Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

Rating

Review

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

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski is the second novel in the re-issued editions of the Witcher series by Gollancz Press. It is preceded by The Last Wish, a collection of short stories written after Blood of Elves but which take place chronologically before the events of that book. There have been many editions of the Witcher books, and with new books in the series continuing to come out, some of which are set before, some after, and some in between other books in the series, it’s a difficult task keeping the exact order straight. In any case, here we have Blood of Elves, the book that really gets the overarching Witcher storyline started.

The fact that there even is an overarching storyline was a bit of a surprise to me. Coming into this series, and given what I know from the various Witcher RPG’s and video games, I was expecting something that focused on our main character, Geralt?of Rivia, monster hunter extraordinaire, doing what he (presumably) does best: hunt monsters. Instead we are introduced to a small cast of supporting characters who somehow take on the roles of main characters, as if this series?is not principally about the Witcher at all. There’s the beautiful and powerful sorceress, Yennefer, who is also Geralt’s love interest; Ciri, who is your basic Chosen One; and Dandelion, a bard who survives by his wit and charm and only then just barely at times. There’s also Geralt, of course, but—and herein lies the single biggest problem I had with Blood of Elves—we hardly get to see him. The story is really about Ciri and the various political and other machinations which come into play because of her importance. Geralt pops in here and there, but his contribution is surprisingly minor. It’s almost as if he’s really just a supporting character and not the main hero of our series at all.

Geralt’s absence is not the only aspect of Blood of Elves that doesn’t work. There’s also the somewhat disjointed story itself, which jumps back and forth from Ciri and her Witcher training to the mounting tension between the different races to Yennefer and her plans to tutor Ciri. If only Mr. Sapkowski had featured Geralt more prominently, I think this second book in the series could have earned a higher rating from me. As it stands, I’m giving Blood of Elves two rockets. Not a bad read if you’re interested in reading the entire series but nowhere near a must-read for fantasy fans in general. I do want to thank Gollancz Press once more for providing the complete series to me in paperback format as a surprise Christmas time giveaway last year. I’m continuing with the series, so look for my review of Time of Contempt soon.

Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren

Rating

Review

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

Vick’s Vultures by Scott Warren was a book I really wanted to like. The premise sounds great:

Victoria Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, and her crew of Vultures have been running dry for months. In danger of losing her command and her credibility if she can’t locate fresh salvage, she locks onto the distress signal of an alien ship in hopes of valuable cargo. What she finds instead is First Prince Tavram, the heir apparent to one of the largest empires in known space. Tavram’s ship has been crippled after narrowly escaping an ambush and his would-be assassin is coming to finish the job.

Looking back, the story really is as good as it sounds. But where Vick’s Vultures fails miserably in its execution. The writing is ridiculously confusing. The characters are flat pieces of cardboard with minimal personality and little to no background or motivation whatsoever. The aliens are…odd, which is ok because, hey, they’re aliens and should be different from humans. But their personalities are as flat as the crew members of the Vulture. Toss in enough characters with no distinctiveness into a melee of confusing writing and you’ve got a recipe for a very quick DNF. I considered dropping this one at several points, but, for reasons unknown, I slogged through it. This is the kind of book that really drains you as a reader, and that’s just kind of sad.

Vick’s Vultures is the first in the Union Earth Privateers series. It is followed by To Fall Among Vultures, which I have already attempted to read at the time of this review. Stay tuned for my thoughts on that one. As for Vick’s Vultures, I just don’t have a lot of good things to say about it. It’s somewhat enjoyable, but you really aren’t missing anything by skipping it.

Don’t Live For Your Obituary by John Scalzi

Rating

Review

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

Don't Live for Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008-2017 by John Scalzi is a collection of posts taken from Scalzi’s popular blog, Whatever. Scalzi gave each post some light editing, but otherwise if you’re a long time follower of his, you’ve probably already read many if not all of this material. The benefit of this collection is that you’re getting those same posts in a somewhat logical (as opposed to chronological) order since Scalzi put them into loose categories as follows:

  • Golden Nuggets of Writerly Wisdom, or, This Is Where I Offer Up Some Writing Advice, Take It or Don’t
  • The Fine Art of Putting Your Books and Yourself Out There Without Wanting to Drink Acid, or, Let’s Talk About Publishing and Online Presence
  • This is the Section Where Scalzi Snarks on People More Famous Than He Is, So Get Out Your Popcorn, or, Thoughts on Writers and Other Notables
  • Don’t Type Angry, Well, Okay, Fine, Go Right Ahead, or, Writing Controversies and Other Such Nonsense
  • Jeez, Scalzi, Does It Always Have To Be About You? Why Yes, Yes It Does, or, Notes From My Career

From looking at the categorizations, one might expect to find posts with topics that vary widely. Consider such expectations correct. You’ll find everything from Scalzi’s opinion on the latest drama going on within the inner author circles, to how to react to reviews, to an egotistical look at the author’s many successes, and, last, a fairly good amount of advice on how to grow and sustain a career in writing. That last point comes with the caveat that everything stated is what worked for Scalzi and that your mileage may vary.

So, bottom line, Don't Live for Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008-2017, is the kind of collection you might want to read if you’re a fan of Scalzi’s blog or his internet persona, but if you’re looking for substantial, informative views on writing there just isn’t a whole lot here. I think Scalzi would have been better served by writing a book such as Stephen King’s On Writing. Scalzi has the genre cred and the success at this point in his career to author such a book. Instead, though, he went the route of recycling blog posts. That in itself is kind of disappointing.