Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Book Review: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station by David Weber is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. The series started in 1992 and, while the main Honor series concluded in 2012 with A Rising Thunder, Weber has written a number of additional series since that time chronicling the continuing adventures of his Royal Manticore Navy captain. In all, there have been some thirty-four Honor Harrington novels. The prospect of reading all of those books is daunting to say the least, which is why I intend to concentrate on reading only the thirteen novels in the original series first. If all goes well with that series, I may continue on. Regardless, anyone coming into the numerous Honor series has many, many books to settle into and get comfy with Honor Harrington as she puts all on the line for queen and country. Some will find that very appealing, others, not so much.

On Basilisk Station begins with our main character just having been promoted to the rank of commander and given her first ship, the Fearless. During her and her new crew’s first war games simulation, Commander Harrington proves too clever for her own good, scoring an early kill on the opposition’s flagship. The flagship may be out of commission, but not so the remainder of the opposition’s fleet, which proceeds to score kill after kill on Fearless as retribution for “destroying” their fleet’s command ship. Politics come into play afterwards, and Fearless is assigned to Basilisk Station, a remote outpost where good commanders are sent to idle their careers away performing useless patrols.

But not long after she arrives, Harrington begins to discover the machinations of some unknown persons bent on disrupting the system and possibly more. What follows is a multi-layered story that moves along at a sufficient pace (most of the time) right up to the final, climatic ending where Commander Harrington’s stubborn perseverance, tactical expertise, and ability to inspire her people to perform great and heroic actions are on full display.

Weber’s writing is serviceable. With the exception of some rather large infodumps (one just as the action is really getting good, no less!) early on and toward the end, he shifts perspectives, injects new information, and heightens the stakes just enough to keep my interest from one chapter to the next. He also spends considerable time introducing us to the crew of the Fearless, which helps to establish these supporting characters as more than just cannon fodder. Bad things do happen; their suffering is felt more poignantly as a result of having gotten to know them.

All told, On Basilisk Station is both a good standalone story and a good introduction to Harrington and the ‘Honorverse,’ as it’s called. I’m looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.

Why Book Reviews Are Oh So Very Important

8774134-important-rubber-stampBook reviews are, first and foremost, for readers. But they're also for authors…and advertisers.

As a reader, I use book reviews to help make buying decisions. I write them because I want to help others make that same decision.

As an author, I sometimes read reviews because I want to know what I'm doing right or wrong. There are different camps on this one. Some authors never read reviews because they feel very strongly that reviews are for readers. Also, they don't want to become upset or distracted by a negative review. On the other side of this are authors who read every single review, good or bad. They use this knowledge to (hopefully) make themselves better storytellers.

Which brings me to the last group that uses reviews: advertisers. Before I get into that, though, let me talk briefly about why advertisers are important to authors.

As a relatively unknown author, I rely on advertising to help get my books in front of people. Sounds simple enough. But the field of effective advertisers has narrowed considerably in the past 1-2 years, and so has the competition to get listed. It used to be that advertisers took anyone and everyone. Pay them the money and they'd feature your book. But readers soon grew wary of these sorts of 'email blasts' because there was no guarantee of quality. So along came a new style of advertising where advertisers started curating the books sent their way. No longer was it acceptable to have poorly designed covers, content riddled with grammar and other errors, or, getting back to the point of this post, poor ratings and reviews.

Not only that, but advertisers began to require a minimum level of stats before they'd even consider a book for listing. Many of them now require a minimum of 4 stars for a rating and 10 reviews. Further, they look at the content of those reviews, weeding out any books with 'too many typos' or those that 'need editing.'

I can only deal with one of those criteria: the last one. The quality of the work is entirely on the author.

But the reviews are entirely on the reader. Sure, I can help it along with review copies, which I have done, but you still reach a point where you need the reader who you didn't contact or don't know to step up and leave a rating or review.

So, the next time you finish a book, think about taking a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere. Reviews don't need to be long or in-depth. A sentence or two is sometimes enough. A review doesn't have to be positive, either. Sometimes a negative one is just as beneficial as a positive one.

And if you've read one of my books, why not leave a review now? I'd really appreciate your honest opinion. I'm pretty sure other readers will, too.

Book Review: Murder in the Boughs by Jamie Sedgwick

I received Murder in the Boughs by Jamie Sedgwick from the author via a GoodReads giveaway. Murder in the Boughs is a standalone novel and, unfortunately from what I could tell, the only "Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre" novel Mr. Sedgwick has written. Mr. Sedgwick has a number of other novels to choose from, however, many of which have caught my eye and found their way onto my Amazon Wish List.

Murder in the Boughs is a detective novel of the hard-boiled variety. Hank Mossberg is Sedgwick's Mike Hammer or Phillip Marlowe (my personal favorite), except for the fact that he's an ogre who walks a line between the "real" world and the hidden one, where fae exist. The fae of Sedgwick's world are more human-like than you might expect, though. They are thugs, hitmen, crime bosses, nurses, policemen, drug pushers (and abusers), and, of course, detectives.

Hank Mossberg is unique in more ways than one. Not only is he the last of his kind, but he's also the Steward, a position appointed to him by the fae Elders. In the fae world, his job is to investigate crimes and enforce fae law. In the human world, he's more detective and less lawkeeper. Though magic is prevalent in the fae world, Mossberg is immune to all of it. Bullets, however, present their usual problem for him, especially when uzi wielding elves come looking for him.

Murder in the Boughs presents two crimes for Hank to solve: one involving the elicit fae drug known as "pixie dust" and the other the kidnapping of a human child. While the cases are separate from one another, we find Hank juggling each throughout the novel. Ultimately, they never really cross one another, something I found a little disappointing. I thought there could have been some connection between the crimes, and thus possibly a more climatic ending.

Sedgwick, however, does a nice job with the conclusion of the pixie dust case; the reveal of the responsible perpetrator was unexpected. With the case of the missing child, I was left a bit unfulfilled, only because the wrap-up comes suddenly and almost wholly dealt with towards the lattermost part of the novel.

Murder in the Boughs is an enjoyable, fun read. I'd like to see more of Hank Mossberg. I think the character has more cases to solve and enough character depth to become the next Hammer or Marlowe if the author chooses to spend more time with him.

Book Review: Honour of the Grave by Robin Laws

Honour of the Grave by Robin Laws is another book that didn't do it for me. Unlike the last couple of books that I gave up on fairly early on, though, this one had me until one of the characters did something that I felt was completely out of character. Unfortunately, this event was jarring enough that I had to put this one down.

This novel is part of the Warhammer series of novels. I haven't read enough of them to know what order this might fit into or if there is any order to them at all, but the novel seems to stand alone. This is actually the second Warhammer novel I've reviewed.

So where did Honour of the Grave go wrong? It's when Angelika, who is a grave robber by trade, betrays her very nature by saving a young noble whom she knows will be killed once she hands him over to his rival brothers. Rather than taking the bounty, leaving the lad to his fate, and riding off to her next adventure, she snatches the young lord from the clutches of death and so makes herself some very powerful enemies, not to mention causing herself to stand out in a way you wouldn't think a grave robber would relish.

I wasn't alone in this opinion of Angelika as evidenced by the reviews on Amazon.

Unfortunately, what started as a fun fantasy romp fell flat when stood up against Angelika's bizarrely shifting personality.

Book Review: Starfish by Peter Watts

I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about Starfish by Peter Watts just didn't do it for me. Perhaps it was the flat characters. Or the proliferation of dialog with little descriptive text or explanation as to what's going on. Or maybe it was the droll story development. Whatever the case, I didn't get very far in when I started to feel thoroughly unenthused about going on. I've found through personal experience that when I'm not excited about reading a book that it then becomes a chore or requirement that I continue reading. In my younger days I would accept this but soldier on anyway. Nowadays, my time is too valuable; there are too many good books out there to spend time on one I have to force myself to read.

That aside, Starfish was well-written, and I wonder if the author had jumped into the central story (whatever that may be) sooner then maybe I'd be writing this review giving the novel if not a thumbs up, then at least a more thorough review.