On book reviews and the end of the Fantasy Book Addict

For the last few years, I have been an on again/off again book reviewer at the Fantasy Book Addict. It was never a paying gig, which meant I was largely free to review what I wanted when I wanted. Over the last few years I’ve established a relationship with some publishers, made some friends, and had the opportunity to read and review books before they were published. Fellow bibliophiles will agree, it’s that last one that was key – to get books you want to read, before they are published, and share your opinion on them before they are in stores? Talk about the power of reading.

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...
English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I won’t deny, though, that I’ve waivered on my commitment. Sometimes it was real life intruding; sometimes, it was my own sense of guilt at reading something that wasn’t destined for a review when I knew there was so much piling up and waiting for me. While I may have only reviewed an average of a book or two a month, I received many times that in opportunities. Why didn’t you see blurbs for those other books? Frankly, because I had a simple rule: only review the books that I enjoyed. It seemed to me to be far more respectful to give praise to books I liked, than to to give any time to explaining why I didn’t like a particular book. Feeling overwhelmed, particularly during hectic months, I would consider throwing in the towel and stopping.

And then one more book would arrive, one more catching my eye and demanding my attention and love.

Yesterday I (finally) finished reading Shattered Shields and set out to do a review. Typed, edited, posted, I went to the FBA site to post my review – and found it gone. While I had considered quitting multiple times, I had always thought it would be on my own terms. Finding the site missing, erased from the web, was a bit of a shocker to me.

I spoke to Stacey last night, and I understand the rationale. She’s recently published her own books and was beginning to feel like it was a conflict of interest to be reviewing other people’s work while pushing and working on her own. For myself, I feel an unexpected void. Aside from needing to contact a few publishers to cancel ARC’s, not much has changed. And yet, I recognize this as being the end of a chapter. Of course, I’ll still read, and post my reviews, but it feels weird to not be doing it “for real.”

Book Review: Shattered Shields

Shattered ShieldsShattered Shields by Jennifer Brozek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For all the fantasy and short fiction I read, I rarely read fantasy short fiction. The Shattered Shields anthology aptly filled this void in my reading, bringing together both familiar and unfamiliar authors. Like any collection of short fiction, not all of the story worked for me. The ones that did resonate, though, were especially astounding. Even considering myself well read, I was surprised at how many of the authors and worlds on display were new to me.

I can’t give a rundown of every story in the collection, but here are some of my favorites.

Starlight and Ash – David Farland. I’ve heard much about Farland over the years, but this was actually my first Farland story. While new to the world, I had no trouble diving in and immersing myself in his world.

The Fixed Stars – Seanan McGuire. There’s something about the Celtic pantheon that has always seemed both exotic and familiar, and this story was no different.

Keeper of Names – Larry Correia. I’ve read some of Correia’s Monster Hunter books, but this was the first time I’ve seen him write fantasy. The story was a little predictable, but still a fun read.

Words of Power – Wendy Wagner. This story could have led the collection in my opinion. I’d certainly read a full length novelization by Ms. Wagner. A mashup World War 1 and golems set in an alternate history, this was a really great story.

Hoofsore and Weary – Cat Rambo. Come on, Cat Rambo says it all. This story of centaurs on the march was a great story and star in this collection.

Vengeance – Robin Wayne Bailey. Woof – magic and death gods tickle a spot in this story. For a short story, it packs an amazing punch in a short amount of space.

There are of course more stories than these, including a Glen Cook Black Company story (Bone Candy). On average, the successes in this anthology were in the majority, making this a worthy read. The stories were consistently on theme, something you don’t always see these days, while interpretations of that theme were varied enough to keep the stories fresh most of the time.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Baen books for the opportunity to read this book.

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Book Review: Extinction Game

Extinction GameExtinction Game by Gary Gibson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a fan of Gary Gibson’s previous series, the Shoal Sequence, I was excited to get a chance to read this first volume in his new universe. Or multiverse, I guess. Jerry Beche, hero and protagonist, is the last man alive on Earth. A devastating man made plague has wiped out the rest of the human race, or so Jerry thinks until he comes across footprints near his snow bound cottage. While he may be the last human on Earth, he isn’t alone. Rescued and taken to an Earth not quite like his own, he is recruited into the Pathfinders. The Pathfinders, a group of explorers from other destroyed Earth, work for the Authority to help explore the parallel worlds. There is some hint to the bigger picture of the multiverse, of braids and strands of possibility.

If this is beginning to sound like an episode of Sliders, I’d agree. Using jump platforms and timed returns, our crew of Pathfinders slips from world to world. When Gibson shines in this novel, he shimmers. The imagined worlds – and their destruction – are each glimpses into Earths that we ourselves might face. Each apocalypse we face in Extinction Game is well thought out and described.

Unfortunately, I found the secondary characters to be somewhat lacking in development. The antagonist and supporting cast were hollow sketches for the most part. The result was a somewhat uneven experience. Between well thought out extinction events and the sometimes cardboard characters that catalog them, there was just enough story to keep moving forward. Recommended as a mashup of Sliders and Doomsday B movies, it just needed a little more than it delivered to wow me.

Special thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for making this ARC available to me prior to US publication.

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