Note: The summary below is for less than the first hundred pages of a 300-page book. I don't consider them spoilers, but if you're a stickler, don't r...moreNote: The summary below is for less than the first hundred pages of a 300-page book. I don't consider them spoilers, but if you're a stickler, don't read beyond this.
There's quite a lot to like about this book. The author, Stuart Jaffe, was unknown to me before I attended a small science fiction/fantasy con in Chattanooga, TN, in June of 2013. My friends and I met the author, spent some time with him, liked him, and I ended up buying two of his books because they sounded interesting. This is the first I have read. Note: The other author, Cameron Francis, is a magician, and all of the card "tricks" in the book are his. Jaffe and Cameron do a good job of showing card tricks without the use of cards. :)
The main character, Duncan Rose, starts out not very likable. He learned all about magic — especially card-handling techniques — from his great-grandfather, Pappy. But instead of using his skills to make an honest living as a stage magician, he cheats at cards. This backfires on him one night, and his partner in crime, Pancake, who also knows a little about cheating at cards, cheats the wrong people and nothing Duncan does to try to defuse the situation helps. Minor spoiler: (view spoiler)[Pancake ends up losing his hand to the Russian mob, and the men are told they have to come up with $20,000 before morning or worse things are going to befall them. (hide spoiler)]
Desperate, Duncan turns to his estranged family and gets no help. They're all tired of his dishonest lifestyle. As a last-ditch effort, he goes to the one person he can trust: Pappy.
Who turns him down.
In despair, Duncan decides that he is going to have to do the unthinkable: steal from Pappy. Pappy has kept a mysterious, elaborately decorated door closed in his apartment for years, warning Duncan again and again never to open it. But suddenly, whatever might be behind that door sounds like the solution to Duncan's problems. He opens the door and steps through.
And winds up outside a house in a small city in Pennsylvania. In 1934. He's wearing different clothes and finds less than five dollars in his pockets. He tries to convince himself it's all an elaborate illusion set up by Pappy, but quickly realizes that it's real. For whatever reason, the door is magic — the real thing — and he really is in 1934. His goal: to get back to 2013 and fix things.
He immediately falls back on his one real skill and finds a card game he can cheat at. He discovers he's not the only one pulling the same scam. He and the other magician, Vincent, team up and cheat some mobsters out of $100, which is a large sum of money in 1934.
Unfortunately, their boss figures it out and comes for Duncan. And makes him a deal: Duncan is to get himself into the local magic club (of which Vincent is the head honcho) and find out their secrets and relay everything he discovers to the mob boss "or else."
He soon discovers that everyone is after the same thing: a mysterious Vanishing Door act performed by a magician near the turn of the century. An act during which several people actually disappeared. Lucy has drawn a picture of the door, and it looks strangely familiar: a lot like the door in Pappy's apartment.
Vincent wants the door because he wants the secret of the trick. Duncan wants it because he believes it to be his ticket home to 2013. The mob boss wants it for the power he believes it will give him.
To complicate things, Duncan finds himself head over heels in love with Vincent's sister, Lucy, and is torn between leaving her in 1934 or bringing her with him back to 2013.
I won't give away the ending. Suffice it to say that the resolution was refreshing to me. Time travel stories generally have a number of problems, but Jaffe manages to thread that particular needle nicely, and finds a solution that didn't make me groan and roll my eyes.
The tension is kept high as Duncan must satisfy the mob boss while simultaneously gain the trust of Vincent and the other magicians in the magic club and not betray his growing love for Lucy, and hers for him. The pacing is fast, and you will be kept turning the pages not only to find out how — or whether — Duncan manages to find a solution to all of his problems, but how the love story between Lucy and Duncan turns out.
I enjoyed watching Duncan grow from a not-very-likable character to one that finds true love and tries to do the right thing.
The characters are believable, the time travel is nicely handled (although never explained, which I'm fine with), and the resolution is satisfying. Although I did (eventually) see the end coming, it has a certain elegance that I wasn't expecting from the trope used. (Is that mysterious enough?)
I would recommend the book to those who enjoy magic, time travel, "period pieces," mysteries, and love stories. It has aspects of all of them, and yet isn't purely any of them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The short review of this is, "It's complicated." If you've read it, you'll understand (on at least two levels). If not . . . then read it and you'll u...moreThe short review of this is, "It's complicated." If you've read it, you'll understand (on at least two levels). If not . . . then read it and you'll understand. :)
I very much enjoyed listening to this book. Not just for the story, but for Wil Wheaton's performance of the story. He's very good at doing both sincere and cheesy, and this book was cram-packed with . . . OK, mostly cheesy, but also some sincere.
Where to even start. Imagine a world that DEFINITELY ISN'T STAR TREK, REALLY, but on the spaceship that TOTALLY ISN'T THE ENTERPRISE WHY WOULD YOU EVEN THINK THAT, the unimportant members of the crew, the redshirts, start to notice that they drop like flies whenever certain things happen. The captain, the first officer, the doctor, even the astrogator, start to act really strange. To speak in over-dramatic, frankly overwritten dialogue, and then redshirts die. Stupidly. They suddenly know things they couldn't know, say things they don't want to say, and do things that no sane person would do, and they die. Dramatically. Often showing how the monster works. Almost as if some outside force is in control of events.
Well, this one group of redshirts doesn't want that to happen to them. So they try to remain under the radar. Stay out of the way. And as events unfold, they learn the weird truth and discover why all this is happening.
And that's when the book takes a left turn into meta-fiction. It does not cross Go. It does not collect $200. It goes directly into meta-fiction. And meta-meta-fiction at one mind-blowing point. But not meta-meta-meta-fiction, because THAT would be just silly, now wouldn't it?
And yet . . . and yet, it works. It's funny. It reminds me of Galaxy Quest. It reminds me of Stranger than Fiction. It reminds me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It raises some interesting philosophical questions. It points out how the "fiction" part of "science fiction" often takes center stage, always to the detriment of the "science" part. It underscores the lazy writing that is too-often seen on popular science fiction shows where 'action' too often means 'something blows up' or 'someone dies' or 'someone nearly dies.'
It does all of that and it entertains, too.
The only reason this didn't get five stars is that I kept getting reminded that I was reading (OK, listening to someone read) a book and not being drawn into the universe of the story whole.
The word 'said.' Writers are often advised by other writers to just use "said" and avoid things like, "he exclaimed," "she reiterated," "they exposited," and just stick with "he/she/they said," because the word 'said' disappears and the reader doesn't notice it.
What they should then go on to add is that this is, indeed, the case IF the writer doesn't tag literally every line of dialogue with it. Seriously, if two people are in a room alone and they have a conversation, there is no need for them to constantly refer to one another by name or for every line of dialogue to be followed by "he said" or "she said."
It got so intrusive at one point that I started laughing at how Wil Wheaton was trying desperately to downplay the words so that it wasn't so obvious. But it was still obvious. When the reader/listener focuses more on the words you use to tell the story and not what's going on in the story, it's not a good thing.
So, yes, this was immensely entertaining. I enjoyed it. I recommend it. He said.(less)
**spoiler alert** I'm not one to expound too much on low ratings, but I feel compelled to do so, here, given the high praise heaped on this book by ot...more**spoiler alert** I'm not one to expound too much on low ratings, but I feel compelled to do so, here, given the high praise heaped on this book by other reviewers.
That said, this will be spoilerific, so if you want out, now would be the time to bail. Seriously. I'm going to spoil the hell out of this.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing against indie publishers (authors who choose to self-publish). This review has nothing to do with that.
First, the things I liked about the book.
The author is actually very good at pacing. The book reads easily -- one might almost say 'effortlessly' -- and you keep turning page after page to see how things come out.
I think that, from a technical viewpoint, the author is not bad. Nothing leaped out at me, as sometimes happens, to kick me out of the story because of some technicality of writing or style that reminded me, "Hey, you're reading a book." Some beautiful little turn of phrase or clever dialogue that made me focus on the words and not the story.
I thought the main characters were likable, and I found myself caring what happened to them at every point. This was, for me, the saving grace of the book.
Now, if that were all I judged the books on, I would easily have given this 4 stars and moved on. I was entertained. But a couple of things just have to be said.
First of all, I'm not a psychologist, nor do I have any clinical understanding of the field. But I couldn't help but notice that the people in this world don't behave like real people living in a real world. We are told early on that none of the people banished to clean the lenses has ever -- EVER, in hundreds of years -- failed to do his or her duty before dying.
Unless we're being lied to -- and that is a possibility, but if that's the case, then it was far too subtle for me to pick up on -- I find it highly improbable that not a single person would have failed to clean the lenses in hundreds of years. I would not have cleaned them, and I don't think I'm SO different from other people. I would have thought, "So long, suckers, I'm going to head over toward that miraculous city over there." Probably tinged with a little, "You jerks kicked me out. Why should I do you any favors?" Or maybe I would have frantically jumped up and down gesticulating wildly at the onlookers, trying to make them understand that they were being lied to.
I had a real problem getting past that. It seemed plausible right up to the point where you kind of started to figure out what was going on, and then with the least bit of thought about it, the premise just collapses.
I read this on my Kindle (so no skipping ahead). After the main character of the first section dies, I thought, "Oh, so that was kind of a prologue. No problem." Then I read the second part, where the mayor was the main character . . . and then SHE dies. "O . . . K," I thought, angry, but willing to move on. Then the third section opens with Juliette about to be sent out for cleaning, and we quickly find out that the deputy committed suicide, and I stopped reading for over a week, absolutely disgusted with the book. This was at 23% in the Kindle.
I mentioned as much to a friend who had read the whole thing, and she told me that Juliette remained the main character for the remainder of the book.
Had I not known this, I would have honestly stopped reading it right there. It's too much. Give me a character to hang onto from the beginning. Don't yank the rug out from under me like that not once, not twice, but THREE times, and expect me to continue reading.
The next time I almost stopped reading was when Bernard explained to Lukas how all the silos came to be. It was . . . just so contrived. I mean, straight out of insane conspiracy theories about the New World Order. In short, the US saw that it was in decline, and rather than just deal with that, the Ebil Gubmint decided that if they couldn't be in charge, no one ELSE could, either, so they literally made the surface of the entire planet uninhabitable and established the silos as a kind of Ark to preserve the species and their ideological way of life. Why? Because they're EBIL. And they're the GUBMINT.
Had this come earlier in the book . . . I would have stopped reading it and moved on to something else. As it was, this came after I was invested in the characters of Juliette, Solo, Walker, Shirly, and Lukas. So I kept reading to find out how it ended. That, incidentally, is why I didn't give it 1 star. I did get invested in the characters, and I did want to know what happened. And, as I said, the pacing was marvelous.
Speaking of getting invested . . . Juliette risks her life to leave silo 17 and return to silo 18. I fully expected Lukas to die, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be Bernard. But in spite of her promise to the inhabitants of silo 17, we are not shown that she mentions them AT ALL after her return to silo 18. At the end, in an epilogue, we are given a glimpse into what's going on in silo 17 as Solo is about to call Juliette . . . but we don't know if anyone in silo 18 was primed to receive the call. For all the 17ians knew, Juliette died in the Outside. She was, after all, out of commission for weeks while she healed from her burns.
I was expecting Juliette's acceptance of the Mayorship to hinge on connecting 17 and 18 in the Down Deep and get some engineers over there to get 17 running again. But . . . no.
To be fair, perhaps this is the story for the sequel series, but it would have been nice for him to have at least followed up on this.
One last thing that just bothered the crap out of me is resources. It was stated that the silo complex was located near Atlanta, Ga. There were mines and oil wells under the silo. But I find it very difficult to believe that there is enough ore and oil in Georgia to sustain 50 silos for hundreds upon hundreds of years of constant mining and pumping. I also found it very difficult to believe that in all that time, not even once did a wall collapse between the mines of adjacent silos.
Anyway, that's enough. My two stars are because I just can't accept the psychology, world building, physics, and math of the world I'm being asked to accept. And basing the entire premise on a loony conspiracy theory didn't help.
I wanted to like this book more. I'm not sorry I finished reading it, but if someone had told me from the beginning that it was based in New World Order conspiracy theories, I would have passed.(less)
The Deacon Chalk series started out good and has remained so. In this second book, Chalk and his companion come across a bunch of guys brutally beatin...moreThe Deacon Chalk series started out good and has remained so. In this second book, Chalk and his companion come across a bunch of guys brutally beating a dog in a parking lot. Now, you know Chalk ain't gonna let something like that happen. Not in his city.
Only, he very nearly gets his ass handed to him. The people beating the dog to death? Lycanthropes. All predators. All big, all nasty, and all too happy to go up against Chalk in a battle for the hapless dog.
Who, of course, turns out to be a were-dog.
We have in this book an all-out battle for who gets to be the biggest, baddest were in Atlanta. And the stakes? The lives of pretty much everyone Chalk knows.
You can probably see where it's headed, of course. Once Chalk takes someone under his wing and promises to protect them, pretty much no known force can stop him.
Oh, they can try. But pain usually is the end result. Chalk's, his friends', large swaths of Atlanta's, the bad guys' . . .
I can't even tell you about the battle at the Warren because then I'd have to mention the were-t -- nope. Not gonna spoil it.(less)
This book was just freakin' weird. That is the only word that suffices. Gross, horrific, and disgusting in about equal measure, it was also funny as h...moreThis book was just freakin' weird. That is the only word that suffices. Gross, horrific, and disgusting in about equal measure, it was also funny as hell and kept me glued to the pages from start to end. (It was kind of uncomfortable, actually.)
I'm not even sure how to review this thing without spoiling it. There's this guy named David Wong, and his friend John. They . . . hunt monsters. Like this one monster that's made of meat. Not in the way that you or I are made of meat, but in a more literal way. Like, it's a monster . . . made of meat. Like, meat from a freezer, all held together in a disgusting way by a supernatural power of evil.
Which can be vanquished, apparently, by really loud, heavy metal music played on a boom box. Or mint candies with bible verses printed on them.
And there's a dog named Molly who both is and isn't a dog. Who can sometimes levitate and talk. Of course, all she says is something about Korrok.
Korrok . . . that would be the big, supernatural evil. Kind of. It's complicated.
I'm making kind of a mess of this, aren't I?
Um. There's also a girl. More than one, actually. Jennifer Lopez and Amy. No, not that Jennifer Lopez. The less said about her, the better.
Amy, though . . . she's the kind of girl who disappears from inside a locked room for several hours every night, to be replaced by a bag of what looks like fat. And a giant, levitating jelly-fish. Of evil. Only she doesn't remember where she went.
Look, just read it. Seriously. I . . . just read it.
I find this kind of thing absolutely fascinating, and this book was no exception. It is a history of the English alphabet from its earliest versions,...moreI find this kind of thing absolutely fascinating, and this book was no exception. It is a history of the English alphabet from its earliest versions, back when it was probably developed in its earliest form by the Egyptians, then took on a form you can start to recognize when the Phoenicians made it their own. Then by way of the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Romans, and finally the French and Anglo-Saxons, we get our familiar 26-letter alphabet. Some of the letters are 3000 years old; some are less than 200 years old.
Stroud covers the histories of the letters in groups, discussing how, for instance, I, J, and Y are intimately related, as are F, U, V, and W.
Fascinating stuff, especially if you're a word-nerd or are simply interested in the history of our language. This is a book I will definitely come back to multiple times.
Stroud's podcast, The History of English, is the inspiration for this audiobook, and if you like this book, you should really check it out.(less)
Dancing From the Shadows is a partially biographical but fictionalized account of one family's experiences of adopting two older siblings (5 and 2 yea...moreDancing From the Shadows is a partially biographical but fictionalized account of one family's experiences of adopting two older siblings (5 and 2 years old) from a Bulgarian orphanage and discovering that one of the children has autism. They were not ready for a special-needs child. Specifically requested anything but, in fact. But once they saw the children, they fell instantly in love, and nothing could convince them that they were not meant to be these two children's parents.
From potty training to puberty, Tori and Philip must find ways to cope with Gabe's autism while simultaneously not neglecting his neuro-typical sister Lydia and making her feel like a second-class member of the family. A tight-rope act that has various degrees of success, depending on who is asked.
Tori throws herself into finding ways to help Gabe and her obsession begins to take a heavy toll on the family, as Philip finds the enticing come-ons of sexy, femme-fatale coworker Delia more and more irresistible as Tori becomes more distant. Ostracized by both their church and their school, finding places that will accept Gabe's erratic--but normal for him--behavior becomes increasingly difficult. Combine that with a devastating loss of one of Tori's friends and the financial toll of Gabe's increasing medical costs, and you get a combination that has destroyed many families.
Before reading this book, I didn't know much about autism. I knew it was incurable and that medical science has not yet been able to find the cause or causes, but I had no appreciation of the daily struggles faced by the parents of a child with autism. This book lays it out and takes the reader on the journey of discovery along with Tori as she tries everything to "fix" her "broken" child.
I wish every child with autism had parents as dedicated and caring as the two in this book.
The book is funny at times, tragic at others, well-paced throughout, and will draw you in and make you want to know what happens. The characters are believable and you'll find yourself especially liking their quirky neighbor Serena. And while you're enjoying it, it will also teach you about autism and the trials and tribulations faced by a family coping with it.
A good read, and definitely recommended for anyone who discovers themselves suddenly faced with the prospect of raising a child with autism.
The single complaint I have about the book is that there are a number of printing errors. They're noticeable, but not so much that they detract from the reading. But I do hope the publisher fixes them before the next printing.(less)
One of my goals for 2013 is to read more short fiction. This collection definitely fit the bill. I love short fiction, and I love well-done humor. Thi...moreOne of my goals for 2013 is to read more short fiction. This collection definitely fit the bill. I love short fiction, and I love well-done humor. This anthology is nicely balanced. The humor ranges from puns with elaborate set-ups that are a great deal of fun to more subtle humor that doesn't make you laugh out loud, but may make you chuckle. Evilly, even.
I think there's definitely something in this collection for everyone, no matter what your sense of humor. The comics are a nice addition I wasn't expecting, although my one complaint is that they're awfully hard to read on the Kindle edition. Luckily, I have a print edition, as well, so I can see them there.
I was just looking at the table of contents to see if I could pick a favorite. Harder than I thought.
"El and Al vs. Himmler's Horrendous Horde from Hell" by Mike Resnick is definitely in the top few. Resnick is one of the masters of short fiction, and this story kept me giggling throughout. Just imagine Albert Einstein as a wizard fighting Himmler...and you still don't really come close. You need to read it.
I also really enjoyed "The Alien Invasion As Seen In The Twitter Stream of @dweebless" by Jake Kerr. If you're on Twitter, you'll doubly appreciate the humor.
"The Velveteen Golem" by David Sklar also satisfied by providing an entirely hilarious story that surprised me at the end with a deplorable (meaning really good, in this case) word pun, that I should have seen coming but didn't.
I think of all of them, Jody Lynn Nye's "The Worm's Eye View" and Ferrett Steinmetz's "One-Hand Tantra" were my favorites. Nye's story is a good hard sci-fi story that manages to weave humor into it in a way that doesn't detract from the science fiction. Kudos to her for that.
Steinmetz's story...ah, what I can say about this that won't get me banned from Goodreads? :) "Hilarious!" That works. I mean, who knew masturbation could be a magical power?
You'll definitely find something here to tickle your funny bone.(less)