Category Archives: eBook of the Month

eBook of the month for August 2012 – LORD TALON’S REVENGE, by Tom Simon

I have been reading Tom Simon’s blog for years, and have always greatly enjoyed his nonfiction essays. In fact, one of his essays, THE TERMINAL ORC, was one of the inspirations for the Malrags in the DEMONSOULED series.* Metaphysics aside, when I saw that Mr. Simon had released one of his novels, LORD TALON’S REVENGE, as an ebook, I obtained it promptly.

If I were to describe the book in one sentence, I would it is a mixture of PG Wodehouse, Lord Dunsany, and GK Chesterton, with just a mix of HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC II thrown in for good measure.

The premise is that the kingdom of Ilberion is ruled by the incompetent and treacherous King Talvos, who combines the worst qualities of an American politician with the worst qualities of a DMV bureaucrat. However, a bigger threat arrives in the south – a vast army of ogres led by a mysterious masked man called Lord Talon who has a personal vendetta against King Talvos. Meanwhile, the youngest son of a no-nonsense nobleman, Sir Trianon Barr, is thrown out in the world as a knight-errant. Trianon has the twin misfortunes of a.) low intelligence, and b.) really believing in the tales of the bards, so he goes off to perform deeds of heroism, accompanied by his much savvier servant Zadek (who has a remarkable knack for picking up women after Trianon, concerned about his purity, rejects them).

The book is an epic fantasy, but has a very Wodehouse-esque sense of humor – one suspects Zadek and Jeeves could compare notes on handling their employers. It is also a fairy tale in the Tolkienian or CS Lewis sort of way – bits about the Deeper Magic and so forth. And unlike much modern epic fantasy, this is a book that actually likes people – no raving misanthropy or random chapters of extensively detailed torture and rape to prove how “gritty” and “realistic” the author is.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and hope Mr. Simon releases more of his fiction as ebooks.

-JM

*The other was reincarnation – the Malrags aren’t immortal, but they have all been slain and reborn dozens or even hundreds of time over the centuries.

eBook of the Month July 2012 – Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes

The last two eBooks of the Month, William King’s THE STEALER OF FLESH and Hugh Howey’s WOOL, have both been rather grim. Good books, to be certain, but definitely not lighthearted. So for this month, we’ll do something lighter – specifically, HAL SPACEJOCK, by Simon Haynes.

HAL SPACEJOCK is an entertaining humorous science fiction novel. It reminded me a great deal of the old RED DWARF television series crossed with the Sierra SPACE QUEST adventure games of yore. The protagonist, the eponymous Hal, is the owner of the rundown Black Gull, a space freighter that (like Hal) has seen better days. Hal is also up to his ears in debt, and unless he does something quick, a man with a very large repo robot is going to come around and break his thumbs. Granted, a lot of Hal’s problems are his own fault – his level of obliviousness and the fact that he is still alive would make a Darwinist weep with despair over the future of natural selection.

Things might turn around for Hal when he accepts a cargo of robot parts, but thinks quickly turn south, with angry corporate oligarchs, loan sharks, and an entire planetary navy in pursuit of Hal for one reason or another.

Hal, like the hero of all good farces, is thoroughly dense, yet nonetheless likable. HAL SPACEJOCK was quite funny, and I’ll be picking up the later books in the series at some point.

-JM

Ebook of the Month June 2012 – WOOL, but Hugh Howey

***UPDATE: Note that the comment thread to this post now contains spoilers!***

I first heard of “Wool” a few weeks ago on various blogs when news came around that Ridley Scott had optioned some self-published science fiction book for movie rights. Of course, a book getting optioned for movie rights means very little in a practical sense, since producers are forever buying rights to books that they never actually use.  In a theoretical sense, it was a big deal, because a self-published book getting optioned does not happen very often, or ever.

Anyway, it made me curious, and the book was cheap ($5.99 for the omnibus edition), so I picked it up. I had absolutely no idea what to expect – based on popular trends, I supposed the book would be about a clumsy yet bland teenage girl who falls in love with a brooding vampire billionaire who has a thing for handcuffs and leather.

I am pleased to report that I was wrong. WOOL is excellent. In fact, it is one of the best books I have read this year.

The setting is an underground habitat (the locals call it a “silo”) in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Some sort of disaster has rendered the atmosphere both toxic and corrosive. The silo’s only link to the outside world is a set of cameras outside the airlock, which are connected to a massive screen in the silo’s cafeteria. Due to the corrosive effects of the atmosphere, the cameras’ lenses gradually build up with grit. Which means every so often, an inhabitant of the silo has to suit up for a “cleaning” to wipe off the lenses.

And those who are sent to clean never, ever come back.

As a book and a work of speculative fiction, WOOL excels on every level. The characters are deep and fully realized – the sheriff, the mayor, the technician in the silo’s IT department, the maintenance worker in the generator room. The plot and pacing are excellent – it starts off slowly, building tension bit by bit, and the book lands some gut-punches in several place.

And WOOL is an absolute masterpiece of the writerly art of conservation of information. The setting – an underground habitat on a poisoned Earth – is fairly esoteric, but the book contains absolutely no infodumps. The backstory is revealed, bit by bit, as the book grows more tense, and every bit of new information only cranks up the tension further. WOOL is like an onion, with layer after layer peeled away, and every layer relevant, indeed vital, to the plot.

I think WOOL is destined to become a classic of the science fiction genre, and I recommend it completely and without reservation.

-JM

Ebook of the Month May 2012 – The Stealer of Flesh, by William King

I first encountered William King’s writing when I read an ingenious post he did describing how to make your own book covers in PowerPoint. This impressed me so much that I picked up one of his short stories, GUARDIAN OF THE DAWN, when it was free on Amazon. I liked both the story’s setting and main character enough that I got a full-length novel about that character, STEALER OF FLESH.

It’s about Kormak the Guardian – the Guardians are an order of knights dedicated to defending mortal races from various supernatural threats. Kormak’s sent to recover a stolen artifact. Specifically, a bottle containing an imprisoned demon of the ancient world.

Mayhem ensues, naturally.

King’s background in writing WARHAMMER novels is quite clear – Kormak encounters numerous demons and deranged sorcerers. Kormak himself is a bit of a mix between a world-weary antihero and Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane; a man no longer sure why he does the right thing, but he’s going to do it, even though hell should bar the way (and in a quite literal fashion, too). Even the demons have understandable motivations, and Kormak’s ultimate foe has a degree of tragedy.

STEALER OF FLESH is excellent sword and sorcery. I recommend it, and hope Mr. King writes more in the setting.

-JM

Ebook Of The Month

I got an email arguing that while I self-publish, I would never read a self-published book, because traditionally published books are inherently of a higher quality.

This is simply not true. Ever since I first got a Kindle in 2010, I’ve been reading an increasingly large number of self-published ebooks. So I’m starting a new blog feature: the Ebook of the Month. Once a month (or more, if I happen to have time), I’ll point out a self-published ebook I’ve read and liked.

Look for the first installment later this week.

-JM