Spoiler Free Summary:Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson is the sixteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. During an alien version of a zombie apocalypse, one man finds a way to make a few bucks.
Character: I re-scanned the story a few times and didn’t even find a name. So he’s got a “House, M.D.” sort of jerk-face appeal to him, but other than establishing he hates people and likes money, there’s no real character development in this story.
Exposition: This story was told in first person, so that will always increase the amount of exposition, but I still feel there was a lot more exposition than necessary. I think if this were the first chapter in a story with character development, I’d love it. As a stand-alone story, it’s just a guy complaining about things while he kills alien zombies. Some people will love that. I’m just not one of them.
Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an alternate Earth. There isn’t much more to it that that. We get some details on how this world came to be, but even that was buried in the aforementioned exposition.
Dialogue: This is not applicable as it’s just an internal monologue.
Description: This is probably the best part of the story. Howard-Hobson’s description is very good. It’s detailed without being overwhelming. It’s strongest in describing the action and the aliens, but there is attention paid to all the senses, and that’s a positive.
Overall: So this was a decent zombie scene. If you like a bit of zombie-killing mayhem, you probably won’t regret picking it up. It feels a bit out of place in the anthology, but it’s a nice little character scene. It drags a bit here or there, but it wasn’t boring. I personally need a bit more from the character than I got (or more of something), but it was ok. I’d say this is sort of like a pop-corn movie for readers.
Spoiler Free Summary:A Series of Anomalous Phenomena by D.B. Crelia is the second story in the Alien Days Anthology. Humm is a shape shifter serving as first officer aboard his ship. He’s been tasked with a mission to obtain some DNA, but when things start to go wrong, they seem to pile up until they reveal just how bad Humm’s day is about to get.
Character: Humm is likable if not proactive. He’s not competent either, but that’s be designed. The light-hearted approach to the story really worked for Humm. If you can’t have a memorable character (and I don’t think Humm was) the next best thing is to have a character who was memorable for something. Humm was memorable to me because of his earnestness, which makes his humorous shortcomings endearing rather than frustrating.
Exposition: Honestly I thought this was spectacular, especially for short fiction. I don’t remember a moment where the story didn’t move forward and keep me either laughing or wondering what would happen next. That’s a big credit to the author.
Worldbuilding: This story also takes place on Earth. We could do with a bit more establishing the alien races. For the story, it wasn’t so bad. But I would have liked a bit more rounding out of the universe at large. However, if someone were to argue that wasn’t necessary and might obstruct the story, I’d probably have to admit that’s true.
Dialogue: This was solid. It wasn’t bad at all, but it didn’t stand out either. I think it was the biggest, surest way to improve the story. If the dialogue were a bit more snappy and clever, this story might have gone from not bad to great or even better than that.
Description: I got what I wanted from the story in regard to description. As usual, someone could argue they want more, and I wouldn’t shout about it, but I saw what I needed, and my imagination did the rest.
Overall: This was a clever little story that had a good amount of humor. If you have 30-minutes, and you wanted something fun to read or listen to on Audible, this would be something to reach for.
Spoiler Free Summary:Antithesis by Mitch Goth is the second story in the Alien Days Anthology. Dr. Jonah Edwin has received a request. They want him to talk to some aliens. The aliens themselves have found a way to speak, but communication is still suffering. What is it that has these visitors so baffled?
Character: Edwin doesn’t really grab me. He’s thrown into a situation, and then he just kind of rolls with it. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t go. He doesn’t evoke change. This story is a plane-ride conversation followed by a interrogation room sort of conversation. Edwin doesn’t take any action. I don’t know anything about him, so I don’t care about him. I can’t even mentally picture him.
Exposition: This story reads like a musing designed to help mankind appreciate his mortality more. This might be satisfactory for a younger reader. The main conversation (see above) is essentially looking at mortality from the perspective of an immortal filter. Since, while I hope to live many more years, I’m fairly comfortable with my mortality, the 30-minute discussion on mortality didn’t do anything for me.
Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an earth setting, and it largely takes place on that plan and in the medical area/interrogation area. We don’t learn much about the creatures, and we only get a bit of insight to their biological needs (air).
Dialogue: While the story was driven by conversation, it’s not particularly lively conversation. There isn’t much snap to the dialogue, and the conversation just sort of expands on a pretty narrow summary. I mean, if I had the chance to talk to aliens, I’d probably have more than one subject of conversation. Even if the realization in this story was true, I’d still want to know more. But this story just sticks to that topic of conversation and calls it a day.
Description: I get more information on the plane in the beginning than I do on the aliens. I have more of a sense of that flight than I do the rest of the book, and the only value of the flight was to set up the “The More You Know” ah-ha moment at the end of the story. This story was 90% tell and 10% show, and that 10% didn’t do a thing to advance the plot.
Overall: This is a pretty “scathing” review from one point of view, so I want to clarify this a bit. This is less a story than it is a dialogue exercise with an existential scientific prompt. It asks a great question. It gives a satisfying realization. Those are true things. However, it’s not a story. There are no obstacles to overcome. In fact the only possible obstacle was handled before the story even started. There’s no conflict, so there is no resolution. The characters are only proxies for the perspectives of the motivating debate question. This might be the best philosophically driven dialogue exercise I’ve ever read, but it’s not a story.
Spoiler Free Summary: The Kra’daar by Chris Winder s the 12th story in the Four Horsemen anthology, For a Few Credits More. Nik’Thil is a Kra’daar who’s looking to determine the source of a series of fires that have started to haunt his home. Will he be able to learn what, or who, is causing them before on breaks out of control?
Character: I recalled this story a bit more quickly than others. It’s not at the top of my list, but I remember liking the back and forth between Nik’Thil and the creature he’s chasing. This story had a nice sense of tension, and I think the character is the main reason why.
Exposition: As a whole, this anthology was solid in this regard. If I don’t remember much, it means I at least didn’t feel dragged down in a story, and that’s almost always the fault of too much exposition. This story had a good pace with a nice sense of progression. I read it pretty quickly. This whole anthology (of which this story is an example) is custom made for an airplane or long layover. You don’t get bogged down with too much depth. You get entertainment and quick resolutions.
World building: This is the main reason I remember this story. The setting and conflict of this story were memorable. The details were interesting, and I enjoyed an alien perspective in a story featuring an alien character.
Dialogue: This probably wasn’t as strong. I can’t remember a single line. I can’t remember a single situation in which the dialogue added to the plot or drama. It wasn’t bad or thinly hidden exposition; it was just conversation.
Description: This holds true from my last review. Any time I don’t think back in frustration about how many buttons that guy wore or what color the chips in the paint were, I feel like I was happy with the description. This element was a bit stronger than previous stories. I say this because I immediately remembered the overall plot and the world building, which only sticks if a scene or two stick in a reader’s head.
Overall: If you want Sci-Fi that isn’t overcrowded with human perspective, you should give this story a try. I like fantasy that expands beyond the human perspective, and this story does that. Is it an example of everything I want to read ever? No, but it is interesting, and it does have a fairly compelling main character.
(NOTE: Again, if you’re wondering where the other For A Few Credits More stories are, please remember I review all books in the order I read them. Don’t worry! You’ll get the rest of the reviews in time.)
Spoiler Free Summary: Colony Lost by Chris Philbrook is the first book in The Ghara Chronicles. Also, it was the M.L.S. Weech 2017 Book Cover of the Year! Humanity has been colonizing planets for generations. Dustin and Melody are newlywed Marines seeking to colonize one last planet so they can retire and start their life together. However, the planet Selva holds a dark, dangerous secret that will change the course of their lives and that of the human race.
Character: So, I have to be honest here, the early pages were a bit hard to stay with. We had a bunch of characters thrown at us very quickly, and it was hard to keep track. Now, I can’t complain; I did the same thing with Caught, and the rewards were similar. Once the characters were introduced, we got great action and wonderfully diverse tension. I love the characters in this story! I thought they were all fascinating and compelling. Once the story got going (and I’d say it took at least 50 pages to get there), I honestly didn’t want to put this book down. The characters were one of two reasons why.
Exposition: This didn’t bother me in the least. It probably wasn’t amazing. I remember an info dump here or there. I’d say the beginning drags a bit because of this, but then it fades, and we’re left to enjoy the action.
World building: So this is my second-favorite part of this book. The way this plot is set up and organized had to have taken meticulous planning. The way this story evolves and the relationship Selva has to the plot is something I don’t honestly like in most stories, but this story did it so well I was pleased. This story isn’t anything like Pernin terms of overall plot, but the way the planet becomes the threat felt akin to the same way Pern’s characters face challenges. Now, the characters in Pern were far more compelling, but it’s honestly unfair to compare my favorite series ever to any other series in that category. Still, the use of science fiction planets as a source of conflict is something rare. Using it in a primarily action-based story is even more unusual, and I loved it.
Dialogue: Philbrook’s characters feel so real, and the dialogue is one of the reasons why. I think service members will feel a connection to mundane conversations in intense situations. I never even saw a hint of combat, but in my work with combat fighters, I noticed a lot of conversation that was oddly common in some pretty miserable situations. This author portrayed that well. No, it’s not the wittiest, sharpest banter you’ll ever read. It might even seem cliche to some, and I don’t know that I’d argue, but I felt right at home with these characters.
Description: This book activated the IMAX high-def, 3-D movie theater in my imagination. It was perfect. If I heard this book got a green light for a movie, I’d oder advance tickets just to see some of the wonderful effects. I honestly felt more in the action than some movies I’ve been to lately. Listen, I hate description. I loath it! Philbrook knows exactly when to provide what detail to keep you interested, squirming, or enraged. It’s not in the amount of description (which is a thing most authors insist on thinking) it’s in the specificity of it. Every sense you have is activated to create a full effect without a half-page tangent on armor, skin, clothes, or whatever.
Overall: If you haven’t already figured it out by now, this book is currently (and likely will be) the best fiction book I’ve read all year! It was compelling and action packed. It has the action and intensity of Aliens, the humorous charm of Tremors, and the world building of Pern. If you like those stories, give this one a shot. I don’t think you’ll regret it. (NOTE: Might have to slog through those first 50 pages, but that’s just par for the course when dealing with scifi.)
For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen how happy I am to have completed the third draft to Sojourn in Captivity! I truly feel this is the best thing I’ve written so far (which I honestly hope to say each time I write something). Now that I’ve had an editor take a look at it, it’s time for what I call my Beta Draft. That means I need beta readers!
I’m sending out the call for any interested beta readers. I tend to like between 5-20 betas. In my mind, the more people who read it, the more feedback you get. The more feedback you get, the more certain you can be about certain aspects of the story. I’d like to send out the draft (31,000 words) Saturday, and I’d ask that you send your feedback (and a few very short questionnaires I have for each segment), by May 6. (That would mean you need to read at least a segment every other day.)
Sojourn in Captivity is a prequel, I guess it’s more of a novella now, but I’m calling it a short story, to my Perception of War space war science fiction/fantasy sequence. He’s an off-the-top-of-my-head blurb:
Elele’s course in life was altered when Adhol (her planet’s name for God) arrived three years ago. Her life remained relatively normal even though she couldn’t travel to the Gernis home planet of Welt, where she was supposed to study with the greatest mathematical minds in the galaxy. She’s still her father’s favorite child. She’s still gotten everything she’s ever wanted that was within her school’s or family’s power to give. That’s all about to change. Since Adhol’s arrival, he’s used his power to elevate her people from vestigial-winged, slender beings known as Seferam into the membrane-winged, monstrously sized Var’lechen. It’s supposed to be the greatest blessing a Seferam could ask for. It’s supposed to be when a Seferam evolves into a form that more closely resembles their god. There’s only one problem, Elele doesn’t want to transform. When she faces her god, she’ll discover that not only is her life about to change forever, but her family’s had secrets that she’ll have to come to understand before its too late.
I’d be honored if anyone cared to give it a read. Please reply below or send me an email if you’re interested.