TITLE: Unbound Brothers
AUTHOR: Rob Rowntree
GENRE(S): Science Fiction
LENGTH: 317 pages
After centuries of vainly searching for intelligent life in the distant cosmos, mankind pulls back from space exploration. Former deep-space pilot Alan Abrams, now confined to earth, works at a museum in order to support his crippled brother. Alan’s only reminder of years of interstellar exploration are the wet-ware nodes forever imbedded in his neck. But his brother’s medical bills are piling up and Alan is desperate. During a visit to his brother’s nursing home, a mysterious tycoon makes Alan a proposition he can’t refuse – join a private deep-space expedition and never worry about money, or his brother’s expensive medical care, again. Officially, the expedition seeks the remains of a long vanished spaceship in a distant star system. However, Alan suspects there may be more to the mission than his benefactor is telling him. As they travel across the galaxy in “blue space” a mysterious saboteur threatens the spacecraft and crew. Alan learns the previous expedition found something out there, a dark secret someone wants to keep hidden at any cost.
Rob Rowntree’s debut novel is a mix of Arthur C. Clark and Michael Crichton. In fact, about a fourth of the way into the book I kept thinking how much it reminded me of Sphere
. From fascinating concepts like “blue space” to an interesting take on “wet-ware,” the novel explores several fascinating sci-fi themes. Overall, Rowntree’s writing is clean and tight, with excellent dialogue and good pacing. The characters are well written and believable, with plenty of tension to go around and keep the reader involved.
However, Unbound Brothers
misses my top picks for one important reason - editing. This novel needed a little more polish. Over and over, I stumbled over incomplete sentences, punctuation errors, and a minor plot hole or two. The editing didn’t prevent me from enjoying the novel or recommending this book, but the errors were noticeable enough to keep Unbound Brothers
out of my top picks.
Editing aside, Rob Rowntree is obviously a strong writer with a bright future. I’ll be on the lookout for more books by this talented author. If you are a hardcore sci-fi fan or just a casual reader looking for a good book on a lazy summer day, Unbound Brothers
is definitely for you. It earns 3.8 stars.
THE LINKS Unbound Brothers on Amazon If you enjoyed this review follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter
and buy his books, Black Sea Gods or Carson's Love.
Bostonian author, husband and suburban farmer, Scott Cramer joins us today to talk about his book, writing and his life. Please welcome, Scott Cramer to the Underground!Katie:
What gave you the idea for Night of the Purple Moon
I wanted to write something that was high concept, something I could describe in a few sentences and people would know what the book was about. I also wanted to put my protagonist in a dangerous situation where the stakes were high. At the same time, I wanted to place my characters in a setting I could describe in some detail (a small island off Maine). Those were some of the things on my mind when I was plotting Night of the Purple Moon
. Finally, I had read a number of very good books where kids set out on their own after the death of their parents. I thought it would raise the stakes significantly if virtually every older teen and adult were to die.Katie:
What research went into the premise for the purple moon and the space dust that decimated the adults in your story?Scott:
I was looking for something that adults had but kids did not. That’s when I discovered the hormones, testosterone and estrogen. The levels of those hormones increase at puberty. The levels decrease in old age. It then became a matter of having a bacteria attack those hormones. The comet’s tail became the way to spread the bacteria everywhere quickly. (Several people wrote to me recently about the close encounter Earth had with an asteroid and the meteorite that crashed in Siberia.) In one scene, an elderly neighbor, Mr. Couture, does not die right away. In a sense, that was plausible because he had lower levels of the hormones.Katie:
When you create your characters, how do you write authentic children?Scott:
I guess I see all characters the same, no matter their age. Everyone has fears and dreams and desires. Everyone has strengths and faults. If you can weave all those elements together, you should have the foundation of a strong character. Then it’s a matter of having them change and grow over time as the result of their struggles.Katie:
What are you currently working on? Scott:
Colony East, Book #2 in The Toucan Trilogy. I have a pretty good handle on it, and I hope to publish it during the summer of 2013. But I also don’t want to rush it.Katie:
What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?Scott:
Write every day. Writing, at least to me, is 1 part joy, 1 part inspiration, and 8 parts hard work, like breaking rocks into pebbles and then turning the pebbles to dust. But if you keep chipping away, through thick and thin, you will eventually create a story.Katie:
How much marketing are you doing? What's your best kept marketing secret? Scott:
Obscurity is the enemy for all authors, and especially indie authors. My favorite part of marketing is when I connect with readers. The 8 parts of drudgery (mentioned above) is all worth it when I get feedback from readers who really liked the book. On a side note, I’d say that most of the readers of Night of the Purple Moon
are over the age of 20. But I got a note from a sixth grader recently. She featured me in her school’s author fair. It doesn’t get much better than that.Katie:
Why the Young Adult genre? Have you considered writing in other genres?Scott:
In the same way I don’t distinguish between the ages of characters, I almost feel the same way about genres. It’s mostly about the story. The characters may be 12 or 15 years old, but it still boils down to story.Katie:
Thank you, Scott. You can find Scott on Facebook
. You can find Night of the Purple Moon here.
Talented British author Emma Mills has done it again. This paranormal romance author has release book three in her WitchBlood
series. Audiences everywhere rejoice. To give our readers a taste of her main character, Jess, she's provided a character interview. Enjoy. Interviewer:
Hi Jess, so we last chatted with you a year ago when you had just been turned into a vampire. How are you now, I notice your eyes have changed color?Jess:
Ha! Yeah that was a bit of a shock for the clan. (She laughs and twirls a strand of hair around her finger). What a year I’ve had, huh? Well, I guess I get the best of both worlds now.
Interviewer: Last time we spoke you basically admitted that you were a hopeless vampire. Is that still
Nah… I don’t know. I guess I’ve come to terms with my new diet. I certainly don’t ever find myself craving human food anymore that’s for sure. I think Eva would agree that I’ve found my fangs!Interviewer:
So if you have come to terms with being a vampire how do you feel about the part of you that is half witch?Jess:
Now I can control my power and have my license it’s pretty awesome, but when I was just stressing out and blowing all the electricals it was a pain in the rear. I guess when you’re half and half you run the risk of not quite being accepted into either group, but in my case I have to be wary of the wrong types welcoming me, for the wrong reasons.Interviewer:
Are you talking about Brittany’s grandmother now or the Coven of the Blood Moon?Jess:
Hmm, I suppose both. The drama with Brit’s grandmother was difficult because she’s family, but the coven has supposedly been disbanded… though I’m not sure how true that is.Interviewer:
So, at the moment you are staying with your Aunt in Massachusetts. Do you have any plans to go back to the UK?Jess:
(Jess smiles shyly and resumes the hair twirling.) Yeah, I think so. At the moment Brittany is studying for her license and I think my Aunt is enjoying having us around but I miss Manchester and…Interviewer:
And there are rumours that a certain someone is back in your life?Jess:
…Maybe… there are actually several reasons for me to come back to the UK. Luke is currently up in York fighting this weird human insurgency who hates supernaturals. I want to check in on him and the Council have yet to find Mary… the vampire who killed my friend.Interviewer:
So you’re not going to answer my question about Daniel then?Jess:
Ha! Maybe… and maybe not! It’s personal. It’s hard talking about things that mean so much to me. It still feels very raw.
Thanks so much for hosting me on Underground Books. Here is the information on my new book WitchLove
, which is book 3 in the Witchblood series.
With the reappearance of a lost love, Jess flees to the only people who can help her control her increasing powers and gain independence – her family’s coven. But with a bruised heart can Jess learn to forgive or will she find new love in the United States? Witchlove, the third installment of the Witchblood series, is a new adventure that takes Jess from New England to Voodoo country in the South.
Thanks to Emma's generosity, we are giving away 5 Kindle copies of Witchblood
(the first book in the Witchblood
series) to our Weekly Newsletter subscribers! If you don't have a subscription already, subscribe
by Friday, February 22 and you will receive instructions under "Book Giveaways" at the bottom of your Weekly Newsletter email.
I'm very excited to announce that Nessa: A Breeders Story
will release today, Tuesday, February 5th. The genesis of this story began when I polled readers in December and asked which character they'd like to get to know better. Surprisingly, many fans said Nessa Vandewater, Clay's mother. From there, Nessa's story grew and I am pleased with how it turned out. I hope you'll like it too. The novelette is priced at 99 cents, so it will be affordable to die hard fans and new readers alike. To celebrate, I'm also hosting a giveaway of an Amazon gift card to one lucky winner. Enter here.
Here's the pitch to wet your whistle.
Eighteen-year-old Nessa knows what it’s like to be an endangered species. Growing up in a dying world where nine out of ten babies are born male, she survives by trusting no one. When Marlin, the nineteen-year-old gunslinger with the sky-blue eyes, kills the man who has been keeping her enslaved, Nessa decides this handsome stranger might be her meal ticket. What she doesn’t realize is love is still possible, even in their decimated world. When Nessa discovers she’s pregnant with Marlin’s child, her difficult life now teeters on a knife’s edge. Can she bear to bring a child into their shattered world? Better yet, can Marlin keep them safe from those that hunt Nessa?
A companion story to The Breeders
, this prequel novelette (34 pages or 10,000 words) explores the origins of two important characters and gives a deeper look into their background. It contains minor spoilers to the novel and is intended for mature teens and adults. You can follow Katie French on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
review by Katie French
When I saw the cover art for The Scourge
at the bottom of my own novel's
“Customers who bought this item also bought...” page, I knew I wanted to read it. The haunting description of Fennel, a sightless girl who must be the water bearer for her people during the time of the scourge drew me in. The scourge are basically zombies-- humans turned flesh-eaters who attack the healthy, turning them sick as well. For some reason the scourge do not attack the sightless, so Fennel is tapped to take an agonizing walk down to the water through the throng of fleshies everyday.
Then enter Peree, a tree-dwelling hunter, who has been given the task of being her keeper. Peree is her eyes while she slips through the masses of sick ones. Fennel's people and Peree's people live in an uneasy alliance. Yet, somehow these two find an instant connection, one that worries both of them. Groundies and Lofties do not mix. Fennel agonizes over the bond that grows between her and Peree.
When the scourge doesn't leave after a few days as expected, Fennel's people get desperate. Fennel volunteers to search for the Hidden Waters supposedly buried deep within the safety of their caves. Peree slips away to guide her. The two embark on a nail-biting journey through pitch-black caves where they are tested to the core of their being.
I was instantly jealous of the premise of this novel. What can be more terrifying than walking into a mob of flesh-eating monsters with no sight? Henley is a master of upping the terror, bringing us in to Fennel's haunting journey to the water hole. And here's the amazing thing, Henley cannot employ any visual imagery. No visual imagery! It's amazing. I was expecting the book to flounder and die in a sightless world, but no. As a reader, I got used to wandering around a world without vision. Somehow Henley uses surrounding sounds, smells and touch to make a world as vivid as any with sight. I was in awe of how easily she accomplished something that even master writers would not attempt.
I went online to look for a publisher for the novel. I was sure because of the quality that it had been picked up by one of the big six. However, I was surprised to learn it is self-published. There are gems out there in the self-published arena and this is one of them. I highly recommend this book to fans of speculative Young Adult fiction. You won't be disappointed.
You can find The Scourge here.
You can find A.G. Henley here. If you enjoyed this review you can follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Katie French on Facebook and on her website.
Welcome back to Underground Book Reviews Summer Short Fiction Series. This month I'll bring you three very different short fiction pieces starting with Datafall by Rich Larson.
Datafall by Rich Larson
Datafall is a collection of seven science fiction short stories. Larson’s prose is short and efficient, not a word wasted. Each syllable is crafted for maximum effect to forge stories that are almost tight to a fault. I admire this style, but I think this approach slightly detracted from Larson’s first four tales.
Datafall’s first few stories are intriguing, but stiff. They’re written with machine-like efficiency, but border on cold and lack a certain degree of emotional depth. The themes are effectively executed, but are not especially original or memorable.
Thankfully, Larson’s prose warms in the last three stories and we get a glimpse of not a good writer, but an excellent writer. Back So Soon is somewhat humorous story about self-image and relationships in a not-so-distant future. Factory Man is a fresh take on the Frankenstein theme and a bleak, but powerful, commentary on human life. As for the final tale, Datafall, Larson was smart naming the compendium for this story. This little nugget is very short and beautifully written, a perfect piece of sci-fi gold.
The reader should consider the first four stories in Datafall as the warm-up for the final three. They make this inspired compendium a worthy read for any sci-fi fan and it earns it an 82 out of 99 cents.
TITLE: Dragon’s Teeth
AUTHOR: Suzanne Van Rooyen
GENRE: Dystopian Cyberpunk
PUBLISHER: Divertir Publishing
What do you get when you combine a dystopian setting with genetically enhanced soldiers, drug-trafficking and a cynical detective? Dragon’s Teeth
. Although the title of Suzanne Van Rooyen’s debut novel may incite images of characters from a fantasy book, there are neither dragons nor elves between the pages. Instead, we are launched into a world of robots and synthetic food, where having imperfect genetics is a crime, plastic surgery is the norm and no one remembers what the sun feels like on their skin. Dragon’s Teeth
is divided into three parts. Part I follows Cyrus, a private detective and occasional drug dealer who yearns for a time when alcohol was made by fermentation and genetics was only a scientific study. While Part II seems completely unrelated to Part I, it instantly caught my imagination. Part II follows two genetically engineered soldiers in a military camp as they come to realize that they are being fed nothing but lies. But it is Part III, which ties the first two together with a dark, twisted plot that truly makes Dragon’s Teeth
Overall, Suzanne’s world was intriguing, but not thoroughly fleshed out. While most debut authors make the mistake of writing too much, I think Suzanne wrote too little. As a stickler for detail, I found myself wanting more scientific explanations and more world-building. There were fantastic sub-plots that I wanted to explore in depth. Part I, II and III had enough substance to flesh out into a full-blown trilogy. And while that is an endorsement, it is also a complaint. Dragon’s Teeth
piqued my interest and kept me entertained, but it did not stand up to its full potential.
Suzanne Van Rooyan has an epic imagination. Pick up Dragon’s Teeth
if you’re hungry for cyberpunk, dystopian scenarios and post-apocalyptic landscapes. You won’t be disappointed, but you may be left wanting more. The material is suitable for both adult and young adult readers, but it is obviously aimed towards an adult audience.
LINKSDragon's Teeth on AmazonSuzanne's websiteSuzanne on TwitterSuzanne on Facebook If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome to The Short Fiction Review series here on UBR. This month I’m reviewing three very different pieces of short fiction by self-published and traditionally published writers.
Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes
Lamppost, a sci-fi novelette by Malcolm W. Keyes (a mysterious pseudonym of a published speculative fiction author), takes the reader on a thoughtful exploration of the human soul, a mind-blowing ride though the multiverse and, along the way, we get to blow up evil aliens.
This is the story of Jonah, a military starpilot who mentally fuses with his spacecraft to become a single entity. Exhausted from a career of battling universe-devouring machines, Jonah is burned out and must take drugs to fulfill his duties. Depressed and strung out, it is duty that gives Jonah his only reason for living. He is unable to form normal human relationships. Eventually, Jonah is ordered to seek counseling. With his counselor’s help, Jonah finally finds himself and connects with a childhood sweetheart, Ariel. In her he finds love and a new reason to live. Just when he is able to feel human
again, Jonah is ordered on the mission of a lifetime, a mission to save the universe.
Lamppost is Darkstar meets Top Gun with a little of The Last Starfighter thrown in. The writing is fast and clean, sophisticated and yet simple. It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this book, and that’s the way a good story should be. Lamppost by Malcolm W. Keyes gets 88 out of 99 cents.
Bryan R. Dennis, the author of The Uncanny Valley
, describes his sci-fi, horror, and fantasy compendium as “old-fashioned.” I call it wonderful. This compilation of sixteen short stories harkens back to the days when giants like Bradbury, Asimov, and Anderson published exciting short stories kids like me devoured. Their tales lifted the reader beyond the fantastic and made us realize the humanity of sci-fi was as every bit as important as the technical wonder. I’m not saying Dennis is in the same league as these great writers (yet), only that he captures the same magic. Like those authors of yesteryear, he explores the impact of the improbable, and the impossible, upon the human spirit.
The element of the common-meets-the-unfamiliar injects these stories with a distinct, unsettling feel. Cover-to-cover, each story thrusts the characters out of their familiar surroundings into bizarre, often terrifying, environments. Dennis even goes so far as to throw extraordinary characters into ordinary situations for which they are ill prepared. In worlds turned upside down, Dennis forces his protagonists to confront the essence of their humanity; to decide what is right and wrong and good and evil. Along the way, the reader must ask not only what it means to be human, but what it means to truly feel
At worst, some stories in Uncanny
are merely good. Eight Legs to Doomsday
and One Good Joke
are satisfying sci-fi fare. The book only has one true horror tale, Noah
, about an emerging sociopath. Even the weakest story, Super Temps
, will still put a smile on your face.
At best, however, many of Bryan R. Dennis’s stories are simply brilliant. After reading Nox Noctis
I promise you will never take light for granted again. I Am You,
which vaguely echoes Spielberg’s A.I.,
strikes to the heart of the book’s central theme. Asian Food
and Scents of Life
are showcases for Dennis’s talent and will haunt you long after you put the book down.
What makes this work truly modern is how Dennis masterfully blurs the line between sci-fi and fantasy. Stories like Isle of Stumps
don’t neatly fit in one genre or another.
It isn’t just the subjects or theme that makes this book so satisfying. Dennis is one of those rare authors who is both an adept story teller and an excellent wordsmith. From page one it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing. With warm, natural prose he quickly summons realistic characters and exciting plots. You don’t read his work as much as soak it in.
The Uncanny Valley suffers from only a mild case of the bane of the self-published - mechanical and formatting errors. However, it wasn’t enough to detract from the book. This book is suitable for ages twelve and up, with only minor violence and some suggestive themes.
Coming off the heels of my last review, I am reluctant to select back-to-back Top Picks, but the quality of this work leaves me no choice. Good short stories are hard to come by and these are exactly the kind I loved as a teenager. I thereby give The Uncanny Valley
a rating of 90 out of 99 cents and add it to annals of the Underground’s Top Picks.
99 Cents worth of Bryan R. Dennis links:Bryan R. Dennis's Amazon Author Page
Follow Bryan R. Dennis on Twitter
Bryan R. Dennis on SmashswordsIndiesnippets
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