Book Review: The Gam3: Opening Moves

Although I was asked to include more specific examples to support my points, I want this to remain a …

Spoiler-free Review

…so, I’ll strive to give some examples without spoilers.

Product Details

Author: Cosimo Yap

Genre: LitRPG-Science Fiction

Ratings: (1 = Really needs improvement. 5 = Good stuff!)

  • Plot Development: 3
  • Character Development: 3.5
  • Dialogue: 4
  • Descriptions: 4
  • Wordsmithing: 3
  • Overall:  3.5 pushing toward a 4, but not quite getting there.

What Drew Me to THIS Book (Out of all the ones out there…)

Like last month’s Eden’s GateI picked up this one to learn about the LitRPG genre in preparation for writing one of my own. Although it’s set up to become a series, so far there’s only one book out, and I was looking for one-shot wonders. Further, when I was picking my first couple to read, I wanted one fantasy and one science fiction. Eden’s Gate was the fantasy. This one touts itself as science fiction, and in spite of a couple dungeon crawls, it really ended up being one.

Two Things I Like (There’s a bit of good in everything).

Mr. Yap does an good job of designing characters who have different mannerisms and voices. These are not the same one or two guys wearing different outfits. The characters have distinctive personalities and quirks. One character is very reserved. Another is  arrogant. A third is a bit conniving. Even the AI has something of a personality.

The good guy character is not perfect. When he makes a mistake, there are consequences for that error, and he has to face the music. In this era of good guys doing reprehensible things and then getting kudos for it, that’s a refreshing change. When he ignores his AI’s advice by talking into a radio after killing someone, he makes a powerful enemy. This affects him and his team. They’re not impressed.

One Thing I Didn’t Like (Everyone has room to improve).

Unfortunately, this story suffered from plot development troubles. I realize this is meant to be Book 1 of many, but it opened huge cans of very wiggly worms (political shenanigans, major quests, minor quests, and so on) … and in the end only resolved one tiny plot point: a personal issue. I had no feeling of resolution with so many major issues still wide open.

Had it been a cliffhanger, I might have found that more agreeable. I get serials. I’ve written serials. I understand cliffhangers. There was no overriding tension or immediate danger at the end of the tale, so this doesn’t qualify for a cliffhanger. The ending was, in fact, very unsatisfying.

It really felt like a violation of Chekov’s Gun rule. Anton Chekov said once upon a time that if you show a pistol (or rifle in some versions of the quote) in the first act, you’d better make it fire by the third act. (paraphrased) Some allowances for that are made for serials since seeds planted early in the tale bear fruit much later, but in this case, there was no ending for the book. It simply stopped and out of all of Chekov’s Guns that were shown hanging on walls and sitting on tables, only a tiny derringer was fired, as it were.

Two Specific Ways the Author Could Improve (Hey, I’m a teacher. It’s what I do).

  1. Books ought to have a self-contained story. It should have a beginning, middle, and end. You can leave loose strings that can be tied off later and end with the main character in a real pickle, but tell a complete story each time. This will provide a more satisfying ending for your readers.
  2.  Watch your character development. Your main character gains levels and skills at a unrealistically fast rate, even beyond the early levels where jumping multiple levels at once is expected. Yes, he has an AI to give him directions, but he has mad plot skills at significant points of the story. He tries things on his AI’s advice and gets it right on the first whack too often. For example, the main character takes out a skilled sniper at an early level. Later, in one of the dungeon crawls, the main character finds a group battling an extremely high-level monster. He tries something totally wild and enjoys a critical success. There is some balance with the consequences to some of his actions, but I would have liked to have seen him have to work for his victories a bit more often.

Final Recommendation

This was an engaging tale. The individual subplots that occur were interesting by themselves even if the main story needed more resolution. It’s worth picking up.

 

Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo — The Excerpt

Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion.

front sanserif

Grace Bridges designed the lovely abstract cover, which actually represents what Calla sees when she goes into someone’s mind.

An excerpt for you…

 

Angela reeled back as if she had been kicked in the head. Thomas tried to catch her, but his fingers brushed past the sleeve of her shirt. She hit the ground hard and stayed still.

“Angela!”

The garden’s gate burst open a second later under the weight of several Cordilians. The first hit on his mental shield came a second after the gate fell. His protection wobbled but held. Gunshots echoed off the garden’s wall. Bits of rock from a planter struck his thigh.

He yelped and dove under the table, even though the thin wood would never stop a bullet or a blaster bolt. He clapped his hand over the wound. If he were lucky, the snipers wouldn’t see him.

Shrill screams split the air. The sense of pain and terror from the delegates sickened him. He could do nothing to help them directly, but if he could reach Angela, he could teleport them both home, get her to a doctor, and send back more experienced help for the delegations.

As he inched toward her, a female presence shoved against his shields. Thomas bolstered his defense and pushed her back.

The second attempt battered at his mental shield and bored through. Before he could reset his guard, his attacker thrust into his mind like a spear. Thomas clenched his eyes and focused inward.

You want a fight? You got one.

A dark, curvaceous image bearing a pair of fiery knives appeared in his mental perception. Her hand covered her mouth. “Ooo. That didn’t hurt, did it?”

Thomas mustered every scrap of power and focus he could pull together. “Not half as much as this will.”

His own personal image formed in the shape of a huge wolf. He launched himself at the shadow woman and tackled her, tearing into her with a mouth full of sharp teeth.

 

Find Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo here.

Author Interviews: Andrea Graham

 

Ella Font (EF): Hello! This is Ella Font of the Inter-Dimensional News Network. Today, we’re dropping in on Earth in the early 21st Century to visit with an author that so many of our modern viewers have come to love: the amazing Andrea Graham. 

Thank you for joining us here today, Andrea.

Andrea Graham (AG): Thank you for inviting me, Ms. Font.

EF: Which work are you sharing with us today?

AG: Avatars of Web Surfer, a collection of short works set in the same universe, each has a different perspective character, but all feature the same hero. I collaborated with three co-authors: Travis Perry, Cindy Koepp, and H. A. Titus

Product Details

EF: I have to say that one is one of my favorites. I just love the way Sander and Lexus come to the rescue of the different people they encounter through the Web Surfer system. For our viewers who are unfamiliar with your work, what genre does it fall into?

AG: Science Fiction, Christian allegory, some might consider it cyberpunk since AIs and virtual/simulated reality feature heavily.

EF: That’s fascinating. As I recall, some of the stories are more overtly Christian than others, but I would agree they all fit into that spectrum somewhere. Where can people find it? 

AG: On Amazon, from narrationbygeorge.com (audio book only), and Barnes&Noble.com

EF: Well, that makes it very easy to find, and an audiobook is handy for folks who travel or who listen to books while working on other tasks. Can you tell us about the main character?

AG: Alexander McGregor is just an infant when his father converts his cells into biological supercomputer components, but he may be the Messiah-figure AIs have longed for, even though on one level, he is only human. Sander is enslaved to his code as he serves a billion users worldwide, users he appears to as separate avatars of himself. Each avatar has its own personality, but all of him are linked together in a shared mind. He reigns over most of Earth’s computers in a global society where tech-dependency can kill. Freedom calls Sander like a siren. His answer could shake the Earth.

A full interview with Sander is at my author website.

EF: Wow. He sounds like an interesting guy, which is what makes each of these short stories interesting. Some people say that you must have based him on a real person. Are there any characteristics you have in common with the main character?

AG: Sander can operate well in all eight Myers Briggs functions as needed, but his core personality is closest to an ENTP. I have always been more of an ambivert than either a true introvert or true extrovert, but I functioned as an ENFJ before I started working with Sander, a bit over five years ago. In the last few years, I switched to ENFP and from there came to grips with my thinker side to the point where I sometimes test as an ENTP myself and wonder I how I got to my thirties without realizing I’m so different from my true-blue INFJ husband. So, um, we both have attention deficit disorder and tend to go off on rabbit trails that drive our more linear-thinking friend and our editors up the wall. That is the big one.

EF: [stares for a moment] I see. Well, um, let’s see if any of our viewers have sent in questions. Here’s one. Rex Karz of Infinite Roadway, Enceladus. Rex asks, “Which Muppet does your main character most resemble?”

AG: He’s a cross between Kermit and Animal.

EF: That’s quite a combination there. Sort of a frustrated, organized maniac? I’ve read all of them, though, so I can see that. He does have the intensity of Animal and the organization of Kermit. Here’s another question from Amanda Rekkonwif from Tombstone Colony on Europa. Amanda asks, “If your character actually had pockets, what would be in them?”

AG: They would be magic pockets, and he would have stuffed in them every aspect of life on Earth that he had collected and had yet to plant in the alternate universe that he hosts in cyberspace and treats like a massive terrarium. (He hosts simulated realities and some hold our own universe is a simulated reality.)

EF: Those would be some awfully large pockets. Earth-building would be an interesting hobby. Time consuming, but I guess if you’ll live indefinitely, you’d better have a hobby that will last. We have time for one more. Here’s a question from Tom Katt from Litter Pan Colony on Ganymede. Tom wants to know, “If your character existed in main life, would you be friends?”

AG: I hope so.

EF: [Pauses several seconds] Okay. He does seem like a nice guy most of the time in these stories, and the times he isn’t aren’t his fault. He does have to obey the user’s script after all. I’ve met Sander, actually. Well, I’ve met a virtual version of him in one of the VR books being released of all the classics. He wasn’t as tall as I thought he was, and I wouldn’t say he’s a very trendy dresser, but personality wise, he seems to be a good man. Virtual reality is just beginning in your time, so perhaps you’ll still have the opportunity to meet Sander. That’s all the time we have for viewer questions today. For those who still have burning questions, where else can they find you on the web?

AG: My webpage:

www.christsglory.com or povbootcamp.com

Social media:

https://www.facebook.com/alightchild

https://twitter.com/andreajgraham

https://www.pinterest.com/alightchild

EF: All right. That’s great.Thanks for joining us today. [Looks into the camera] That’s it for today, but do stop by to visit Andrea and check out her exciting anthology Avatars of Web Surfer. This is Ella Font of the Interdimensional News Network. Back to Bob Frapples at the news desk. Bob?

Mythic Orbits 2016

Visiting with us today is Travis Perry, who recently published an anthology containing only stories by Christian authors. Take it away Travis!

 

Mythic Orbits 2016 had a basic motivation as an anthology project: To collect and publish the very best short stories I was able to find by Christian authors, without any pre-defined theme.

Stories first had to be interesting or intriguing. Solid endings with a strong emotional payoff were essential, as they are in all good short stories. Some of those payoffs in the anthology are feel-good, emotionally warm moments. But not all are. A final story moment which challenges preconceived notions, or which is disturbing, or thought-provoking, I accepted as freely as the happier endings.

I love the short story format, by the way. A short story is not a substitute for a novel, only shorter. Not necessarily, anyway. Conflict drives the plot in novels, but short stories have a number of other possible roads to success. For example, they can surprise, shock, or amaze instead of bringing conflict to resolution. I often find short tales inherently more interesting than novels, if written well.

The commitment to good short stories in this anthology came without any specific doctrinal or content tests. Though it happens to be the case that the stories are basically clean. They contain no strong profanity (on a few occasions cuss words generally seen as mild are included). No sexuality is included beyond being attracted to someone and on one occasion, kissing. No violence is graphically described–though there is some violence in a number of the stories.

What really happened is my authors self-edited for content themselves. The only content edits I performed for “moral” purposes was downgrading one curse word to a milder version of the same thing and changing a religious reference into one which unambiguously talked about one God. All other content edits were for the purpose of making the stories make more sense, flow better, or have more powerful endings. (Though one author did ask me how to make his story more Christian, to which I had a specific suggestion–this was for the story “Escapee,” for which I recommended he create an alien chapel.)

I did not want to impose upon this anthology some kind of common theme like some other anthologies I’ve seen and participated in. That’s because I believe the best stories come from authors writing what they want to write about, not from me telling them what I think they should produce.

A question that comes to my mind as I write about the anthology I assembled is, “Why Christian authors? Why not just find a bunch of good stories and assemble that, regardless of whether the writers are believers or not?”

The use of Christian authors I found essential. I perceive the world of speculative fiction (by which I mainly but not exclusively mean science fiction, fantasy, and horror) as not especially Christian-friendly. So for me, the first order of business was to show the world that we Christians are not so bound by conventional thinking about stories that we cannot tell intriguing tales.

I also hoped that the Christian authors involved would themselves use Christian themes in their stories where they felt inspired to do so. I wasn’t disappointed in that. Some of the stories feature Christian characters reacting to worlds of speculative fiction, while some of the stories have themes that explore the tendency of religious leaders to misinterpret the faith, the role of science in human experience, the desire for eternal life, the pitfalls of avoiding pain, the nature of love, the role of empathy, and other, more subtle concepts.

Some of the stories, even if they have an underlying morality, show no direct influence of Christianity at all. You would not necessarily know from reading some of the tales that the author who produced it was a Christian. Which was fine by me–I saw my role in publishing this anthology was to highlight Christian authors, not stories with Christian themes. (As already mentioned, Christian themes showed in some of the other stories.)

So, now that I have commented on the reasons behind creating Mythic Orbits 2016, the next natural question to ask is, “What inspired me to comment about this story anthology in this blog post?” What am I hoping to achieve here?

First of all, I hope all readers of this blog will go out and buy a copy of Mythic Orbits 2016. The stories really are excellent, every last one, and well-worth your time. (Seriously–yes, I am plugging a work I published–but it actually IS awesome. Check it out for yourself: https://www.amazon.com/Mythic-Orbits-2016-SPECULATIVE-Christian-ebook/dp/B01NAIY432 )

But I have a secondary reason–and that is, I hope, God willing, to do this sort of collection next year. And for as many years after that as I can. I want to produce a Mythic Orbits 2017, 2018, and so on.

I will be looking for excellent short stories written by Christian authors in the future. Perhaps among the readers of this blog there’s somebody with an excellent tale already written, the exact sort of short story I’m keen to publish. I hope so.

Feel free to send an email to bearpublicationsanthologies@outlook.com if you have something now. If you don’t have anything yet, perhaps you can write something in the upcoming year and send it my way when its ready.

Eventually (God willing), I will be making specific announcements recruiting authors for Mythic Orbits 2017. Hope you can participate. 🙂

The Loudest Actions

My 5th novel, The Loudest Actionsreleased today!

This is the sequel to Remnant in the Stars.

First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.
Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.

With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.

loudest_actions final cover

The Loudest Actions has been published by Under the Moon.

The Loudest Actions Cover Reveal

The Loudest Actions, sequel to Remnant in the Stars, is almost ready to publish. Editor Terri Pray and I have finished the editing, and artist Sam Pray has finished the cover art.

Here … check it out!

loudest_actions final cover

First contact missions are hard enough, but they get even tougher when the negotiator has an ego the size of a gas giant.

Burke Zacharias, a first contact researcher, is chosen to spearhead humanity’s first official contact with Montans, an insect race that has already had a run-in with less friendly humans. Although his words and overtures toward the Montans are cordial enough, the Montans are put off by how he treats the crew of the scout ship that brought him to the world.

With other, less friendly forces trying to establish a foothold on the world, the negotiation must succeed in spite of Burke, or the Montans could be facing extinction.

 

Under the Moon plans to release The Loudest Actions at the end of August.

Short Stories: Settings

Currently, I have 3 short stories in different anthologies (soon to be back up to 8 then maybe 9). The settings aren’t that complicated for any of them really, so let’s just go for all 3!

First, A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court: The Last Mission was published by Seventh Star Press. “The Last Mission” takes place in a hangar, in two starfighters (briefly), and on an enemy base. Zanforil doesn’t waste any time getting to his mission objective and getting out of there. This, a sci-fi tale, happens in a weird future time when Elves, Dwarves, and Goblins are around.

Second, Hero’s Best Friend: The Hat was also published by Seventh Star Press. “The Hat” takes place in an aviary, a tent, and the stage in a fairground. Cloud practices his hat-snitching trick in the aviary, has lunch in the tent, then flies off the stage during a show at the fairground when he sees the bad guy. I never really locked down a time for this tale. It’s sort of a generic Medieval kind of time.

Third, Medieval Mars: The Dragon’s Bane was published by Bear Publications. This one takes place on a future terraformed Mars. There is a livable ecology there now, and plenty of water (a little too much water in some places). In the lowlands, it’s bit warm and the atmosphere is pretty dense. The higher you go in altitude, the colder it gets and the thinner the air gets. Although there are artifacts here and there from the original settlers in the long-gone “Time of Magic,” the prevailing technology is Medieval, as the anthology title suggests.