Wanted: Dieselpunk Recommendations

In followup to last weeks’s announcement of The Punkettes blog launch party, I’d like to make an open call for Things You’d Like To See Reviewed over at The Punkettes.

I’ll be focusing on Dieselpunk, myself, so that’s mainly what I’m looking for. Problem is, while Steampunk has hit it big lately, Dieselpunk is still fairly obscure, and often stuff that has Dieselpunk elements may not be labelled or advertised as such. Help tracking down stuff that other lovers of Dieselpunk would enjoy is muchly welcome.

I am open to authors suggesting their own books, but a couple of things to say on recommendations from authors for their own books:

– Dieselpunk stuff only. Please do not spam me with anything that isn’t at least tangentially related. If it looks like you didn’t even read this post, and ask me to buy a copy of your paranormal romance to review it, expect your comment or email to be deleted without a reply.

– Self published books may not get to the top of the to-be-read list very fast, for the reasons detailed in my previous post on self-published books. (As with traditionally published authors, please be prepared for an honest opinion if your book has not been through a relatively professional editing process. If it’s immediately obvious to me that it hasn’t, I may decide not to review it at all.)

– Offering review copies will definitely help put your book at the top of my to-be-read list.

That said, bring on the recommendations. Either reply to this post, or click the Contact Me link at the top of the page to send me an email.

Book Review: Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine

I glanced over the nebula award nominees for this year to see if anything piqued my interest, and saw this one. Steampunk, set in a post apocalyptic setting – I was sold. It’s a circus of undead performers, enhanced with hollow bones for the acrobats to make them light as birds, a human trapeze, a strong man with a steel spine, and his brother saved from fever with mechanical lungs. Once there was a man with wings, like a bird, until he fell.

I went into it not knowing what to expect, so I’m not sure what I expected. It’s very experimental, style wise (literary, some might say). The Steampunk is more a veneer over the top, an aesthetic choice, which I love. Genre wise, I would call it magic realism, because there is magic, but the way magic works is never explained, but used in more of a free-form way.

The story made me think of Peter S. Beagle or Neil Gaiman. I don’t think I’ve read anything so subtly creepy since The Innkeeper’s Song. It’s about beauty and love and death, and the writing itself is beautiful too.

I normally find things this experimental to be annoying, but I think that’s often because “literary” authors sometimes think that the writing is everything, and they don’t have to have a story to tell. Miss Valentine has a story to tell. She doesn’t tell it in chronological order, and the point of view is all over the place, running from first to third person and not skipping second person, and yet, the confusion at first didn’t bother me. It was obvious fairly quickly that it was told out of order.

Also, I liked the scene openings she had sometimes, the ones that start with “This is what happens when (insert framing phrase to tell me where she’s jumping into the story.)” It was as unsubtle as a slap in the face, maybe, butso much less annoying than the author using dates to tell you when something’s taking place. I can’t stand that, I can’t keep track of the numbers in the dates, so they might as well not be there. This? This was effective and efficient.

Overall, I loved it, it was beautiful.

Bradley P. Beaulieu The Straits of Galahesh Giveaway

This one’s been on my TBR list for a while, and I might not get to it until next year, but the cover of book one, The Winds of Khalakovo caught my eye as soon as I saw it. Anything that is clearly not standard hack and slash swords and sorcery or medieval epic fantasy draws my interest, and airships are awesome, so here’s my plug for extra points to win free copies.

Anyway, he’s got a draw for free copies here, so if you’re interested, enter. This is an author from the Online Writing Workshop, so it should be awesome.

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Ok, so people kept saying, here and there and everywhere, omg, you should read The Hunger Games. So many places, I heard the same recommendation. I had my new e-reader and found the entire trilogy for $17. So I read it.

And holy crap, they were right.

I read it in about three days, which, for me, is about my record. I think my record is two days, and that was for a much shorter novel. Granted, two of those days were stressed out, what can I do to distract myself because there’s nothing I can do days, but still, it was very much what I needed to distract myself in those days.

I won’t make this too long, because I think there are a crap-ton of reviews of this particular novel already out there, but there’s one main point I’ll address. The main criticism – possibly the only criticism I’ve seen for this book, has been that the ending was too predictable. And you know what? That’s valid. I looked at the end of part two, and thought, you know, I can only think of one way that this could end and the end be satisfying. And I was pretty well right. There were details, I didn’t know exactly the circumstances the ending was going to come into, but the main plot twist at the end, that was no surprise to me.

On the other had, it *was* the only way that I could see this story ending that would be satisfying. And I always think, if you build up towards something you either have to satisfy the reader, or come up with something better. In this case, it was satisfy the reader. But the storytelling, the crafting of the story, was what kept me reading. What’s going to happen next? Who’s going to die next? How is the Katniss going to survive all of this?

There are those who say “there are no original stories, only original story telling.” I have to agree with this. Avatar, the movie, hell that’s not original in the least, but it’s still a really awesome movie. The Hunger Games, maybe it’s a tad predictable, for an experienced reader, but it’s well spun. Plot is not everything in a story, but sometimes the journey is. Sometimes it’s what the author does to make it all real that makes all the difference.

I really don’t understand how some people can be so stupid

I heard this on a couple of blogs today, and am still shocked to hear what horrible people people can be over something so stupid.

Short version of what happened – publication date for the next novel in the series is march 6th, but Amazon, for whatever reason, by accident, I hope, decided to put it on sale and start shipping it a week early, so then, of course, Barnes and Noble goes, oh crap, we’re gonna lose sales to Amazon, and they put it on sale early. this screws the author over because the success of her book is judged on the first week of sales, which starts March 6th, so she and the publisher are frantically trying to fix that.

But here’s the really sick part: the author (author, who has no control over the situation, not Amazon or Barnes and Noble, not even the publisher) receives emails from angry customers calling her horrible names.

Why?

Because the paper copy is for sale, they think they should be able to get the e-book.

These people are what’s wrong with the world. This is on the same level as the people who yell at me over the phone at work (cable tv tech support) asking me what they’re supposed to do with their kids while their tv isn’t working.

Dear God and Goddess, I hope if I get published, these guys aren’t my fans, ’cause holy hell, I don’t need their money.

Why I Have Never Bought a Self Published Book

I’ve been busy with the revision, but a discussion on a forum I watch has brought up some thoughts.

I have never been able to bring myself to buy a self published book. It’s not because I don’t think that there are good books out there – I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are authors out there who are just too adventurous or unorthodox for traditional publishers to take a chance on them, or some other reason they’ve chosen to self publish rather than go the traditional route.

Self publishing doesn’t mean someone’s a bad writer, but it does mean that there’s been no quality control involved in the publication of the book aside from what is under the author’s control. There’s been no one read over it and decide that yes, this is good enough that it won’t ruin our reputation if we publish it, aside from the author. The reader has no guarantee that the author can string two sentences together. Or for that matter, that it’s not a recipe for chili copied and pasted three hundred times.

Again, a self-pubbed book might be a great book, and I think the odds have been getting a little better, that it will be decent, in light of the fact that more authors are getting frustrated with the traditional publishing world, and self-pubbing rather that waste their time with trying to sell to the traditional publishers. The bigger publishers have become less and less willing to take a chance on something (which is why they ended up going wtf when small press book “The Windup Girl” won the Hugo and the Nebula a few years ago.) But it’s that lack of some minimal quality assurance that is the reason I have yet to purchase a self published book.

Apparently there seems to be some people who think that books that are only available in e-book format, are the same thing as self published books. E-pubbed books may be self published, but not necessarily – there’s lots of small presses out there that are taking advantage of the e-book to get books out there. As far as I’m aware, self-pubbed books are not eligible to even be nominated for the hugo awards, but e-pubbed books are. In my mind, that’s a huge jump, but the main thing is that there’s been an editor who’s agreed to put their reputation on the line by putting their brand on that book.

This is the value of brand, in my opinion. Not just the money put into formatting the book and finding an artist to do cover art, and whatever else goes into a book. It’s the same as I tell my customers at work at the day job (internet tech support) – buy Toshiba or Asus if possible, if you’re looking for a good machine that will last, but whatever you do, dear lord, don’t buy a Dell, you’ll be sending it back for repairs before the warranty is out. What a publisher, even a small press offers me, as a reader, is that guarantee of quality, and if I read one book by them and like it, then there’s the promise of similar quality in other books by the same press. That’s valuable, and as a reader, I’m willing to pay more for that, or, for that matter, willing to pay at all.

See, as a reader, that editor is doing me a service aside from the formatting and commissioning a cover artist, and whatever else is involved in putting out an e-book, and that’s possibly more valuable to me than any of the rest. That editor is going through hundreds of manuscripts and picking out the ones that he or she thinks are worth anyone’s time. My time is valuable to me; with the writing I do, most of the time I spend reading is time I could be spending writing, so I’m loathe to waste it on a book that’s not worth reading. And I don’t want to spend hours and hours reading to find out that the ending sucks. I don’t care if it’s free, if I’ve wasted my time not enjoying a book, I’m pissed. It’s not even about the money, it’s about my time. I’ll do that for another writer, if I’m critiquing their work, but the point of that is to get it ready for publication, I’m not reading for enjoyment then. And sure, I’m willing to pay more for that service – for an editor to read sluch for me so I don’t have to sift through hundreds of self published books and go over reviews hoping that the reviews aren’t just posts from the author’s friends and family patting them on the head.

So that’s my reservations as a reader. Next week I’ll do up a post on my reservations as a writer.

Book Review: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

This is one that caught my eye a long time ago, I think though a blog, and I’ve been meaning to read it. The setting intrigued me, and the book has not disappointed. I bought it  from the Sony Reader Store over my uncle’s wifi, because I was amused at the convenience of being able to buy a book with my new e-reader without having to go home and hook it up to a computer, even to set it up. So, I got it on Christmas Day, when I got the reader, and finished it exactly a week later, on new year’s eve, at a party, huddled in a corner, going OMG there’s only 20 pages left, I can’t stop! Best book I’ve read since The Windup Girl.

What follows may be triggering – the setting is post apocalyptic africa, where the genocides and other activities related to genocides in africa have not stopped. Given that, I should not have to explain what sort of topics this review may contain that may be triggery.

Ok, that’s out of the way.

The story centers around the genocide of an entire people, and how rape is used as a weapon to destroy their spirit. It’s a heartbreaking story, but inspiring, because the main character is so driven. I was interested to see non-erocentric fantasy, and it’s a rich and ugly world that these characters live in. A world where a woman can scream for help to a crowd of onlookers as she’s dragged into an alley to be raped, and the onlookers stand there and watch. They are different people than we are. When Onyesonwu sets out to find her biological father who raped her mother, to stop his bringing his soldiers to rape her people, her mother doesn’t try to stop her, doesn’t try to make her stay home to protect her. No, she looks at her daughter and says, when you find him, kill him.

After some of the recent blog posts complaining about authors dealing with rape poorly, it was good to see it treated as it should be. The author never refers to it as sex, and doesn’t shy away from using the word rape to describe it.

The main character herself is sympathetic, and yet never wallows in sorrow, or if she does, the narrative doesn’t dwell on it. She’s a woman of action, and doesn’t allow herself to indulge in self pity, however lousy her lot. She fights to change it, and I find that the most engaging of character traits.

Onyesonwu also has a relationship with a young man, and it’s a rare one – a healthy one. It’s not that there is never any conflict between the two – not at all, there’s plenty of angst. It’s just not angst that tears them apart. They may argue passionately, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need each other, or that they aren’t right for each other. It’s refreshing to see such a believable couple.

As for the main conflict, nothing is black and white there. As I said, it’s an ugly world, and an ugly war. There can be no victor in such a war. Neither side is innocent, and the story goes into child soldiers, even.

And it will take a miracle to stop it. That’s the sad thing. Much as I liked the book, it makes me sad to think that even in fiction, the author couldn’t find a way to end such atrocities without resorting to magic, which is something that we can’t hope for in real life.

It’s a book that really goes there. It’s very dark, but it’s beautifully written, and paced precisely. I feel like I’ve learned something about being human, that I’m ashamed to know.