Thursday, 5 April 2018

Samples Snapshot Review #1

On the 24th of March I had a quick look at Amazon’s Kindle books, specifically the top 10 from new releases (30 and 90 days) and hot new releases. Disregarding things that looked really not my cup of tea and later entries in series, I noted a few down and gave the samples a quick going over. Here are my thoughts.

I found this near(ish) future sci-fi easy to read, with multiple POVs and an interesting premise. A telescope on the Moon (now colonised) discovers alien ships heading to Earth. The telescope’s director announces it publicly, and the seven Great Powers have six months to decide how to react. There were a few small problems with typos (and clunky writing/repetition, one line describing two nations as firm allies, then the next saying one might be a slight ally to the other) but nothing that got in the way.

A small crew of humans have developed travelled, mostly in stasis, aboard a less than perfect ship to a different star, and come back. Due to dilation of time, just over eight years has passed for the crew, but nearly a thousand has for Earth. What will they find? Upon returning to the solar system, problems arise with the ship, and the only signal they can get is a repeating beacon from Mars. Can they decelerate to actually return to Earth? What’s the state of mankind? It’s possible the author deliberately curtailed the sample to avoid giving away whether or not, and how (if so), they get back to Earth. Very early on is there are quite a few character names thrown in at short order but that shakes itself out fairly soon, and the crew reactions to the difficult situation help to set them apart. I was left wondering how things pan out.

NB I cheated with this one. The fifth and final book, lacking a subtitle, appeared on the list and I decided to check out the first.

Unusually for fiction, this uses blank lines rather than indented paragraphs. It doesn’t detract at all, just looks a bit unusual at first. The opening story follows Ridmark and his family as they attend a grand do. He and his wife Calliande recently lost their newborn daughter, and Calliande leaves the house for the first time in months to attend. All seems well, until an unexpected guest arrives. Interesting setting, which seems to be a mix of high fantasy and Roman/European history, but there is an awful lot of info-dumping (much of which appears unnecessary) that bogs down the earliest part of the story.

Told from multiple POVs, this sci-fi sample is intriguing but also a little frustrating. The story appears to cover the end of an interstellar war and a new conflict emerging afterwards, but the sample feels too small to get to grips with the premise. The writing style is well done and I enjoyed what I read, but there wasn’t enough text there for me to feel engaged with the story. It may well be a very good book, I just wish there was more in the sample to gauge whether it was my cup of tea or not.

Told from the single perspective of Vekal, I really liked the sample of Blood and Sand. It’s set, as you might expect, in a fantasy desert location. Vekal’s a Sin Eater, a religious warrior-monk type of fellow who can remove the sins from others to ease their passing into the lovelier side of the afterlife, but who is nevertheless held in contempt by those who serves. His city’s been overrun by barbarians and his immediate task is to stop himself getting killed. Even in the sample there are some plot twists and I like the way things are going. The odd flashback helps add to Vekal’s character and break the otherwise continuous narrative of what he’s doing, and the action’s well told without being overdone. I may well buy this (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s just 99p for the equivalent of 520 pages).

Quite a lot of good stuff, and if I had to pick just one, it’d be Blood and Sand. Not only did I enjoy it the most, it’s very reasonably priced.


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