Vacation Reading

On Sunday, I returned from a two-week vacation (My last couple of posts were set up to run automatically while I was away).  I’ll eventually do an off-topic post with vacation pics, but I’m a bit weak thanks to catching a virus or something on the flight home, plus some pre-vacation injuries, so I’m doing something easier than sifting through hundreds of vacation photos.

The only good thing about having many flight hours on your vacation is that you get some reading time.  Here’s what I read:

mammoth dawn

Mammoth Dawn starts with resurrecting an extinct species, like Jurassic Park, but the mammoths don’t go all stampy.  Instead, some humans go on a rampage because they don’t want any ecosystem changes, even restoring of previous species.  A decade ago I would have said their behavior was unrealistic, but in the last few years, I’ve seen how people can go crazy about anything, or nothing.

There is a treat in here for authors:  the book consists of a novella plus a story outline the authors had once planned to use to turn the work into a full novel.  After reading the outline, I’m glad I got to read the novella instead.  The full novel would have added a long and pointless boy-girl drama, and I felt the plot got weird with characters circling around and popping up in too-convenient locations.  I did like the addition of a Russian gangster, though.

I chose to read this novella because I’ve been working on a mammoth-related story of my own, but I didn’t want to go ahead with it if I’d just be repeating something another author had already done.  I’ve also bought a copy of Silverhair and hope to read it soon.  Let me know if you’ve heard of any other mammoth-related fiction.  I’ve read Beyond the Gap, which has mammoths, but they aren’t that important to the story.

My next read was Wild Concept by C.S. Boyack.

wild concept

In this story, a prototype robot (I guess android would be a better word, or do you call them gyndroids if they look like women?) is assigned to work for a local police department as a homicide detective.  She takes the name Lisa Burton, a name you may be familiar with if you follow the author’s blog.

This isn’t a robot story where some rouge line of code causes bizarre behavior.  Lisa is a super-advanced model capable of perfectly mimicking a human, and is programmed to have human emotions.  Only two people within the police department even know she’s a robot.  In many ways, the story could have worked using a clone or genetically-engineered person instead, but there are a few robot-specific scenes and plotlines.

I really liked how Lisa was dealing with two problems simultaneously.  The first was trying to catch a serial killer.  The second was learning that she was to be disassembled at the end of the trial, and working to avoid that fate.

I’ll have to decide which Boyack book I’ll read next.  The sci-fi novel Arson seems like it’s right up my alley, but I feel Panama calling to me.

My third airplane read was Nethereal by Brian Niemeier.


Maybe I’m getting old, but it took me a few pages to really follow this story, because it was throwing a lot of unfamiliar character names and worldbuilding concepts at me.  When I was in high school, bored and unchallenged by my schoolwork, and with nothing else to think about, I would have picked it up quickly.  But now, my brain is either less powerful or more preoccupied.

The Spoiler Dragon

a few spoilers headed your way…

Anyway, the story begins with a spaceship crew of renegades who hate an all-powerful space-trading guild.  They end up aboard a supership that’s about to tear “The Guild” a new one.  Spaceships in this universe aren’t powered by technology — their FTL drives, weaponry, etc. are run on a form of magic.  I liked how the black spaceship had a creepy, big green eye that looked around, presumably in place of sensors.

The supership goes to Hell.  It doesn’t fall apart, it literally goes to Hell.  A nine-layer Hell, where doomed souls suffer various fates.  There’s a level where people are continually whipped around and around in a whirlwind, occasionally being struck by lightning for good measure.  There’s another level where people try to climb out of freezing-cold water onto seaweed or debris rafts, possibly making it for a second or two until a crowd of others trying to do the same thing topple or sink the raft.

I won’t try to cover the rest of the plot.  An array of super-powerful humans, demons/devils, and minor gods try to assist or attack the crew, and there’s a lot of side-changing.  There are also a number of sudden game-changing events, where bam!, all those people are now dead, and now this other thing is the big threat.  I predict that whether you enjoy this book or not will depend on how you feel about that.

My last read was Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz.

rescue run

I don’t want to say much about the plot of this one for fear of spoilers, so I’ll instead talk about its structure.  There are two point-of-view characters:  a thief for hire who gets coerced into [spoiler deleted], and a corporate executive working for her target.  Lately, I’ve found myself preferring the single POV, as I find it more immersive.  However, I’ve also found two POVs to be effective at times.  Jumping around more than that tends to bounce me out of the story.

The Spoiler Dragon

OK, so I couldn’t avoid spoilers as much as I wanted to…

I’ll talk about this two-POV setup more when I get around to typing up a review of Leviathan, which has a completely different plot and worldbuilding, but a similar structure.  Both books have one male and one female protagonist, starting on opposite sides of a conflict, but working together once their storylines intersect.

Both stories also made me care less about one of the two protagonists, and I think the reason is the stakes.  One protagonist, if he/she failed, would face possible fates from life imprisonment to death by torture.  The other protagonist would face a different career path.  Having to abandon a career you’d worked for your whole life would be a high stake in a standalone story, but when paired with the threats faced by the other protagonist, just doesn’t seem like a big deal (and I’m speaking as someone who’s been through the struggle of a career change — more than once).

How do you feel about protagonists with higher/lower stakes?  Drop me a comment below.


  1. Yeah, I understand people protesting the reintroduction of extinct species. It’s not all that different in kind to, like, objections to reintroducing wolves or bears to areas they’ve been driven from. And given humanity’s track record with introducing species to ecosystems not accustomed to them … ah … yeah. (I think there’s an Arthur C Clarke novel, I want to say Imperial Earth, with a throwaway line about how the revived Passenger Pigeons are a minor menace.)

    I believe a female-shaped android is only called a gynoid if you’re getting a commission of it on DeviantArt, preferably with at least some part of its back opened up to reveal the circuitry within.

    And yeah, life-imprisonment-to-death does seem like it way outbalances the threat of even a lost career. I guess if set up right the lesser legal sentences and the harsher career penalties might come close to balance but it’s still starting from a disadvantage.

    1. I thought the anti-wolf/bear arguments weren’t ecological, but economic, from ranchers and shepherds who didn’t want their sheep and calves eaten. But, I suppose logging companies might not appreciate mammoths knocking over trees and eating saplings, possibly converting the forest into a savannah.

      Most of the arguments in Mammoth Dawn were either purely ecological — let’s freeze the ecosystem in its current state, even if humans were responsible for killing off the mammoths, but there was also a group worried about the possible introduction of an unknown disease.

      That’s a great line about passenger pigeons. Mammoth Dawn also had passenger pigeons, dodos, moas, and a surprise appearance by another species at the very end.

  2. Have you read “Mammoth” by Varley? That’s what sprung to my mind…

    1. The blurb on that one convinced me it was more of a time travel story than a mammoth story, despite the title. Maybe I’ll give it a second look.

  3. Thanks for reading Wild Concept. It’s the first thing I ever published, and I hope you enjoyed it.

    1. Yes, it was an engaging story. I’m still leaning towards trying Panama next.

      1. Try Panama out. It’s been a perennial seller for me. I may even be able to comp you one if you like.

        1. Thanks, but I think I already have a copy on my kindle.

  4. Reblogged this on Entertaining Stories and commented:

    Lisa’s origin story gets a little love today. Stop by Planetary Defense Command and check out his vacation reading list.

  5. […] year, I posted about the novella Mammoth Dawn, a collaboration between KJA and Gregory […]

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