Comic Review: Discovering the Valiant: Amor Hunters Event

I recently read the Armor Hunters crossover event by Valiant, which spans 5 trade paperbacks with an event series itself, two tie-ins from prominent Valiant books in XO Manowar and Unity, and two offshoot spinoff miniseries. It was a daunting task, and curtailed my reading of catching up on the Valiant universe for a time while I obtained a couple of these to get the full story. Crossover events like this make me nervous, as I’ve been burned by Marvel far too many times with bad tie-ins and sub-series that really don’t add much, and storylines that are unfulfilling.

I’m happy to report that Armor Hunters is a crossover done right. The story was epic, every book added something, and I’m glad I bought and read all five trades in paying attention to this series. I’m going to review them individually as well below.

I’ll also note that I used the suggested reading order on Reddit which went like this:

Armor Hunters #1/4
Unity #8
X-O Manowar #26
Armor Hunters #2/4
Unity #9
Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #1/3
Armor Hunters: Harbinger #1/3
X-O Manowar #27
Armor Hunters #3/4
Unity #10
Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #2/3
Armor Hunters: Harbinger #2/3
X-O Manowar #28
Armor Hunters: Harbinger #3/3
Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3/3
Unity #11
Armor Hunters #4/4
X-O Manowar #29
Armor Hunters: Aftermath #1

So I had a lot of flipping between books. This order worked really well and I suggest reading them in this order as well – though you could read XO 26-28 as a prequel series and get 29 in its place and it’d work just as well, perhaps better.

Onto the series.

Armor Hunters:

XO Manowar has been followed to earth by an alien army that will stop at nothing but to see the Armor destroyed. They attack earth, including an installation that has an alien that Alric captured that is slowly morphing into the armor. Alien starships. Giant robots. Battles with aliens. It’s all here. Great pulp action adventure at its finest, never a dull moment. I would say the Aftermath issue at the end is a bit slow, really a full issue of denouement, but it was separated out and labeled Aftermath so I knew what I was getting into there. As a big event, with Earth getting attacked big, lots of destruction and chaos, the heroes all playing their part to make sure Earth is safe again – I loved every second of it. This should be event comic writers required reading.

Art was excellent in it. Cool aliens. Cool designs. Lots of background detail so we didn’t feel like characters fighting against a white screen. Figures drawn great. Colors engaging. I was very happy all the way around. Aftermath again suffered compared to the main book but it was fine for what it was.

I’m pleased and would recommend people read at least the first couple trades of XO Manowar first to get a feel for the characters, or perhaps as much as I have in the Valiant Universe for a lot of depth, but this is a great jumping on point and great read. 10/10

Unity Volume 3

This was on the weaker side for the event, which is still a strong comic. Still, with the others to contend with, the unity storyline of the event came down to fighting alien dog things then Livewire doing some techie thing to stop some alien probes. Pretty simple and drawn out into 4 issues. Thus is somewhat the issue with events in a nutshell, as the tie ins can tend to suffer. But by suffer I still mean this was a really fun comic. It’s very quick to read and very light on dialogue. Certainly doesn’t work without the context of the Armor Hunters main event as a book by itself.

Art is fine. It’s got early 2000s forward standard style with medium to light detail on the background. The colors aren’t exciting but aren’t offputting either.

Decent fun, adds texture to Armor Hunters but not a lot of deapth. 7/10

Armor Hunters: Bloodshot

I haven’t loved Bloodshot a lot thus far. It’s been fine, but a little too dark for my tastes. This continues here, but actually this may be my favorite volume of Bloodshot I’ve read so far. I like seeing him work with Unity and the Colonel from XO Manowar to stop the aliens. I love the battle between ever-healing Bloodshot and ever-healing alien in XO Armor. The storyline is simple, but it progresses and adds nice depth to the overall Armor Hunters storyline.

The art is dated looking, 90s with a lot of grittiness, good for Bloodshot, but not my favorite. The colors are a bit washed out and make it have a dated 90s look even moreso.

Fun, pure gorey action and not much to complain about. 8/10

Armor Hunters: Harbinger

This is probably my least favorite installment here. I like seeing Faith but her comments are getting a little old at this point. I don’t really care much about the Generation Zero heroes even from the last event, Harbinger Wars, and there hasn’t been a ton of time for them to develop to where they mean much to me. There’s too many and with the frantic pace of the event, I lose track of who’s who to some extent. There’s blurbs to tell me, but that just means the characters aren’t standing out enough on their own for me to recognize. Makes it difficult. If there’s one book in the series to skip, I’d say this is it.

The art is fine. Everyone tends to have these perplexed stiff faces through a lot of the panels though. The colors save it as they’re pretty vibrant on this.

If you really like Generation Zero or Faith, maybe worth the pick up, but it’s an isolated spot that plays off one major point in Armor Hunters, not the most necessary of them. 6/10

XO Manowar vol 7.

This makes it all worthwhile. Now, you can’t go into this thinking you’re going to get much Aric or XO, but Robert Venditti has told one of the finest space opera tales I’ve ever seen in comics in issues 26-28 with an amazing origin story, great action and resolution. For characters I didn’t meet and didn’t care about before, for enemies of Aric, I really began to care about them and this made the Armor Hunters event way more interesting than it would have been otherwise. 29 deals with Malgam and the aftermath of it, but with the set up in 28 I care about Malgam a lot more than I used to as well. Fine comic storytelling.

The art can get a bit repetitive at points with just action shots even when in talky scenes. The colors are good in that they’re vibrant but they are lacking a little bit in detail which makes those backgrounds wash together a bit and makes the art look sparse. Not perfect, but the storytelling aspects of it are so it’s fine.

I loved this story so much. Even with the medium-like of the art, it surpassed my expectations so much I give it a thumbs up. 9/10


Gab Is Out Of Beta Testing – Open For All

https://gab.ai  

Gab no longer requires an invite to join. This is a social media site that allows complete free speech. No unknown algorithms hiding your posts. No banning because you say something that the overlords don’t approve of. It’s the best social network out there with new features all the time.If you’re not on there, you should be. It’s the future as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit fall under their own hubris.

Follow me:  @otomo

Writing Success

I just read a brilliant post by author Tim W. Long (Who is by no means associated with me, probably doesn’t even know me or who I am, and totally disavows me and in no way endorses me even looking at his words, haters!) on writing success, and he’s 100% right. It’s cruder than I would have put it, with some swearing involved, so if that bothers you, don’t read further:

I just read a gloriously ranty post from Michael Anderle and it got me a little fired up. Maybe I’m just a little high on life right now because I have finally moved into the 5-figure a month sales goal as an author. Yeah. 5-figures a month. I’ve heard people say “Wow – you’re so lucky that you get to write full-time.” It’s not luck! It’s busting my ass every day. It’s weeks where I’m doing 14+ hour days at what I love. It’s actually writing instead of talking about writing.

You know the biggest key to success? NOT GIVING A FUCK. That’s it right there and you can quote me on that.

The minute I walked away from self-admiring writer circle-jerks and writing groups who seem to thrive on bullshit drama over actually writing, I was a much happier person. The minute I quit caring about having my ego stroked. The minute I stopped caring about getting books in bookstores, speaking at cons, being invited to panels, or even being recognized as a best selling author, I was a better writer for it.

Authors – ask yourself a question about the groups you associate with as a writer:

Do they ACTUALLY sell?
Do they have any credentials outside of TALKING about writing?
Do they honestly help YOU with your career?

No? Just walk away.

I’ve gone out of my way to help any author who asks for help. Got a new book out? I’m happy to promote it. Need a suggestion for how to advertise something? I can probably share some decent info. Wondering how to build your mailing list? I bet I can offer a few tips. You know what I have asked in return? Nothing at all.

My books have been in best seller lists for 3 years now. I’ve been a #1 horror author on Amazon. I’ve had that fancy best-seller tag on my books.

Big frigging deal!

At the end of the day all I care about is entertaining people, and making a living from the craft. That’s it. The petty people who do drive-by one-star reviews can kiss my ass because I’m laughing all the way to the bank. I’m sitting in my robe, sipping coffee, not regretting for one minute that I’m not fighting an hour plus commute to work every day.

How you doin – petty asshole hiding behind an anonymous name? Having a good day? Yeah?

Great – now go fuck yourself.

Have a terrific day, friends. 🙂

Book Review: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

The review you’ve all been waiting for! Note: there are some spoilers in here as I had to really get into what I liked or didn’t like in the book, but I tried to keep the ending in tact as much as I could for those who are interested in actual reading.

I discovered The Black Witch a couple of months ago, when a book reviewer slammed the book with 8,500+ words of screeching, flailing and literally can’t even-ing. Like fake news, this person provided a FAKE REVIEW. It began with: The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive, book I’ve ever read. It’s racist, ableist, homophobic, and is written with no marginalized people in mind.

Wow. I wish I could get such a review for my next book. Imagine what my sales would be then? I’d ask her for one but I find myself already blocked by this person.

Anyhow, the fake review is extremely long, and really doesn’t speak to the substance of the book at all, but takes lines without context to make some of the most bizarre, inaccurate points one could ever have imagined about this extremely innocuous YA fantasy novel. Because of this, hundreds of alt-left internet trolls took to Goodreads and left drive-by hate reviews to try to torch the book and author without ever having read it. If the original review hadn’t gotten me interested, the sheer bullying evil that the reviewer’s followers acted with made me certain to support this author. I might add, that kind of bullying is something that the author speaks against heavily in the book. Irony points for people too stupid to read.

Without further ado, a real review of The Black Witch:

The Black Witch follows a girl in a rural village. There’s a prophecy that they believe she’ll rise up and fight the evil one – standard fantasy fare. The evil ones are considered some abomination race that sprouts wings and the like, and they seem to be able to come from any birth whether it’s our Gardnerian humans or elves. It’s not exactly clear where they originate from but there’s some background that there were fae in the world that intermixed with everyone, and a lot of people have fae blood which is magical, but the fae themselves were mostly exterminated in a war a long time back or gone into hiding. It ramps up as one of Elloren (the main character)’s friends has one of these abomination children, which shows she was unfaithful to the mage she’s been wandfasted (their form of marriage which isn’t shown on screen but I believe involves some magical tie) to. The friend goes on the run to save her baby. Elloren is whisked away by her very powerful mage aunt. Her friend left with her some powerful wand that’s supposed to be a relic from myth. Only problem is, Elloren can’t actually do magic. Some power stirs within her, but there’s a mystery that’s left her magicless.

Elloren is set to live with her aunt for a few days before she goes to university – which is sorta Harry Potter-style wizard school but also deals with apothecary and other fantasy trope items in this book. At this section we meet the powerful bad boy love interest, Lukas Grey, and the rival Fallon Bane as this develops more into a paranormal romance than regular fantasy for a good chunk of pages. It returns to its fantasy plot when Elloren is attacked by members of the evil race who know she’s going to be the reincarnated Black Witch, as her grandmother decimated them years ago. Elloren escapes with the help of Lukas and they head to wizard school.

This was about the first 100-150 pages – and honestly, I found it extremely exciting. The pacing was relentless, the writing crisp, nothing really to complain about at all here. We get glimpses that the Gardnerians hate other fantasy races, especially from the aunt, and we get the feeling that Elloren the main character is uncomfortable with this, but trusts her authorities on it anyway as she has no life experience. The reader definitely wishes she wouldn’t, because that’s where the sympathies are played by the author, but any sane reader would be good with being immersed in a very well developed world with a fun plot, high danger, and interesting romance. What’s interesting is how every character seems to treat Elloren terribly except for Lukas, which continues for awhile throughout the book. She’s almost psychologically abused from every angle, and it both creates sympathy for the character and shows her resolve and value.  Reallly an A+ on the characterization and world and even the plot at this point.

Once it gets to university, however, the story bogs down and loses focus.  There are a lot of pages where meanders to meeting different fantasy races, showing why Elloren and Gardnerians hate them, and why they hate Gardnerians and Elloren, as well as dropping far too much backstory history.  This continues for the next three hundred or so pages of the book. We’re in very mundane situations in school, with extraordinary creatures like elves, wolf-shifters, etc. just doing ordinary things, but also sneering at our main character and making her life miserable and abusing her like everyone else does in the book. Elloren naturally reacts that she hates these people, and blames it on their race, where it can get a little preachy at points that this reaction is bad and one shouldn’t do that. Of course, with these people actively trying to physically and psychologically injure her at every turn, can’t say I blame her in the least. There’s a large cast of characters introduced, many of whom are interchangeable for this message beyond descriptions of their races and histories. I don’t really have much of a problem with the preachiness there other than a suspension of disbelief problem of the sudden switch in Elloren where she realizes she just hates her own race and loves all these others to force the message. She reads some books that show her people basically caused all these races to hate them, and that they’re just terrible. It’s a bit over the top of a presentation and reaction.

I’ll reiterate that I agree with the message: don’t dehumanize individuals around you just because of who they are. That’s quite a sensible message, but it again comes back to the length and how that message is presented with the “I’m really fighting for the wrong side” trope. It both convolutes the great lengths the author went to present the message, and derails the cool, exciting fantasy story in the beginning of the book. During this time we lose all focus on anything in the opening.  Lukas Grey goes away, Fallon Bane the evil witch rival gets a lot of mentions but gets less and less on screen time as it goes on too. We find most of the plot and characters abandoned for new ones. I read somewhere that this book was written out-of-order scene wise, and it could have used some tighter outlining to keep the plot on point. I think if this section was 100 pages instead of 300 pages, it would have been a much stronger novel. My suggestion would have been: the evil winged creatures would have come and attacked her in the night but her roommate winged creatures defended her—just to keep that early developed plot thread going. If that happened or something similar in the middle there to break it up, it would have felt more cohesive. The reader could have still received the don’t dehumanize individuals message but also maintained the original plot and not had it feel like the book’s entire purpose is an allegory for white guilt. Instead what we find is the Gardnerians are just bad at every turn. Even though all the fantasy races are also awful to her, in many cases moreso than her own people, Elloren just accepts that awfulness and over pages, while hating her own people. The fantasy races we learn are really just that way because they’re so oppressed. Lukas is ignored during this and she develops a relationship with a boy who has a mysterious mixed-race background Yvan instead, which also disappointed me, as co-opting Lukas would have made for a better plot as well.

Then it gets back to what I loved about the beginning. The kids decide they’re going to take on the Gardnerian military and escape and get all the fantasy creatures to safety. Action picks up, pace picks back up, the last 150 pages of the book stutter at points back into the message fiction, but when it hits full stride it really hits full stride and is masterfully done. It doesn’t fulfill much of the promises at the beginning of the book – thus is the way of series these days sadly, as they serialize plots across books rather than chapters, but it’s got its own plot that I found worth reading and a lot of fun that I won’t spoil.

The result is we have about half a great book, half a meandering message fiction book. The message was pretty subtle at the beginning and it went full tilt as the book went on to a point where it became too much in a reader’s face without advancing plot. An example of the more annoying aspects is there is a mage running for their office who was LITERALLY HITLER talking about eradicating species and making everyone where arm bands in support. It was a bit much.  There’s also a section where one of the other races starts lecturing Elloren “why do you think your religion is right we have our own creation myths too!” or something of the like, and Elloren just nods and agrees, pushing the multiculturalism is great angle, which I strongly disagree with the premise of, and it doesn’t make much sense given the characters that it was just accepted.

That’s not to say that the message/allegory were all bad either. What I did like about those points that none of it directly lined up with current events or current cultures, so it wasn’t finger wagging at a group either. I give this props as a lot of authors of this particular multiculturalist viewpoint tend to show their real prejudices in picking on American/Christian culture, which this author avoids. The Gardnerians act like extreme islamists in the way they force girls into marriage at a hyper young age (which was a cool point of the culture from a worldbuilding perspective – especially with the magic involved), but not all the way so as it has a lot of Christian religious elements as well, no direct allegory there. The Hitler dude in power was definitely is its own unique thing with the way their mage-council was structured, not an “American culture is bad” message. Dehumanizing people is bad. Real racism is bad. That’s all stuff that we can agree on and appreciate that the author is trying to say.

Her writing was also excellent on the prose level. This was in a first person present form for most of the book, which usually annoys me to the point where I won’t read past a page, but the author pulled this off fine to where I didn’t even notice it. It just kept the pace at awesome speed, and that’s a testament to her ability to write. It switched perspectives and forms at points and that didn’t ever throw me out, which is a difficult task. Descriptions are great, the world really had a lot of thought as I mentioned, many of the characters were unique and interesting. I do keep in mind that this is a debut novel and she’ll probably only get better from this point forward. It’s an interesting start to a series, got a great climax, good times, sets up the next book nicely.

Overall, because of the lengthiness and how I felt it could have been trimmed down, I call this a 7/10. Very close to being the next great fantasy, and with her talent I honestly expect that her next book will be. I do have one point for her as I saw some alarming interviews that I’m guessing were a reaction to the bullying: please ignore sensitivity readers. Don’t let people censor your thoughts or your ideas. This is your world, your story, keep it that way. Watering it down will only prevent greatness.

 

Here’s The Deal With The (Future) Cover Reveal

Alright. So I have some preliminary art for For Steam And Country. And it is HOT. I mean about the hottest piece of art I’ve ever seen. Which is good, cuz this is going to be the hottest book you’ve ever seen.

I really REALLY shouldn’t share it before I have all the lettering done and it’s a nice, neat, tidy cover.

But I’ve never been very good at doing what I should do. So I’m going to compromise with myself in order to share this with as much as my fam (which is you, dear reader!) as possible while still giving the outside world a little something to wait for in the completed cover.

I’m going to give a special sneak peak of the art to the most dedicated fan group. And here’s how we’re going to find out who that is:

I have my mailing list, and I have my facebook group for the Grand Rislandian Army. Both have grown pretty crazy since I created the FB group about a week ago. So here’s what I’m going to do: whichever gets 60 new users since the founding of the FB group on May 1 first gets the first cover reveal look. It’s pretty close to even so far, each has about 25 more to go. Let’s see if we can get there.

For best results, I’d recommend joining both 😉

http://delarroz.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=3c0d4761bf596db6605e25975&id=e7c61287b0   the link to the mailing list

https://www.facebook.com/groups/519333975122120/  the link to the FB group.

You really want to see this gorgeous art. Go join and recruit your friends!

Marvel Comics: When You Screw Up So Bad, You Can’t Even Spin It

When I broke the story that Marvel Comics blackballed Trump supporters and Christian writers from their ranks, very few were paying attention to their steep decline. A FAKE NEWS comic website even took to mocking me about bringing it up. No one is laughing at the funny books now.

Within a couple of weeks story after story came out about Marvel’s disaster. We learned that they were having retailer summits trying to woo retailers back with promises to bring back classic characters and that they were getting rid of some of their social justice initiatives. It broke that Marvel hired a radical Muslim artist who layered anti-Jewish and anti-Christian messages into the backgrounds of his comics. Captain America turned out to be a literal nazi all along in their storylines. The trainwreck kept coming.

And then their big event Secret Empire #1 came out. It’s written by an extreme social justice warrior, Nick Spencer, who regularly posts his hatred of anyone conservative, and mocks the Bible regularly on his twitter account. The book just followed the same path as everything before it, despite all the promises that Marvel made. And so Marvel made a press release this last week after all of the negative reviews and backlash for their failed big event that was supposed to be their summer blockbuster seller.

we want to assure all of our fans that we hear your concerns about aligning Captain America with Hydra and we politely ask you to allow the story to unfold before coming to any conclusion.”

Don’t judge a book by its book. It’ll get better later. We promise!

They’re beyond even spinning that there’s a good story involved. Beyond even trying to hype for the next thing. It’s damage control and damage control alone. But even when they bring the Marvel universe back to its “classic form” meaning just the characters that people know and love, they’ll still have these same writers and artists layering the lockstep, groupthink 1984-style messages into their comics. The fans are smart now. We follow writers and not just characters anymore– because the base characters don’t necessarily mean anything. In order to create real content people love, real diversity, they need real different perspectives in their writers, and will need someone in touch with Americans and American culture to get there. When will they learn? I imagine it’ll take yet more declining sales.

As the Injustice Gamer says at the end of all of his book reviews: when you play with social justice, the world loses.  

I’m still waiting for that phone call from Axel Alonso asking me my thoughts on Spider-Man or Captain America or Fantastic Four. Maybe after For Steam And Country is an even bigger success than my last book, they’ll take notice.

The Battle For The Areth Continent Is Fast Approaching

Have you done your duty and signed up for the Grand Rislandian Army? We’ll need every boot on the ground to make sure that the evil Wyranth Army doesn’t prevail over our forces, guided by King Malaky XVI.

Most of the action is on Facebook right now. Here’s the group if you’d like to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/519333975122120/

But, I’m also coordinating with fellow Rislandians on Gab.ai and through email. If you’re interested and haven’t joined up yet, leave a comment below.

(this is a promotion of For Steam And Country, the forthcoming fantasy book by Alliance Award nominated and top 10 bestselling Space Opera author Jon Del Arroz. There will be prizes for those who participate. Details soon!)

Comic Review: Eleanor And the Egret #1

Being a big Chew fan, when I saw that John Layman had another comic out with a very silly concept, I went to check it out. With Sam Keith, I thought I could expect some quirky art and quirky story like I saw in Chew.

This issue sets up one of those “what’s going on” mysteries that a lot of modern, more hipster style comics do. It starts with a scene of this gal who I presume is Eleanor falling in a swamp. And then it cuts to a museum where she’s looking at art. It switches perspective to detectives when the art is missing, and then the detective interviews her asking after a bird feather that was left in the museum.

If it sounds perplexing and honestly a bit boring — it was. There wasn’t much of a hook. Nothing to really get me going “I love this character”, the high concept of having some Egret that helps her fly (which wasn’t done on screen, speculating) is silly I guess but again, since it wasn’t on screen I didn’t see it.

I mentioned this style before, and frankly, I hate it. It’s one of those “Oh, reader, are you as clever as I am and can you figure out the real twist of what’s going on?” And unfortunately every time this is implemented it comes across as being talked down to, which is especially irking in funnybook form.  With muted colors and Sam Keith’s–albeit nice looking–noir style art, it really sends that message more than it should. For such a ridiculous concept of some girl with her egret, it really needed some more vibrancy to the both the line art and the color schemes.

Very little happened in the issue, unlike Chew where you have FDA raids on illegal chicken restaurants and get a guy having to cannibalize to use his powers, stuff that makes you pay attention immediately — this had very little hook otehr than “well I hope the Egret does something cool in future issues.”

I really wanted to like this. I love Chew, and having met John Layman a few times I think he’s a great guy with a fun sense of humor, but unfortunately I’m going to have to pass on the rest of this series.

Book Review: Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark Wandrey

I picked up the audiobook edition of Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark Wandrey, expecting pretty much what I saw on the cover — big mech fights. While he certainly delivered on that cover promise in this book, he also delivered a lot more. Forgive me if I misspell any names, as having the audio version meant I didn’t actually see the words.

The book opens with a character who has physical flaws limiting him from how good he is in standard merc duties — he’s a big fat kid — who in the first few chapters goes from having a silver spoon of being the son of the owners of one of the most famous merc companies in the universe, the Cartwright’s Cavaliers, to losing it all and being near destitute. It’s an engaging opening, where you develop a lot of sympathy for Jim. He’s good a good tactical and business oriented mind all the same, and while others have better physical prowess, he’s able to climb out of his hole and jumpstart the company. It brings me fond memories of Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, which is one of my favorite books to this day.

And that theme takes place throughout the whole book. Over and over, Jim climbs out of a hole, jumpstarts a situation, until the end where there’s a much more literal jumpstart that’s needed that’s pretty epic and I won’t spoil for potential readers.

The book’s pacing is solid all the way through with the action building in intensity and complexity like one would expect. I like the different alien creatures and this deep history with an ancient war of alien races that still looms over the galaxy to this day — even though those races are long gone.

The addition of Splunk later on was a welcome change of pace. What Mark did at certain points was give us some nice alien moments that give a break in the action. There’s a lot of military procedural combat, and in a lot of stories I get very bored with that — but because of the breaks in the pacing where it does shift to different concepts and mode of the story, I never found myself disengaged from this book.

The world is very well developed. I love the concept of human merc guilds and a big four called the Four Horsemen. The alien races are pretty neat and I’m enjoying a universe populated by a lot of them that feels like a Star Trek or Star Wars. There is a lot going on and a lot left to explore. At no point did I feel that I was lacking any details or whatnot to make it feel more like I was in the story. Many of the elements are of the standard, classic science fiction that I love and was excited to see in a modern form. It was refreshing.

There’s not a lot of flaws in the book. I mentioned that there are some heavy procedural points which I know a lot of people like (David Weber, John Ringo fans will enjoy) but isn’t so much my style. I would say the romance plot felt a tad forced and wasn’t as developed as I’m used to given my more Lois Bujold and Elizabeth Moon variety of reading that I’m used to. But I’ll stress that’s minor, it never threw me out of the book.

I know Chris Kennedy has a book in this series that came out next, and it’s cool that multiple authors are playing in this universe. It should develop into quite a franchise over time and I look forward to that.

On the audio presentation. Narrator was pretty good. At first I thought maybe he was a bit dry, but I ended up liking him a lot as the book went on.

Overall — this is an incredibly strong book. Fast paced action, memorable characters, an epic climax and leaving you wanting for more. If this is the direction space opera is going, we may see a big resurgence in the genre.

 

To Message Fiction Or Not To Message Fiction

I don’t write message fiction. In fact, a lot of the actual criticism of my book (when there is any, most folk just love it!) hits when people read it as if they’re braced for some sort of lecture on morality from me… and they don’t find one other than bad guys with lots of power are bad, and scrappy underdogs are good.

Which even that’s not meant to be a takeaway in most instances. I do like to root for the underdog. It seems an intrinsically American way to think, and you see it in our culture all the time. Spider-Man is the nerd weakling who shouldn’t be able to beat up the big bad monsters. We always root against the New York Yankees or New England Patriots because they bought their perennial powerhouse teams and we want the little guy to win. There’s nothing moral or immoral about rooting either way in those instances — but seeing the underdog work their tails off to victory is fulfilling and a lot of fun.

And that’s the key. That’s why I wrote that story — because it’s fun.

When you get into message fiction, you’re intrinsically taking away some fun from your reader as you’re trying to tell the reader how to behave, what good and evil is pertaining to a certain situation, and usually through very thin allegories that are metaphors that are painful. Star Trek: Into Darkness I’m looking at you with your nine-eleven oh noeeeeeeees commentary that made the film unwatchable.

And it varies in degree. The problem is that message fiction, for the most part, talks down to the reader. You are trying to layer in “obvious” things to a reader in a way that almost necessitates insulting their intelligence. Otherwise they would understand the message and be cheering for it themselves, right?  And if they did, you’ve got a boring story to that group of readers as well, because they already understand the message.

I’m currently reading The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, which is certainly marketed as message fiction after some hate reviewer went nuts on it and said it’s not messagy enough. So far though, it’s been very layered in the background and I’m watching more of an underdog adventure story unfold.  And I’m glad for it. If it looked preachy I wouldn’t be all that into it.

As a writer, it’s impossible not to layer some form of message in there. You have your thoughts, and they’re gonna come across. It’s how writing works. Almost weekly I get told by a reader how they’re surprised that I’m so anti-corporatist. My main villains in my book are a mega-corporation that lost sight of what it means to be human in their narrow-visioned lives that are consumed by their near-meaningless work.

Of course I’m anti-corporatist. Big corporations are total train wrecks both in that they stifle creativity and range from inefficient in the way they’re run to downright oppressive. Don’t think that the phone you’re reading this on isn’t built on the backs of some Chinese factory worker who’s barely surviving because of garbage trade agreements that allow companies to operate that way. A lot of my readership wants me to blame the government and not the corporation — but I posit to you that when you get into monopolistic entities of a certain size or oligopolies — you’re getting the exact same thing as a bloated government clutching to power. Remember that the Trade Federation in my book both is corporation and government combined. They wield both powers and that is dangerous.

Now I didn’t set out to wag my finger and give that moral in the book to anyone. That never even crossed my mind once while writing it. Those are just my private thoughts that upon thinking about it, I’m sharing with you, my dear blog reader, who understands this is a personal space where you can get a little sense as to how I think. The vast majority of folk read Rescue Run and don’t notice that or don’t care about that — because I didn’t beat people over the head with it and feature THE MESSAGE. It was just unintentional that it came out in the work because of who I am.

In conclusion, I’m definitely not telling writers to not write about what they care about — you should, and that passion will come through in the work. But you should be very careful in considering your readership and the priority should be a fun story, especially in Fantasy/Science-Fiction. Most readers in this genre are here for escape from the relentless negativity in the news, the drudgery of real life work, the lack of purpose they’re finding in modern society. It’s our duty as authors to provide them fun, and that should be our priority. If it stops being a priority, well, look at the sales decline across the industry. ’nuff said.