Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

To Fall Among Vultures by Scott Warren

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

To Fall Among Vultures by Scott Warren is the second book in the Union Earth Privateers series. Once more we get to strap in with Victoria “Vick” Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, as they search for salvage while staying under the radar of the many other, more powerful species roaming the galaxy. Vick’s Vultures, the first book in the series, did not fare well in terms of my review, earning a two rocket rating. Normally I would not have continued with this series given the failure of the first book to impress me. But I received To Fall Among Vultures from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review and so I set out to honor my side of the deal. Unfortunately, where Vick’s Vultures had a fairly linear storyline that, while not executed well, was at least somewhat easy to follow, To Fall Among Vultures is just plain confusing and I ultimately had to give up.

The series story ideas as a whole are not entirely bad. Earth is a small fish in a very big ocean; they realize very quickly that their best chance for survival is to stay hidden, all the while utilizing privateers to salvage advanced technology from wrecked or otherwise disabled ships belonging to the many other races that are technologically superior to Earth. I give credit to the author: for once humans aren’t the best and the brightest in the galaxy. It’s a setting that really had a lot of potential.

Unfortunately that potential is never realized because the story is just do darn difficult to follow because of the poor writing. Characters are never really given life, point of views seem to switch with reckless abandon, and, with dialog, it’s really difficult to figure out who is saying what.

I’m giving To Fall Among Vultures a single rocket rating as befits a DNF. Sadly, I will not be continuing with the Union Earth Privateers series.

Faithless by Graham Austin-King

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Faithless by Graham Austin-King is one of those books that I didn’t necessarily expect greatness from, but where I was really hoping for an engaging story, some competent writing, and maybe even a handful of moments where I could look back on the reading experience with some fondness. Unfortunately, the author did not deliver on my expectations on enough counts for me to continue reading past about 20%. I do thank the publisher for giving me the opportunity to review Faithless, but a combination of flat writing and flatter characters made for a generally unengaging experience.

The premise wasn’t half bad. There’s a temple with mines underneath. People are called to service, presumably to the temple but, in actuality, to work in the mines. But if one makes their tally so many times in a row, that person has the chance to go before the priests and serve them instead of toiling away in the mines. We are introduced to one such character who was sold into service by his father and another who worked his way out of the mines to serve the priests, but who came back to the mines under mysterious circumstances.

The problem is that neither character is particularly interesting. They’re actually quite ordinary, with no special aptitudes or skills, and nothing about them really grabbed me. Same for the writing. It’s competent enough, but couldn’t make up for the other shortcomings that ultimately led me to put this one down.

I almost feel as if I could give Faithless a higher mark than a single rocket because some people will like it. But I also can’t recommend a book that I couldn’t finish, so one rocket it is.

Artemis by Andy Weir

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Building on the success of The Martian, Artemis by Andy Weir is a book you want to love. You expect science, adventure, gripping moments, and, of course, humor, just like you experienced in The Martian. Artemis does, in fact, deliver on all of those fronts (at least I’ll have to assume it does since I only made it 15% of the way through on my Kindle before I gave up), but in a way that is so ridiculously similar to Weir’s first breakout success that you might wonder if you’re reading the same book at times.

Not that this is a rehash of The Martian. The setting is different—we’re on the Moon this time instead of Mars and our main character isn’t trapped but living inside a dome that is part of a Moon base. The main character is different as well. Different gender, different ethnicity, different background, though her sarcasm and juvenile humor are so nearly identical to that of Watney’s that you have to wonder if Watney had a sex change.

What really killed this book for me was a combination of the unlikeable main character, Weir’s unsophisticated writing style (which actually worked for The Martian because it was Mark Watney telling the story), and the juvenile humor of a character that is, again, so similar to Watney that maybe it is him just in disguise? I’m kidding, of course. Jazz Bashara is most definitely not Mark Watney, though the author clearly lost sight of that fact when he was writing Artemis.

Jazz is a porter, doing odd jobs for what passes for money on the base. She’s offered the job of a lifetime (with pay to match) which I know from reading the book’s description goes bad so that Jazz finds herself mixed up in a plot for control of the very base. Not an entirely bad premise, but not one that piqued my interest enough to put up with the other factors bringing this one down.

I can’t give Artemis more than one rocket. I didn’t finish it and I see no reason for anyone else to even start it. I do thank the publisher for allowing me to read the book in exchange for a fair review. Better luck next time? I hope so, because I really did want this one to work.

Nemo Rising by C. Courtney Joyner

Rating

Review

*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

Nemo Rising by C. Courtney Joyner is a continuation of the classic story begun by Jules Verne in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Nemo is rotting in prison while he awaits the carrying out of his death sentence for the ships he sunk and the lives he took as captain of the technologically advanced Nautilus. Meanwhile, the ships of all nations except the United States continue to be sunk, but by unknown parties. President Grant finds himself in a quandary as suspicions arise that no ships of his nation are falling prey to the mysterious attackers. The other nations of the world believe the United States is somehow using Nemo’s own technology against them in an attempt to seize ultimate power. Grant has no choice but to spare Nemo from the hangman’s noose and enlist his aid in solving the mystery of who is really behind the attacks. Once more, Nemo captains the infamous Nautilus, but this time in service to one of the warmongering nations Nemo hates the most.

So begins a very promising story that, unfortunately, is dragged to the depths of the deepest ocean by, amongst other things, the writing style of the novel’s author. The book cover alone for Nemo Rising is spectacular. Throw in the connection to the Jules Verne classic and Captain Nemo and who wouldn’t want to pick this book up? There’s a certain promise of quality I felt was understood between myself, the author, and the publisher. Granted, I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review, so the only investment I have in Nemo Rising is the time it took me to read it, but I still felt that when you slap such an incredibly awesome cover on a book, which is also a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, that you have to deliver. Nemo Rising, sadly, did not.

First, there’s the writing style. Based on his bio on Goodreads, Mr. Joyner is an accomplished screenwriter, with many movies to his credit. Unfortunately, writing a screenplay and writing a novel are two very different things. Looking back, and now knowing of Mr. Joyner’s background, the writing style of Nemo Rising actually makes sense (perhaps it’s the only thing that makes sense during this entire reading experience). It’s written with such matter-of-factness, such mechanical structure, with little to no description or background or even the smallest setup for a scene or other occurrence, that I had to go back many times to figure out how or what just happened. Too many times, ‘something’ happens, with no preamble or buildup. It’s jarring at times, confusing at others, and disappointing overall.

Moving on, there’s the characters, which fall flat time and time again. There are no character arcs, no character descriptions, no character anything except names and a bit of discussion about Nemo or some other person’s philosophies. It’s a shame, too, because the author could have made Nemo a sympathetic character, one who we may never forgive for the countless innocent lives he took, but at least one we might have some understanding of with respect to his motives. There’s references to his wife and child, both driving forces in his mad acts of the Vernes’ novel, but not once does the author delve into the implications of that event. Nemo is a very driven man, but we are never given a glimpse into his psyche. There are so many lost opportunities there that I cannot begin to even document them here.

I could go on, but it’s almost depressing to consider Nemo Rising in any more depth than I already have because of how great of a novel this could have been. I’m giving it one rocket because I just don’t see any reason for anyone to read this book.