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Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly, Fabio Casto

Burn Slowly (Original: Bruciate Lentamente, translated Sarah Jane Webb)

I really hate having to quit on a review read. Unfortunately, Burn Slowly was one of the ones I had to give up on. Part of the trouble I had with the story was the use of language. While it was fluently translated from the original, the narrative style was so densely-worded that the pace of the story was almost brought to a halt, and even deciphering what the story was, was challenging. For the record, my first language is English, but when I’d got a third of the way into the book, and still hadn’t come across enough to indicate whether I was reading a science-fiction tale, or a thriller, or the hallucinations of an unhealthy man on drugs, or even where any of the three options might be eventually headed, I’m afraid I stopped trying. To my regret, there is only so much time I can spend on forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying.

From what I was able to gather, the book may have had some strong points if my stamina hadn’t given out at the pacing. Among other things, the author had clearly done some research into ancient legends to support his book; the characters were definitely well-fleshed out. It just wasn’t enough to persuade me to keep pounding my head on the prose.

Virgo 97, Italo Marago

Virgo 97, Italo Marago

Virgo 97: A science-fiction thriller

Virgo 97 is the name of a spacecraft. You could equally call it the spacecraft. More sensitive to CO2 than humans, the last of the bees died last year, and without them, crops and animals are already beginning to die as well. Virgo 97, with four astronauts aboard, is headed to Mars, to initiate the delicate process of terraforming. With the time and the spaceships on hand, Earth may be able to evacuate up to ten percent of the global population before the atmosphere and the declining food supply kills everyone – but unfortunately, CO2 isn’t the only thing that can kill.

Italo Marago’s Virgo 97 exceeded all my expectations. While there were some areas that would have benefited immensely from a copy-edit, and some of the character interactions and reactions need more development, the story overall was brilliantly paced, intricate, and compelling. Playing to themes that are already daily fare in the media, the author created a solid basis for the crime of our times, set in a near-future environment that was completely convincing. Despite the research that had obviously gone into the book, it was well-handled and at no point came close to drowning the story in detail, rather, it added finishing touches. Certainly a book well worth the read for anyone looking for their next sci-fi or crime thriller.

The Explorers of Serdame, Phoenix Williams

The Explorers of Serdame, Phoenix Williams

The Explorers of Serdame: The Alfred Arnold Saga Book 2

The Explorers of Serdame is a humorous fiction story, with a writing style and a theme that would make it suitable for younger audiences. Sadly, we reviewers at By Rite of Word have almost no sense of humour, making submitting a comedy for our review a very digital experience. What do I mean by that? Basically, that it’ll either hit that vanishingly small target of our sense of humour, and we’ll love it, rave about it, and tell all our friends, or, far more likely, we’ll dutifully read it with a small cloud of doom over our heads and set it aside with unbecoming haste at the end.

I’m sorry to say that this story fell into the latter category for me. The plot didn’t capture my interest, being relatively slow-paced and on the whole geared for a younger audience, and the amount of explanation in the narrative slowed it even further. There are a number of references in the story that are never really wound up, such as the mysterious wall that may be around all or part of Serdame, which shows up in the first few pages, and then never surfaces again.

I also didn’t really take to the characters. Given the amount of explanation of their whys and wherefores in the book, it’s possible that they came across as less well-developed than they actually were, but from the gallant knight who wears his armour everywhere to the woman with them who invariably arranges the food, injures her foot on journeys and has to be carried, etc., they didn’t draw me in.

Overall, while I feel that this book could be a great hit for family reading evenings, it wasn’t a read I enjoyed.

The Explorers of Serdame cover

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Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf: A White Wolf Justice Thriller

JD Ward is ex-military, currently working as a police officer in the outskirts of Cincinnati. With a chief who respects him enough to assign him the nasty cases, a partner who gives him hell on a regular basis, and a young family, JD’s time is pretty much fully spoken for, and that’s before the local motorcycle gang starts gunning for him. After that, it’s going to take all the tricks JD knows to keep himself alive and his family safe…especially with the military reaching out to reclaim their own.

Becoming the Wolf is an interesting take on the crime thriller genre, where the lines between upholding the law and applying military training and tactics to dispense summary justice on the streets become increasingly blurred. JD starts out as a clean-cut young officer trying to make something of his career in a small-town department, but he quickly escalates to sawn-off shotguns and execution killings in the sewers and schools of his town. The argument for whether upholding the letter of the law, or enforcing what an individual perceives as its intent with force, is one of the primary threads of this novel.

Unfortunately, while the ethical points being raised are well worth the read, the writing style of the book as a whole didn’t draw me in. There’s definitely a strong argument for dialect in dialogue, but the incidence of American slang usage in the narrative kept pulling my attention off the storyline, and a certain tendency to tell rather than show in some areas didn’t really help. However, the dialogue often came to the rescue, well-written and frequently entertaining.

Becoming the Wolf cover

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Call to War, Chris Momb

Call to War, Chris Momb

Call to War: Storm Champion

Malaran Ashoka is a part-time princess. The rest of the time, she’s studying to join the Order of Calista, a sect of warrior mystics able to see into the Void and predict the future. In ages past, those of their Order were the only ones able to use the Void to pilot spaceships; now, with the first interstellar ship  to visit Nuevo in centuries over their heads, Malaran and the Calistite priestesses have to ask themselves if those aboard are allies – or the ancient enemy of man.

Call to War: Storm Champion Book One offers a very unique backdrop, composed of a kaleidoscope of Earth cultures spread across the galaxy. With terms and place names drawn from most major Earth languages and cultures, it’s an interesting take on how interstellar colonisation could play out. While the characters do in many ways draw on established archetypes such as the tyrant, the warrior princess, etc., most of the major players do display some quirk of history or mannerism to set them apart, and the plot is well-paced and organised. The book shows strong indications of being the first in a series, opening more plotlines than it closes, but it’s perfectly well enough written to stand alone. Definitely a story that fans of sci-fi and fantasy will enjoy.