Tag Archives: book review

Highly Suspicious Blogs

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting this month.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had some career-related issues.  I have a huge backlog of short story and novel reviews I’d like to write, so hopefully I can hit the keyboard again soon.   I’ve also been failing in another of my duties as Planetary […]

Submit Your 2016 Nominations

Originally posted on Planetary Awards:
Happy New Year — it’s time to nominate your favorite science fiction and fantasy writing for the 2016 Planetary Awards. We’re doing only two categories this year: Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages) Longer story (novels) If you’re a book blogger, book podcaster, or booktuber, the nomination process is…

Magazine: Albedo One #46

A bowl of cereal in one hand, a jug of milk in the other, I head to the kitchen table. There’s no room to set down my breakfast, because a two-foot-tall man in a three-piece suit is stretched out there, snoring. I use my elbow to shove him off, and he hits the floor with […]

Review: Children of the Different

Children of the Different     Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) Fellow blogger SC Flynn gave me a copy of the audiobook version of his first self-published novel, Children of the Different. I enjoyed listening to an Australian-authored audiobook with an Australian narrator — most Aussie audiobooks I’ve run across are read […]

Planetary Awards and Dragon Awards

The winners have been announced in the 2015 Planetary Awards. The winner for best short story was “Something in the Water” by C. S. Boyack. I wrote a little about the story when I nominated it, and I also reviewed the collection which contains the story. I ‘ve read the winner for best novel, Torchship, […]

Questions from MarzAat

MarzAat recently nominated me for a Liebster award. If you’re not familiar with Liebster: basically you answer ten questions, then forward ten questions to ten bloggers who impress you. I’m not going to forward the questions on, as some bloggers have grown tired of awards. Reference this graphic from Entertaining Stories: However, if you would […]

Review: Heirs of Empire

Heirs of Empire I found Heirs of Empire when I was searching for a novel to nominate for The Planetary Awards. The book has a reasonably interesting plot: a military coup knocks out most of a ruling dynasty, the youngest members of the dynasty escape, and the dynasty’s allies lay a foundation for its return […]

Nine novels down, five to go

I read nine novels in my search for planetary awards nominees, so I thought I’d give you a rundown of them before I resume my magazine quest.  I’ll also lay out my plans for reading other bloggers’ nominees. Traditionally-published, from best to worst: #1) Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia was my nominee. […]

Vote for the best stories of 2015

Originally posted on Planetary Awards:
If you’re a book blogger, podcaster, or booktuber, then it’s time to vote for the best stories of 2015. You are allowed one vote per category, chosen from the nominated works listed below: Short Story / Novella: Something in the Water by C.S. Boyack, in The Experimental Notebook of C. S.…

Review: Armada

Armada Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) I read Armada as part of my search for a 2015-published novel worthy of a Planetary Awards nomination. I place it third out of the five traditionally-published novels I read. If Armada had been indie-published, I also would have placed it squarely in the middle of […]

Rath’s Deception – my choice for best self-published novel of 2015

Last week, I posted my nomination for the Planetary Awards in the short story category. In that post, I mentioned that I found a couple of surprise gems in my December novel-reading binge. The best of these was Rath’s Deception by Piers Platt. I wasn’t familiar with the author, and the polished writing and page-turning quality […]

My 2015 Planetary Awards Nominations

The 2015 Planetary Awards have three categories open for nominations: shorter story (including novelettes and novellas), traditionally published novel, and self-published / small press novel. It wasn’t too hard for me to find a short story nominee. I’ve read a dozen 2015 science fiction magazines as part of my magazine quest, and I’ve also read […]

Magazine: Clarkesworld Nov 2015

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 110 The Sri Lankan mountainside is steep, and the ground is slick with mud and algae-covered tree roots, but I’m not even breathing hard as I ascend — I’m riding in a palanquin carried by a gang of jungle squid. They wrap their tentacles around upslope trees and pull, repeating the process […]

Submit Your 2015 Nominations

Originally posted on Planetary Awards:
It’s time for book bloggers, podcasters, and booktubers to nominate their favorite science fiction and fantasy books and short stories published in 2015. There are three categories for the 2015 awards: 1) Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages) 2) Traditionally published novel 3) Small press / self-published novel Nominations…

Magazine: Asimov’s Dec 2015

Asimov’s Science Fiction, December 2015 I follow the priests into the Temple of Asimov. Hooded grey robes hide their faces and bodies; I can’t tell what sex they are, or whether they’re actually human. They lead me to a reading room and motion for me to sit at an antique writing desk. One of them, […]

Magazine: Analog Dec 2015

Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2015 I’m in the space station’s control room, watching two progress bars on a computer monitor. One is labeled “Analog magazine download”. The other is labeled “Space station auto-destruct”. The two appear to be perfectly synchronized. — Novelette: A Case of Identity by Edward Lerner. An AI private detective […]

Magazine: Interzone Sep-Oct 2015

Interzone #260 Sep-Oct 2015 My quest isn’t off to an auspicious start. I’ve spent eight weeks in London, trying to get into the archives of the Ministry of Science Fiction. Every morning, I arrive at the ministry to find a person I haven’t seen before sitting at the front desk. I show them yesterday’s approval […]

On a Quest

I’m setting off on a quest.  I won’t be sailing after the Golden Fleece, or throwing jewelry into a volcano. Instead, I’m searching for a science fiction / fantasy magazine worthy of my subscription dollars. I haven’t read a magazine in quite a while. For many years, my reading time was entirely devoted to scientific […]

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) The good news: this novel has a great story. The bad news: most of that story is in the last third of the book. MINOR SPOILERS BELOW – ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK The book gets off to a promising start, as […]

Review: The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack Four Royal Crowns (4 out of 4 rating) I had trouble reviewing this collection of 12 short stories. Deciding on a rating was easy — I enjoy short-format stories, and was totally immersed in 9 of the 12. My problem was what to write about each of them– […]

Bookends: Leyfarers and Wayfarers

Leyfarers and Wayfarers is a collection of 16 stories (in a variety of genres) by G L Francis. As usual for my bookends series of posts, I read the first and last stories, then made a decision whether to continue. First Story: Tools of the Trade In this steampunk tale, Russian water spirits are killing […]

Review: Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain

Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) The recent 4th of July holiday here in the USA brought this book to my mind. The story isn’t set during the Revolutionary War, but in the audiobook, Emperor Mollusk has a British accent, and he fights against The Sinister Brain, […]

Review: The Worms of Heaven

The Worms Of Heaven Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) The Worms of Heaven is the third book in Misha Burnett‘s “Book of Lost Doors” series. I’ve previously reviewed the first two books, Catskinner’s Book and Cannibal Hearts. The stories focus on James, a young man who shares his head with Catskinner, who […]

Review: Leviathan

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Leviathan Four Royal Crowns (4 out of 4 rating) I’ve blogged about why I enjoy the Lost Fleet series and why I was disappointed with Steadfast; now I’m glad to see the series got back on track with Leviathan. The novel starts off a bit slow, as the two […]

Review: The Might of Fortitude

The Might of Fortitude Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) This military science fiction story follows an officer as he moves from ground combat to command of one of his space navy’s most specialized high-tech warships.  I think I need to follow the good, bad, and ugly format: The good: The author paints a picture […]

Bookends: Wyrd Worlds

Wyrd Worlds is a collection of fantasy and science fiction short stories by self-published authors. The book is free, as is its sequel, Wyrd Worlds II. The authors of these stories are hoping that you’ll enjoy their work, then seek out something else they’ve written. As usual for my Bookends series, I have read the […]

Review: 1000

1000 One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) I haven’t written a negative review in a while, and I thought it was time, before people start to think I’ve gone soft. [I mention why I’m doing fewer negative reviews on my revised About Page.] So, beetles, roll this ball of dung away: A combination […]

Review: Cannibal Hearts

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) Cannibal Hearts is the sequel to Catskinner’s Book, which I reviewed last year. Although paranormal/urban fantasy isn’t my favorite sub-genre, I enjoyed Catskinner’s book. To me, the best aspects of the story were a world where it felt like anything could happen, and the dual nature of […]

Bookends: Quantum Zoo

In an earlier review of The Power of Six, I mentioned my plans for a new feature where I read the first and last short story from a collection. In each post of this feature, I’ll briefly describe the two stories, and then indicate whether I’m inclined to read further in the collection. My theory […]

Review: The Fallen Race

  Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) Fellow blogger Kal Spriggs responded to my last call for authors, and provided an audiobook version of The Fallen Race. In doing so, he’s given me a bit of a puzzle: I don’t think I can write a one-size-fits-all review; whether you’ll enjoy this story or […]

Review: The Power of Six

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) I’ve been wanting to read something by Nicholas Rossis for a while, as he’s a frequent visitor to this blog and seems like a really nice guy. I had planned to write about The Power of Six, his short story collection, as the first post of a […]

Review: Adam

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) Fellow blogger Justine Allen has been a frequent visitor here, so I made sure to include some of her work in my latest reading binge. I’m glad I did so; I was reading a long string of stories which didn’t really go anywhere (not bad enough to […]

Review: A World Out of Time

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) When you read a Larry Niven novel, you shouldn’t expect memorable characters. You should expect big-picture science fiction concepts, with characters who serve as vehicles to carry you through the sci-fi landscape. I’m OK with that; I think there’s a place for stories focused on ideas and […]

Review: Spikebreaker

Four Royal Crowns (4 out of 4 rating) Spikebreaker is a story about a police unit which partners regular officers with telepaths. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it; I’m a sucker for anything which combines sci-fi and cops, but I wasn’t so sure about the psychic angle. After reading, I was impressed enough to […]

Calling all Authors

In August, I’ll be making several long international flights, so it’s time to load my kindle and ipod with reading material. If you’re an author and would like me to review one of your stories, leave me a message in the comments section below. If you’d rather speak privately, send me a direct message via […]

Logan’s Run vs. Logan’s Run

    VS I listened to an audiobook of the classic science fiction novel “Logan’s Run” with the intention of reviewing it. However, I couldn’t evaluate the story on its own; I could only think of it in terms of the “Logan’s Run” movie, or more accurately, my decades-old memories of the movie. So, instead […]

Review: Moment of Extinction

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) I can’t say anything about this story without spoilers, so here’s the dragon: MINOR SPOILERS BELOW – ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK There are two types of characters here: workers for a relief agency which rescues people from alternate universes / parallel dimensions, and the refugees. (The […]

Review: The Energy Scavengers

  Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) This is an ambitious story, as every character is a robot; there are no humans or bugs or squids, only metal parts and circuitry. Two human-built robots (a lander and a rover) touch down on what was once an alien mining colony, and interact with the […]

Review: Catskinner’s Book

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) The author of Catskinner’s Book, Misha Burnett, gave me a copy of the audiobook version and asked me to review it. I’ve decided to try something a little bit different with this review, dividing it into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fortunately, the story pulled […]

Review: Steadfast

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) This will be a brief review, as I recently posted about things I liked in Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. As the Lost Fleet is one of my favorite science fiction series, why didn’t the latest book receive my top rating? My problem is with the structure […]

We have a “winner”

New Beginnings (Vitalis) has won the first Radioactive Dung Beetle Award! I think this victory provides an important lesson for authors: make sure your marketing blurb matches the genre, style, and tone of your story. Don’t bait-and-switch, and don’t assume that the customer has read your previous work and therefore knows what to expect. If […]

First Radioactive Dung Beetle Award

It’s time for Planetary Defense Command’s first ever Radioactive Dung Beetle Award. So far this year, the blog has featured six stories awful enough to be balled up and rolled away by my dung beetles. Now, it’s time to choose the worst of the worst. This will be done in a democratic fashion; it’s your […]

Review: Seventy

One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) I’ve given this story a dung beetle rating for its content rather than its writing style. I have two major problems with the content. First, the failure of certain terraforming technologies is a key plot device, yet the author fails to explain why those technologies were being […]

Series Review: The Lost Fleet

Four Royal Crowns (4 out of 4 rating) The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell (pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired naval officer) is one of my favorite science fiction works. As a new book in the series (Steadfast) was just released today, I thought this would be a good time for a […]

Blog: the parasite guy

In my blog’s first post, I mentioned that 62,597 science fiction titles were available at Amazon’s Kindle store. That total is now up to 70,246 (a change of 7,649, or almost 65 per day). During the same time period, I inspected 17 titles for bad science fiction. Even if I had reviewed only new releases, […]

Review: The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) This story throws a science fiction twist into a western setting. The story is written well, and the western setting will seem familiar to anyone who has watched western movies, but I didn’t feel that the science fiction element was taken far enough. The author has a […]

Review: Making a Gilling

One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) This is a marginal story, buried under some of the worst writing I’ve seen. I realize that the author isn’t a native English speaker, but if someone is going to publish short stories and novels in English, they can at least take the time to turn on […]

Seven Cities of Paper

I’ve created a second blog; it is similar to this one except it is for non-fiction, primarily history books. If you have any interest in non-fiction/history, check it out at sevencitiesofpaper.wordpress.com Here at Planetary Defense Command, I try to shine a light on lesser-known writers, focusing on short stories to increase the number of authors […]

Review: Toy Planets

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) The concept and main character of this story are outstanding, worthy of inclusion in any collection. Unfortunately, the writing and editing don’t rise to the same level, dragging the Asimov/Clarke class concept down to produce a story which is just average. The story also goes on a […]

Review: Steelheart

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) I’m not normally into superheroes, but I almost gave this story my very top rating. I’ll discuss why I didn’t at the end of the review (below the triple spoiler dragons), but basically the story just went a chapter too far. If it had ended right at […]

Review: Redtooth

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) This story is written well, has a distinctive main character, and makes good use of humor; I wouldn’t hesitate to read another story by the author. So, why didn’t I give it one of my top ratings? I would have preferred slightly more development of the plot, […]

Review: Empty Sea

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) This story begins with several tourists hiding in a resort on an out-of-the-way planet. They are hiding because some sort of armed conflict is taking place / has taken place outside. The early part of the story is written well; if you’ve ever been holed up in […]

Review: Le Morte d’Arthur

Unrated Once again, I am psychically tuning in to my readers’ thoughts: “Two unrated stories in a row? You are worthless and weak. We welcome our new alien overlords.” Wait, don’t surrender yet! This is another story which is a bit light on plot: A captain welcomes a replacement crew member on board the ship. […]

Review: From the Ice Incarnate

Unrated I am using my psychic powers to tap into my readers’ thoughts: “Your entire purpose in life is to rate things, and you chose ‘unrated’? You are lazy and pathetic. Is this what my planetary defense taxes are paying for?” Wait, let me explain! This story is a vivid description of two people being […]

Review: The Dragon in the Sea

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) This is my second discount audiobook by Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. In this story, the western hemisphere is at war with a not-quite-specified coalition of Asian powers that includes Russia. Britain is a nuclear wasteland. The westerners need more fossil fuel, so they’ve been drilling […]

Review: Whipping Star

One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) Audible, the dealer for my audiobook addiction, periodically has deep-discount science fiction sales. During one of the latest, I picked up two books by Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, which I’ve seen reported as the most-loved and the best-selling science fiction book ever. I read Dune […]

Review: The Is Shop

One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) This story is based on an interesting premise: a retail store that will acquire anything a customer desires. Unfortunately, beyond that concept, there’s nothing worth reading. The story is also another example of a “sci-fi” story without any “sci” in it. There are some sentences that seem […]

Review: Delirium (Debt Collector)

Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) Although I didn’t give this story my highest rating, I don’t have anything negative to say about it. It is well written and has interesting characters; I wish I could produce something of this quality. My only problem is with the category/placement; I need more “sci” in […]

Review: New Beginnings (Vitalis)

One dung Beetle (1 out of 4 rating) I chose this story because in its marketing blurb there is talk of space pirates, and there are also some vague statements which, to me, implied the heroine might have a past as a secret agent. There was absolutely nothing to warn me that I would soon […]

What am I looking at?

I thought I’d look at some other blogs which do book reviews, and I ran across this insane text posing as a book review. At first, I assumed it was an automated system for writing book reviews, but then I realized any self-respecting programmer would pull the plug. My second thought was “drugs”, but that’s […]

Review: Merry Christmas, Mr. Babbers!

Two nuclear missiles (2 out of 4 rating) To me, this story breaks into two very different halves. I interpreted the first half as social commentary about technology and human relationships; since it’s fairly depressing, you might even call it “literature”. The second half of the story takes a left turn into la-la land; the […]

Review: Eat Fish and Die

Four Royal Crowns (4 out of 4 rating) I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this story from the description; I was expecting a two-fisted, butt-kicking shoot-em-up with a side order of humor. The main character seems to fit my expectations; he sounds like a man who’s been around the galaxy, and now sits […]

The Spoiler Dragon

The Spoiler Dragon

I try to keep my reviews as vague as possible concerning plot twists or resolutions. Sometimes, it’s difficult to make a point about a story’s strengths or weaknesses without getting specific. When I’m about to get into details, I’ll display the spoiler dragon (image from Clker.com, a provider of free public-domain clip art).  The spoiler […]

Review: The Last Manned Fighter

  Three flying saucers (3 out of 4 rating) This story begins with a preface (about 5% of the work’s length) about how science fiction could influence military planning, but my comments will be limited to the fictional portion of the work. I’ve tried to avoid writing anything specific enough to be a spoiler, although […]

Review: Change by Design

One dung beetle (1 out of 4 rating) I chose this story because the main character is supposedly fighting against a bureaucracy. Who hasn’t fought with a bureaucratic government agency, military organization, corporation or university? I guess the answer is: everyone who’s smarter than I am, and realized there’s no hope of victory. Change by […]