failures.  To accommodate a character like Sullivan, Beta Prime is not a sleek, technologically advanced world – his ‘lead with your fists, rather than your badge’ attitude would not fit easily in an advanced society.  Rather, Beta Prime is lawless and corrupt, again somewhat paralleling the typical setting of the hard-boiled genre – the 1920-30s prohibition era and organized crime.  For me, recasting the typical hard-boiled crime story into a future, outer-space setting worked quite well.

The book, however, did have a few shortcomings.  First, there were some small but quite persistent tics in the author’s writing.  Word repetition was particularly problematic.  At one point, the author uses the word ‘evil’ five times in six, consecutive sentences.  Certain themes and thoughts are also repeated unnecessarily.  Some occurrences of either of these minor missteps is understandable, but the frequency of them made staying immersed in the story difficult for me.

Second, the author tended to take what should have been subtle nuances in a character’s make up and push them to the point of breaking.  Sullivan’s tendency toward feeling remorse is one example.  By the end of the book, he is blaming himself for just about everything that goes wrong.  An initially complex character became distorted by unnecessary emphasis on one trait.  The character of the serial killer took a similar route, as he seems almost supernatural by the end.

The interested reader should also note that this book contains somewhat graphic violence against children.
So, for fans longing for the days of Philip Marlow, Mike Hammer, and Sam Spade, you may be able to satisfy that urge with The Predator and The Prey, if you’re not easily distracted by minor writer’s tics and some rather heavy-handed character development.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

THANKS – Kindle Scout Campaign Completed

The Kindle Scout Campaign for In the Space of an Atom is over.  I really appreciate all the kind words of support, all the likes and +1s, all the new followers.  The post even generated a few political comments that gave me a chuckle...

“All <insert name of political party here> brains would fit in the space of an atom, no offense to the author, pun intended. LOL

And of course, thanks to everyone who nominated the book during the campaign.  I hope you end up winning a free copy.  The current expected release date is the second week of March, so watch for the announcement.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Movie: True Memoirs of an International Assassin (2016) with Kevin James, Kim Coates, and Maurice Compte

No, don’t touch that mouse.  You’re at the right spot.  I’m still writing.  My posts are still (mostly) about my books and book reviews.  But today, it’s a movie – a movie, of course, about a writer.

So, let’s get this whole rating thing out of the way, right off the bat.  True Memoirs is an OK movie.  It’s 5.9 out of 10 on IMDb, it received 43% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, got an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 on Netflix.  But the first five minutes of it had me rolling on the floor.  You see, the movie starts with the author, Kevin James, working on a book.  He gets to a fight scene where he can’t make up his mind – is it going to be fists?  Knives?  Guns?  And while he’s making up his mind, his fictional characters are sitting around, drinking coffee, working on their tans. 

I don’t quite see my characters when I’m not writing a scene, but what I do see – and what made this part of the movie so funny to me – is all the different variations on actions, dialog, gestures, and facial expressions that I go through before I settle on one.  Does my hero grimace here?  He was just frowning.  And of course, my brow furrows at that point.  I could say I was concentrating, trying to find the right word.  But truthfully, I was thinking, he looks like this.  Now, how do you put that into words?  All the slumping in my chair, pounding my forehead with the palm of my hand, shrugging with my palms up – it’d be funny to watch me as I write…or maybe, it would be a bit scary?

I’ve also had the experience of being so involved with the trees of gestures and innuendo and the like that I missed the forest.  I had one scene that I worked several times trying to get the interaction between the primary male and female characters just right.  He was making breakfast.  She had just come downstairs from the bedroom in her PJs.  (And no, he had slept downstairs on the couch – you’re getting ahead in the story).  Anyway, there was all this light, playful banter, teasing and shy smiles, mock exasperation and laughter.  And after breakfast, they jump in the car and leave.  It was one of my trusty beta readers that pointed out that my female lead had just gone to the store in her PJs.  Yeah, but I nailed their gestures.

Happy Writing,

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who is your favorite fictional couple, and why?

This question showed up in my ‘Ask the Author’ queue on Goodreads a couple of days ago, and admittedly, I was about to hit the ‘skip’ button.  After all, this is a soft lob right in the wheelhouse of the Romance authors for Valentine’s Day.  What do I know, writing techno-thrillers?

In fact, I have more than one book review where I poke some fun at the stereotypic couple in the thriller genre.  You know the type.  The damsel in distress is six-sigma on some specialized skill that most of us have only the foggiest notion about, like quantum physics or nanotechnology.  (And those of you who don’t have statistics as a second language, six sigma means something that happens once every 1.38 million years, or about twice in the history of humankind – that’s pretty rare.)  But she still manages to be compassionate and, of course, beautiful.  Across from her is the male, who is almost equally unique in his skill set, which tends to run to combat skills and/or investigative techniques.  Yes, these couples make for a fun read…but they’re not exactly the grist for a lasting love story.

But I’ve been known to read outside my writing genre, and yes, there is a couple that has long stuck in my memory – Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.  I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald sometime in high school…meaning many years ago.  And there was something about that book that stuck with me.  It could have been the mystery surrounding Jay.  It could be that he threw the most awesome parties of all time.  But I have to believe that it was Jay’s obsession with Daisy that got lodged in my memory for all time.  Of course, F. Scott has to also throw us what in the thriller genre would be ‘the twist.’  In this case, after Jay finally wins Daisy back – after a lifelong, unwavering quest – he admits that the relationship wasn’t all that he expected. 

I didn’t see that one coming.

Happy Writing (and Reading),

Photo by Eva Rinaldi [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Book Review: Wired by Douglas Richards

A Fun Read…but Maybe Too Much Voila Science

Wired is story of brilliant genetic engineer Kira Miller, who is accused of a diabolical bioterror plot, and ex-special forces operative David Desh, who is tasked with finding and stopping her.

Let me jump right to the conclusion.  If you’re a fan of fast-paced thrillers with plenty of twists, you’ll like Wired.  The novel is one of Richards’ first books and follows a formula that he repeats later, i.e., a world-changing technology developed for altruistic reasons has a dark side and the protagonist(s) must find a way to make sure it is not used for evil.  But even so, Richards puts a great deal into this novel besides the pace and twists – a bit of romance, some thought-provoking science, and even some light philosophy (meaning of life, existence of God kinds of topics).

Several other reviews have mentioned the lack of depth in the characters, and true, the author does use what has become the techno-thriller stereotypes – a scientist years if not generations ahead of his/her peers and a special forces/military/spy type, also far superior to his peers in his combat/investigative skills.  Yes, this kind of combination is a bit trite, but it still makes for some fun reading from time to time.  And Richards does it well.

For me, the primary downside of this book was its use of what I’ve called voila science – something so far removed from current theory and research as to make anything possible.  Yes, Richards’ twists are very good, but if you step back and consider the possibilities arising from the technology, there are countless others that were also possible and equally surprising.  In effect, when anything is possible, nothing is surprising.  But giving Richards his due, he does pick an interesting path through the alternatives.

I would suggest that if you want a good introduction to Douglas Richards’ work, this is a great place to start.  Fun, fast, full of twists…and some material to think about as well.