The Wolfe Experiment, R W Adams

The Wolfe Experiment, R W Adams

The Wolfe Experiment

Ethan and his younger sister, Tilly, are orphaned after a traffic accident that kills their parents. They end up in the system, bouncing from foster home to secure home to foster home, trailed by a series of horrific incidents that have no logical connection to the two children. Their parents, both doctors, had been medicating them from an early age, and now, Ethan gradually realises that without whatever it was their parents had been giving them, Tilly is liable to bring the house down – literally – every time she falls asleep.

The Wolfe Experiment explores the world from various points in Ethan’s life and largely from Ethan’s viewpoint; hopping from his childhood with his parents through several foster homes to finally going on the run from the social system, the military, and the police with a sister in desperate need of expert care. The writing of the book is technically strong, which I always appreciate, but I found the story a little difficult for me to get into. Some of that may have been the hopping back and forth along Ethan’s timeline, which in places had me reflexively checking the date in the chapter header rather than staying immersed in the plot, and some of it was that Ethan felt like something of an empty vessel, by which I mean he was the main protagonist, but what the reader gets is a lot of dialogue, descriptions of events, and not a lot that actually fleshed Ethan out as a person for me. However, I have to give credit where credit is due on the plot twist; it’s well foreshadowed and handled.

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End, Riley Amos Westbrook

Everyone Dies at the End

Everyone Dies at the End, by Riley and Sara Westbrook, opens in the mouldering and trash-littered home of a pair of desperate junkies, fighting over the tiny amount of drugs they can afford. Earl, infuriated by Jadee’s attack, adulterates her dose with mould scraped from the walls of their home. Jadee, hospitalised and in a coma, eventually regains consciousness, but Earl is horrified to see that she’s altered, feral – and dangerous. Shortly after Jadee’s awakening, Earl finds her skull split by a huge mushroom rooted in her brain, the people around her alternately dead or ruthlessly predatory. Desperate to escape and driven by his addiction, Earl runs from the corpse of his girlfriend into a world that will never be the same again.

Everyone Dies at the End is a classic zombie horror story with a twist, the world of the two drug addicts with whom it begins contrasted against the mundane existence of three ordinary families who are caught up in the events that Earl and Jadee set in motion. The characters are plausible, exploring the theme of normal life thrown into a conflict situation by the unexpected, and the vector by which the disease is spread is original and plays neatly on a very familiar element turning into nightmare. Riley and Sara Westbrook have written a novel that is bound to entertain fans of zombie fiction.

Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred (Scions Awakened Book 1)

Marac is an assassin, and unlike most of his previous colleagues, not a dead one. Alex is a Lightbearer, one of the rare, gifted members of a cult that the Brotherhood reviles. Soren is a Brotherhood soldier, one of the few born of the nobility that the Brotherhood seeks to control. Each, in their own way, has been affected by the rise of an ancient enemy, and each, in their own way, has chosen to fight something that most of society doesn’t believe still exists.

Seeds of Hatred is written in the classic epic fantasy style; ancient enemy awakening, chosen few leading the fight, unexpected allies, magic that no one has seen in generations, you name it, the book has it. The world-building is solid, with a magic system that supports the plot, and an interesting take on a type of magic that requires drinking blood, as opposed to the classic vampire. For me, the characters were the weak point in the story; while some of the back-stories were very strong, on the whole the gender stereotypes were so ingrained that some actions and reactions were regrettably predictable. Alex was the only character who managed to partially break free of the mould, and even she was gifted early on with a male protector to explain the world to her. There are also quite a few viewpoints, leaving me in a few spots having to flip back to check whose story I’d just arrived in. However, I have to give this book points on pacing: I didn’t find myself fading out or being tempted to skip parts – the various plot lines were well-maintained and the continuity was good. This is a book that epic fantasy fans will find worth the read.

Why ‘it’s complicated’ isn’t a bad thing

Why ‘it’s complicated’ isn’t a bad thing

Or, why thinking is good for you

Complicated books, oh my. We’ve been seeing a lot of reviews in various spots on the Interwebz recently, saying that a book was complicated, or used UK English (gasp) instead of US English, or used words the reader didn’t know. Usually, the reviewer is knocking off stars for this.

Complicated booksYou know the reaction at By Rite of Word, if a book makes us think, or, better yet, uses a word we don’t already know? We get excited. We go and look shit up. We tell our friends about the cool new word / idea / whatever we found. Yes, this may explain why we read about ten books a month and don’t have many friends.

So, yeah, we’re not big fans of the belief that a book should be written to the lowest likely reading level. We don’t agree that books should confirm to ‘grade-level X‘…unless of course you’re in grade school. The English language has an incredibly rich vocabulary. Over 170,000 words. Tragically, the average native speaker knows between 10,000 and 20,000 of those. There seems to be a growing noise out there that anyone using a word that doesn’t figure in that most common 10 – 20 thousand is, at best, grossly inconsiderate of their less-lettered readers.

Bullshit. Pardon our French, gentle readers.

Using a word the reader doesn’t know is not a crime against humanity. (Providing, at least, that it’s used correctly. If it isn’t, well, then we might join you with tar, feathers, and pitchfork.) Writing is an art form. Making use of the incredibly rich linguistic heritage of English is what writers should be doing. Do you expect painters to stop painting and move to stick figures, because it’s easier to understand?

Thinking is fun. Thinking is, in fact, good for you. While there is certainly a line to be drawn between writers who get so hopelessly mired in their world-building and plots that the story never coalesces into a readable whole, and writers who expect that their readers can follow something a little more complex than ‘Peter and Jane saw a BUTTERFLY!!’, on the whole the point of reading is to think. We read to exercise our imaginations, or to learn. We read to see the world, for the span of a few hours, from a different point of view.

If what you read never challenges you, never makes you think, never evokes an emotional response, never teaches you anything new…what’s the point?

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water, Victoria Raschke

Who By Water (Voices of the Dead Book 1)

Jo Wiley is one of those anomalies: an American living in Slovenia. With a group of friends, she manages a tea house in Ljubljana and keeps the various aspects of her social life strictly separate. When Jo accompanies a friend to the opening of a new archaeological exhibit in town, the worst she’s expecting to have to deal with is being polite to a slimy bar owner who fancies himself irresistible to women. She’s not expecting to see one of her lovers murdered, or to suddenly receive a warning from her dead father…

Who by Water layers realistic fantasy and fantastic reality over the ancient setting of Slovenia’s capital, weaving in allusions to the Catholic Inquisition, witch hunters, and older than both, the Roman settlement of Iulia Aemona that preceded the city. Victoria Raschke’s writing provides an eminently plausible scenario of ancient artifacts and psychic abilities drawn to Ljubljana’s historic nexus, with Jo Wiley, our pragmatic protagonist, front and centre with a talent for speaking to the dead that she wasn’t aware she possessed. I found the pacing of the novel was excellent, and while some of the characters hinted at far more backstory than was actually explored in the book, the story was well-written and a highly enjoyable start to the series.