Tidings from the Crew – the dispatcher (John Scalzi)

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Ahoy there mateys!  Though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other.  Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower.  He and I both read the following:

the dispatcher (John Scalzi)

We were talking about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

From the Captain:

This was me first attempt at an audio book.  While I have no real interest in them, this novella has only been released in audio book format and I wanted to read it.  Having no way to get a hold of it otherwise, the first mate and I listened to this one together.

In terms of the audio book experience, I could do without.  The first mate listens to them frequently.  Now to be fair, I thought that the narration of this story as performed by Zachary Quinto was extremely well done.  Way back in the day I listened to radio plays and enjoyed the medium.  Now, I just feel like listening to a book is too darn slow.  I can read much faster.  The first mate claims that ye can listen to audio books at enhanced speeds so maybe that would help.  And of course the short length of the novella was a bonus.  But overall I want text.

Now the beginning of the novella was extremely well set-up.  I loved the concept that 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back to life and that there are Dispatchers whose job it is to take advantage of this “glitch” for the betterment of society.  I totally enjoyed the main character, a Dispatcher named Tony Valdez and how we were introduced to both him and his work.

But I have to admit that once the set-up is over and we get into the mystery plot of the novella I was not as excited.  I mean it was fun and enjoyable but seemingly predictable in terms of the hows and whys of the who-dun-it.  The world itself was the fascinating part and it was not explored nearly enough.  We get glimpses of a crazy underworld, snippets of how Dispatching affects “normal folks,” and tidbits of the varied uses of Dispatching.

I sorta wish there had been no murder mystery.  Of course there was a scene involving frat boys that made me happy and chuckle.  I don’t believe this is Scalzi’s best work but it was worth me time for what it was.

From the First Mate:

Very interesting premise. Execution was middle of the road.  Like with “Lock In,” Scalzi sets up a society-changing situation and then uses it to tell a more or less mundane noir story.  The noir story is well written and the main character is fun, but the character of the detective is practically worthless (she exists solely to have the main character explain the world she lives in to her).  Basically, the sci-fi elements of the story weren’t central (you could tell the same missing person story set in 1920s Chicago) and are merely whiz-bang moments.

Side Note:  Apparently a print version will be coming out in 2017!

Goodreads has this to say about the book:

One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.

It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

To visit the author’s website go to:

John Scalzi – Author

To buy the novella go to:

the dispatcher – Audio Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Tidings from the Crew – wolf in white van (John Darnielle)

Printed matter - Handwriting - Whaling log book, The Daniel Webster 1850s-635x1000

Ahoy there mateys!  Though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other.  Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower.  He and I both read the following:

wolf in white van (John Darnielle)

We were talking about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

From the First Mate:

A  professor of mine once opined that while anyone can start a poem, it takes a poet to finish one. Many years later, after having read several novels written by poets, I’ve come to the opinion that the literary skill set that allows a poet to craft stunning poems typically doesn’t translate to prose.  Most often you get Gregory Corso’s The American Express: poetic inclinations smashing headlong into the requirements of story.  But sometimes, just sometimes, you get poetry in your prose; mystical words skittering just along the edge of story requirements.

Like most, I know of John Darnielle from his work with (as?) The Mountain Goats.  The “about the author” section of Wolf in White Van states “he is widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation,” and I’d have to agree with that assessment.  Much as I consider Bob Dylan a poet (an easier position to hold now more than ever), I’ve long considered Darnielle a poet, and a damn good one at that.

Central to the story of Wolf in White Van is an accident that our narrator, Sean, just barely survived when he was in high school and which has left him permanently disfigured and on disability insurance.  While recovering from the accident, Sean develops a post-apocalyptic role-playing game that later supplements his income and allows him to live a modest and reclusive lifestyle.  We’re told that the name of the game, Trace Italian, comes from a style of medieval fortifications, trace italienne, in which there are “triangular defensive barricades branching out around all sides of a fort: stars within stars within stars, visible from space, one layer of protection in front of another for miles.” And, to be honest, such a description is quite apt for the structure of the novel itself.

Darnielle protects the core of his story, Sean’s accident, with layers of other story fragments.  We learn about the progress of several of the players of Trace Italian and some horrific fallout thereof.  We learn about Sean’s love of Conan tales and his fantasies that spring from it.  We learn about Sean’s recovery from his accident and some of what his life was like before it.  All of it told fragmentally and non-chronologically.  Typically we’re told of how something ends before learning of how it begins. And each fragment, of course, builds on the one that lays next to it.  But we are never given reasons for events. The why of what we’re told is almost always hidden from view.

While reading Wolf in White Van, I found it felt very similar to Haruki Murakami’s very early work Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, as all three novels have a poetic, dreamlike manner to them in which the story drifts from fragmented moment to fragmented moment.  I tend to like such novels, but I can certainly understand where others would find the work frustrating; I’m fairly certain the Captain would hate it. I will certainly be reading Darnielle’s next novel when it comes out.

From the Captain:

I was forewarned.  Got to 18%.  Hated it.  Should’ve listened.

Tidings from the Crew – son of the black sword (Larry Correia)

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Ahoy there mateys!  Thought I would take a break from the e-Arc extravaganza.  Though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other.  Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower.  He and I both read the following:

son of the black sword (Larry Correia)

We were talking about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

From the Captain:

This was a recommendation by me first mate.  A fun time was had reading this book.  There is a sentient sword that I adore.  Even if it has a funny name.  Everyone wants to own this sword, but: beware making the choice to pick it up.  The sword chooses who will wield it, and the consequences tend to be bloody and unfortunate for those not worthy.

Ashok Vadal is the main character.  He starts out as a seemingly simplistic character that embodies the Law.  However, the Law is not as it seems and is more complicated than expected.  Ashok is probably one of the weirdest characters I have read about in terms of his world view and motivations.  This is part of what makes him awesome.  His choices get harder and harder throughout the book and how and why he chooses what to do is some of the best parts of the book.

Ashok has a complicated relationship with Devedas, his best friend.  Devedas was another highlight of the book.  Is he a good guy?  Is he a bad guy?  Only time will tell.  Devedas has a sad past, is ambitious, and is subject to envy.  Reading his perspective is a fun counterpoint to Ashok.

The bad guy priest is sort of stereotypical.  I also found the assassins to be an annoying group with an interesting premise.  However I still enjoyed this book.  In particular, I liked the magic system.  Oh and there is a cool librarian, so bonus for that.  A fluff book with a little bit of depth.  I will certainly read the next in the series.

From the First Mate:

Having greatly enjoyed Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series and mostly enjoyed his first foray into high fantasy (Into the Storm), I approached Son of the Black Sword with somewhat mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I rather like his writing style and am always eager to read more of the writers whose work I enjoy.  On the other, outside of the Monster Hunter series, Correia’s work hasn’t really grabbed me.

Son of the Black Sword, much like Into the Storm before it, is an enjoyable tale that is somewhat hampered by the ever present desire on this reader’s part to ponder its endless influences.  Like many a reader, I couldn’t quite stop seeing Ashok as a Judge Dredd knock-off almost to the point of expecting him to cry out “I am the LAW” at more than a few moments.  The presence of the Swords and their possible origins reminded me so very much of Fred Saberhagen’s trilogy about world-changing swords.  The Inquisitors have many parallels in fantasy, but it was the Mord-siths from Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule that seemed the most apt comparison, what with the special ceremonial attire and hyper specific and grotesque social role.  And on and on.

Regardless of from where Correia may have drawn various inspirations, the story and the characters are interesting and entertaining.  Our good guys are quite likable and our villains are despicable.  We even get a few shades-of-grey characters who are well drawn.  Where the novel disappoints is only in comparison to Correia’s better work.  Son of the Black Sword works through many standard high fantasy tropes but never quite deconstructs nor spins them in a way that would elevate the work to something other than a well-written run-of-the-mill high fantasy novel.  Very enjoyable as long as you’re not expecting any new ground to be broken.

After reading the novel, though, I knew I had to recommend it to the Captain.  Why, you may ask?  Well, any novel that uses “saltwater” as a curse surely will make the Captain smile

The hardback jacket has this to say about the book:

After the War of the Gods, the demons were cast out and fell to the world. Mankind was nearly eradicated by the seemingly unstoppable beasts, until the gods sent the great hero, Ramrowan, to save them. He united the tribes, gave them magic, and drove the demons into the sea. Ever since the land has belonged to man and the oceans have remained an uncrossable hell, leaving the continent of Lok isolated. It was prophesized that someday the demons would return, and only the descendants of Ramrowan would be able to defeat them. They became the first kings, and all men served those who were their only hope for survival.

As centuries passed the descendants of the great hero grew in number and power. They became tyrannical and cruel, and their religion nothing but an excuse for greed. Gods and demons became myth and legend, and the people no longer believed. The castes created to serve the Sons of Ramrowan rose up and destroyed their rulers. All religion was banned and replaced by a code of unflinching law. The surviving royalty and their priests were made casteless, condemned to live as untouchables, and the Age of Law began.

Ashok Vadal has been chosen by a powerful ancient weapon to be its bearer. He is a Protector, the elite militant order of roving law enforcers. No one is more merciless in rooting out those who secretly practice the old ways. Everything is black or white, good or evil, until he discovers his entire life is a fraud. Ashok isn’t who he thinks he is, and when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, the consequences lead to rebellion, war—and destruction.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Larry Correia – Author

To buy the novel visit:

son of the black sword – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

Tidings from the Crew – the girl from everywhere (Heidi Heilig)

pocketwatch

A new category for me mateys!  Though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other.  Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower.  He and I both read the following:

the girl from everywhere (Heidi Heilig)

We were talking about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

From the Captain:

This Captain can say one of the true pleasures in life is standing at the helm, wind in your hair, and the next port on the horizon.  But what if you could sail not only across the world but across centuries and into myth?  Then you would find yourself in a situation like Nix.  And oh how truly beautiful this story was.

I adored this novel.  Nix is right up my alley.  Intelligent, hard working, clever, loyal, and fabulous.  The crew on the ship Temptation (Arrr!  Awesome name) is equally fun.  I am particularly fond of Bee due to her relationship with her old tribe.  Kash and Nix have a lovely friendship that was enjoyable to witness.  I wouldn’t mind any of those salty dogs on me crew.

But the biggest joy for me overall was how varied the author’s research was.  The novel had maps, culture, myths, treasure, history, fun creatures, and more.  Some of the myths and discussions of items, like Qin’s tomb and golems, I knew about.  Other items drawn from Swedish, Welsh, and Hawaiian tradition I knew little about.  And, of course, I always love reading about the superstitions of the sea . . .

The plot and myths and characters were pretty much seamlessly put together.  Some of the language was just so stirring.  It can be read as a “simple” adventure or you can add in other themes.  There were larger themes of the dangers of time travel, familial loyalty, fate, choice, etc.  The book is the author’s debut and is supposedly part of a duology.  I cannot wait!  I want more of Nix’s adventures through time and space.

From the First Mate:

Time travel and causality predicaments.  Perhaps my favorite of all sci-fi/fantasy tropes.  Something about the utility of time travel smashing directly into the possible consequence of undoing everything (perhaps even your very existence) has fascinated me ever since I watched with terror as Marty McFly slowly faded away at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance a score of years ago.  And so, of course, when I read the description of this book, I had to ask the Captain if it was worth reading. It ‘twas.  Oh, my, was it.

The Girl From Everywhere is a delightful temporal romp that fairly deftly explores the differences between personal and familial responsibility while still managing to fit in some sweet romance, mystical creatures, and one of the more delightful causality loops I’ve read in quite some time.  Our protagonist, Nix, is a sharp and quirky sixteen-year-old whose loyalties are both stuck and shifting at any given moment.  The potential existential threat that her father’s plans put her in lead to much of the drama in the tale, and I found it quite easy in most cases to empathize with Nix’s position.  Slate and Kash lacking well rounded characters seemed acceptable when considering that the story was told in the first person by Nix, so it made sense that she be the most well developed of the characters.  It is sad, though, that the rest of the crew (both of them) were little more then mentioned.

The only quibbles I had with the book were quite minor.  It seemed highly unlikely that such a small crew could handle the ship as described.  One of the central rules of the time travel that Nix learns halfway through seems like the type of thing that Slate would’ve learned fairly early on in his travels.  And, like in most time travel stories, the book spends far too much time in one location than I would’ve preferred.  Again, very minor quibbles that barely detract from an otherwise highly enjoyable tale.  Highly recommended.

The author’s website has this to say about the book:

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Heidi Heilig – Author

To buy the novel visit:

the girl from everywhere – Book