Another funny Google spelling suggestion

I had this spelling suggestion when I was writing a short story recently:

Funny spelling suggestion: out of  – outta

Funny spelling suggestion: out of – outta

In case you can’t quite read it, it’s suggesting that I should correct “out of” to “outta”.  I particularly appreciated the suggestion that I should always correct to “outta” – I wouldn’t want to miss that one time and be embarrassed by having used the correct spelling…

I guess this counts against my theory that Google Chrome’s ubiquitous spellcheck/suggest could improve the state of Internet grammar.  I wonder if this is an error in the Hunspell dictionary or a quirk of Google Suggest, which might imply that people use “outta” a lot more often than “out of”, which seems odd.  Maybe it’s like when dictionary makers put in fake words to catch thieves.

Short Story – Dear Caroline


space (Photo credit: Sweetie187)

I wrote another short story!

I was motivated by discovering No Names, No Jackets – a website that shows you a chapter or short story on its own, so you can judge the quality of the writing and find out more if you like it.  Book recommendations are an unsolved problem – I don’t think this is the solution but it’s nice that it lets the writing speak for itself instead of relying on publishers’ marketing.  For me the revolution was that it was the first time that my first short story got any traffic.  I know, I’m so vain.

This story is in a completely different style – tragic romantic sci fi instead of tragic humour – and it should be less controversial although if anything it’s more honest.  I need to worry less about what people think and just unapologetically write what I want.

Some of the phrasing isn’t right for a book but that’s because the story is in the style of a letter, and I thought that having the character writing the letter stumble over his words was appropriate.

It was 1am by the time I finished it, so I don’t know if it will make any sense in the cold light of tomorrow morning.

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Book Review – The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes

The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes

The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes

The blurb says:

An uneasy peace has existed since the fall of the Awakened Empire centuries ago. Now the hybrid Avān share the land with the people they once conquered: the star-born humans; the spectral, undead Nomads; and what remains of the Elemental Masters.

With the Empress-in-Shadows an estranged ghost, it is the ancient dynasties of the Great Houses and the Hundred Families that rule. But now civil war threatens to draw all of Shrīan into a vicious struggle sparked by one man’s lust for power, and his drive to cheat death.

Visions have foretold that Corajidin, dying ruler of House Erebus, will not only survive, but rise to rule his people. The wily nobleman seeks to make his destiny certain—by plundering the ruins of his civilization’s past for the arcane science needed to ensure his survival, and by mercilessly eliminating his rivals. But mercenary warrior-mage Indris, scion of the rival House Näsarat, stands most powerfully in the usurper’s bloody path. For it is Indris who reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing man, the only one able to steer the teetering nation towards peace.

So far I haven’t been very impressed by the books that are available to read for free in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – they’ve been almost entirely self-published books where “free” was an appropriate price.  In fact some of them were overpriced, as it wasn’t worth the cost of my time to read them.  This is the first book I’ve read from the Kindle Lending Library that was genuinely awesome.

Having said that, it’s not an easy read.  The writing can be quite flowery and there is a lot of information thrown at you right at the beginning.  In most books the author introduces the world and characters slowly to give the reader a chance to learn about them, but in this book the author seems to just assume you can keep up.  You end up having to sort of surf the tidal wave of information and keep reading even if you don’t catch every reference or recognize every name.  If you can make it through the first chapter it gets a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.

The author’s built a big, interesting world with a lot of history and detail.  There are things that he gives away about it that might have been better saved for a dramatic reveal, but I get the impression that he was just too excited about showing his world off to keep a secret.

Some of the author’s descriptions are incredible – almost poetic.  My only criticism is that there were noticeable blocks of description interspersed in action and character blocks – I think it would have been better if they were better integrated.

All in all I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series.

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Book Review – The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The blurb says:

Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. Yet Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live.

When Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

The book starts off badly but gets better as it goes on, and by the end it was pretty good.

Especially at the beginning of the book and to a certain extent through the rest of it, the writing of human thoughts and feelings isn’t good.  I won’t spoil the plot, but I’m pretty sure that in real life people would have a pretty strong reaction to tragedy, which the characters don’t seem to.  I think that I enjoyed the end of the book more that the beginning because there was less human interaction and more war, which the author seems better at describing.

My other big problem with the first part of the book is a massively unlikely coincidence.  I suppose it’s possible that there will be an explanation for it in later books, but I suspect that it’s just something that needed to happen for plot reasons and the author couldn’t think of a quick way for it to happen naturally.

I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but it happened again in this book – the writing trundles along harmlessly and then all of a sudden there’s an appalling atrocity which seems completely out of place.  Once again, I think that real human beings would react very strongly to seeing some of the things described in this book, but the characters don’t seem to react at all.  It feels as though the author wanted to be “gritty” and so put the worst things he could imagine in the book, but wasn’t able to describe how someone would feel when faced with such things.

The author’s name sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until after I started reading it that I realized that it’s the same author as The Way of Shadows, which I reviewed previously and wasn’t very impressed by.

On the positive side, although the bad guys are irredeemably bad and the good guy seems pretty good, there’s a certain amount of ambiguity about the goodness of the good guy for a lot of the book, which I appreciated.

Back on the negative side, another thing I didn’t like was the author’s portrayal of slavery.  He shows well treated slaves as being the same as servants, which misses the point completely.  If a character treats their slaves well it doesn’t make them a good person, freeing them would.

Although I found the author’s portrayal of war better than his portrayal of people’s reactions to tragedy and atrocity, there was still the problem that one of the main characters is a child and yet gets into war as if he were a veteran soldier.  I can’t help but think that killing another human being is a traumatic experience and not something one would just brush off.

One final complaint – why would you name a character Guile?  It just sounds made up.

Book Review – Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

The blurb says:

Sam Vimes, watch commander of Ankh-Morpork, is at long last taking a much-needed (and well deserved) vacation. But, of course, this is Discworld®, where nothing goes as planned—and before Vimes can even change his cardboard-soled boots for vacationer’s slippers, the gruff watch commander soon finds himself enmeshed in a fresh fiasco fraught with magic, cunning, daring, and (for the reader more than for poor Vimes) endless hilarity. Did he really expect time off? As Vimes himself says in Feet of Clay, “there’s some magical creature called ‘overtime,’ only no one’s even seen its footprints.” Following the New York Times bestselling Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett delivers an enthralling new tale from a place of insuperable adventure: Discworld.

As I mentioned in a previous review, ever since Terry Pratchett’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s I’ve worried at the release of each book that it will be the first one to signal that his long series of excellent books is coming to an end.

Unfortunately this one may be that book.

I think the quality of The City Watch series has been declining since Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms (my personal favorite) and Feet of Clay, but I liked this one the least.

The book suffers from the fact that it isn’t set in Ankh Morpork and doesn’t have many of the regular characters, but I think my biggest problem was that the book wasn’t as complex and layered as the earlier books in the series.

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Book Review – Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm by Brian Michael Bendis, Lan Medina, Kelly Sue DeConnick

Richard Castle's Deadly Storm by Brian Michael Bendis, Lan Medina, Kelly Sue DeConnick

Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm by Brian Michael Bendis, Lan Medina, Kelly Sue DeConnick

The blurb says:

Castle’s hero, Derrick Storm, comes to life in the pages of this all-new graphic novel! This “adaptation” of Derrick Storm’s first novel takes our hero from the gritty world of the private eye all the way to the globe-hopping intrigue of the CIA. Eisner Award-winning Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis and red-hot Osborn writer Kelly Sue DeConnick worked closely with Castle creator Andrew Marlowe to create the one thing millions of Castle fans have been asking for: their first real Derrick Storm adventure – a wall-to-wall, gritty, witty, globe-hopping detective thrill ride for fans of the hit TV show starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, as well as fans of damn good comic books.

This graphic novel fits well into the Castle meta-fiction but it’s nowhere near as good as watching an episode of Castle.

It’s cool to hear Castle’s voice in Derrick Storm’s dialogue, but it’s still a foreign mythology.

If it wasn’t related to the Castle TV show it wouldn’t be worth reading.

Book Review – Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind

Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind

Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind

The blurb succinctly states:

Richard comes to terms with his true identity as a War Wizard. The New World, and all the freedom of humankind, is under threat from the Imperial Order after he had brought down the barrier between the Old and New World. The Imperial Order has already sent delegations and armies into the New World. Richard’s only option to stop the invasion is to claim his heritage and unite all free kingdoms and provinces under one rule and one command.

Like the first two books in the series, this one could have been cut down by half without actually losing anything of importance.

Worse than the first books, all of the content was concentrated in the last hundred pages.  The characters spend entire chapters thinking about what to do or waiting for things to happen and then all of a sudden everything is resolved.

Something that I didn’t notice until this book was how the author inserts his politics into the story.  There are fairly heavy-handed opinions on states’ rights, gun control and welfare crowbarred into a fantasy setting.

Another weird thing was how the protagonist does things that basically make him the same as the bad guy from the first two books, but it’s OK because he does them for a good reason.  If this was part of an exploration of relative morality it would be interesting, but it seems to be naive and accidental (unless the author is setting up a scenario for the next book).

I had a hard time picturing the geography of this world – for whatever reason I was unable to form a mental map of this world and how the places in it relate to the places in the first two books.

Book Review – Doctor Who: Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock

Doctor Who: Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock

Doctor Who: Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock

The blurb says:

The Terraphiles are a group obsessed with Earth’s past and dedicated to re-enacting ancient sporting events. The Doctor and Amy join them on a trip to Miggea, a star on the very edge of reality, and venue for a competition to win the fabled Arrow of Law. But the Terraphiles’ grasp of Earth history and customs is dubious to say the least, and just getting to Miggea is going to prove tricky.

For reality is falling apart, ships are disappearing, and Captain Cornelius and his pirates are looking for easy pickings. And the Doctor and Amy have to find out who is so desperate to get the Arrow of Law that they will kill for it.

I had high hopes for this book, as it’s written by an actual sci-fi author and not one of the usual staff writers they use for TV tie-ins. So imagine my surprise when it was awful.

I kept waiting for the punchline, hoping that it was some sort of joke, but but no, it’s just awful.

It also does a bad job as a Dr.Who book – the characters aren’t at all recognizable.

Maybe it’s because Michael Moorcock is old or something – I liked his Elric books but they were written a long time ago.

Book Review – Black Sunday by Thomas Harris

Black Sunday by Thomas Harris

Black Sunday by Thomas Harris

The book is older than I am, so the blurb seems to assume you don’t need to be told much about it:

From the genius of Thomas Harris, the #1 New York Times bestselling author who introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter, comes his terrifying and prophetic debut of an American who plans an act of terrorism at the Super Bowl—as the whole world watches. But in a mob of 80,000 people, how can they find him to stop him?

The clock is ticking…

At this point it’s probably impossible to read a book by Thomas Harris without comparing it to the Hannibal Lecter series (Red DragonThe Silence of the LambsHannibal and Hannibal Rising).  In fact the only reason I read this book is because I was looking for more books written by the person who wrote Hannibal Lecter – I suspect most people reading it nowadays would be doing so for the same reason.

This book is different from the Hannibal series in that the policeman is hunting a terrorist instead of a serial killer, but there are similarities in the broken psychology of the antagonist and that it’s a cop vs. bad guy thriller.

The terrorist plot is imaginative, but too extravagant to be realistic.  In real life terrorists attack where security is the weakest, and at face value a blimp filled with explosives doesn’t strike me as a security weak spot.

It’s interesting reading a book about terrorism written before I was born – how much is the same and what is different.  I was genuinely surprised when they read a captured terrorist his rights.  I guess even people who disagree with it have gotten accustomed to the Guantanamisation of counter-terrorism.

Anyway, the book’s well written except for its fairly abrupt ending.  As he proved with the Hannibal books, Thomas Harris is good at depicting broken people.

Book Review – 9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

The blurb says:

Sergeant Bobby Zha of the SFPD is desperate to find out who murdered him. But he also needs the answers to some other questions. Like, why is he in another man’s body? Why is someone trying to kill him, again… And why is he being haunted by a nine-tailed Celestial fox? From the shell-shattered ruins of Stalingrad in 1942 to the present-day politics of San Francisco’s Chinatown, 9Tail Fox is evocative of place and crystal-clear in its depiction of character.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood wrote the awesome Arabesk trilogy (PashazadeEffendi and Felaheen) so there was the potential that this book would be great.

I don’t think it was as good as the Arabesk trilogy but it’s still a pretty good novel with some noir elements.

It reminded me a bit of the Detective Inspector Chen books by Liz Williams, although it gets less involved with Chinese mythology.

The cover says it’s science fiction, but the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that in science fiction everything is explained, and in this book everything is not explained.

There are a few editing errors, for example substituting “loose” for “lose”.