Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger, Bolivar Beato

Pangaea; the Sunslinger: (Age of Immortals)

Pangaea is an epic fantasy-style story that makes a valiant effort to be all things to all people. Peopled with semi-immortal, metres-tall races, Pangaea is not a peaceful area. The young of the ruling class spend centuries of their long lives learning the arts of war, and subsequently the rest of their lives applying that knowledge.

I found that this book, while some of the settings were interesting, tried to mix and match too many cultures and races to permit focus on the actual story. It read rather like the literary equivalent of a tube of glitter mix – pretty, but neither logical nor coherent.

It is also a smorgasbord of mythological references, relying heavily on Norse legend, but mixing in a variety of Greek and Eastern influences as well. Everything from Valkyrie to lamassu shows up at some point, and while I applaud the eclectic representation, I didn’t find that most of the various types of legends did more than figuratively appear on stage and take a bow; for the vast majority, their history and significance had no role in the story other than to show up.

I also admit I had difficulty finding much empathy for the protagonists. The perfect heir in hiding, famous in his hometown for his mastery of pretty much everything he put his hand to, and the high-born but utterly useless princess both lacked appeal for me. I do feel that with a thorough developmental edit to unearth the bones of the story from the rest, this story could have worthwhile elements, but as it is, the reader is left, like a lone archaeologist, to attempt to unearth stray threads of the plot from the surroundings that they’re buried in.

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

Wanted: the author

Online or off, social media details rewarded with heartfelt thanks.

Murder at the Space Hotel, Mehmet Ali Yazan

Murder at the Space Hotel, Mehmet Ali Yazan

Murder at the Space Hotel

I have to be honest, and admit that I found this book to be very two-dimensional, both in the characters of the story and the story itself, and the writing came across as clunky enough to get continually in the way of the read.

The plot is set up as a locked-room mystery; a businessman was murdered while staying at a high-tech orbital hotel, and neither murderer nor murder weapon is immediately apparent. Detective Herry ‘Chief’ Mortimer and his side-kick, Scott Yvensen, are dispatched to unravel the mystery. Happily for them, all the suspects are happy to answer their questions, of which our heroes only need to ask one or two to immediately ascertain that their interviewee is not guilty.

Murder at the Space Hotel has, at its root, an interesting basis – software ethics. It’s the sort of heatedly argued debate that’s currently in vogue almost whenever topics such as self-driving cars come up, along the lines of whether it’s more socially acceptable for the car’s programming  to squash one woman and her baby, or cause a multiple-car pileup avoiding her. However, the bulk of the story completely bypasses any introduction to the question, allowing it to announce itself out of nowhere towards the end of the book. Between that and the lack of development in the story elements, I didn’t find that this book managed to capture my interest.

Astral Tides: Rimwards, Nicholas Kory

Astral Tides: Rimwards, Nicholas Kory

Astral Tides: Rimwards: Episode 1

While Astral Tides: Rimward (Episode 1) contained some interesting ideas, notably spaceships that transformed into seagoing ships, and ‘superspace currents’ permitting a type of FTL, it didn’t convince me. Possibly there are plausible reasons why spaceships should have sails, and masts, and be capable of sailing planetary oceans, even need to do so to be able to lift off, but this book seemed to rationalise it, more or less, because it looked good. While the idea may have been pretty, it completely torpedoed my ability to suspend my disbelief in the first few chapters of the book.

In addition, there appeared to be a number of gaps in the basic research needed for a sci-fi story; the main risk of space to the crew, including the human members, was detailed as a lack of oxygen, which could apparently be easily overcome with a face mask.  Radiation, hard vacuum, and other lethal inconveniences of space never figured. Opening a shuttle window and leaning out to take shots at another ship with a handgun also came up, not to mention the need for a crew member to be stationed in the crow’s nest to keep watch while travelling in space. Past the issues I had with the plausibility of the story, there was a notable level of over-description that often slipped into ‘telling’ of character reactions rather than showing them, which didn’t help.

I couldn’t help but feel that if the author had either opted for a fantasy story of piracy and intrigue on the actual high seas, or for a sci-fi story, this book might have been a really unique and worthwhile read. As it was, it felt rather as if the plot had started out as a pirate story, and then gone on a blind date with a model of a planetary system, ending in a one-night stand and a lot of embarrassing explanations the following morning.

Equilibrium, Darcy Lennox

Equilibrium, Darcy Lennox

Equilibrium: the First Signal

The general concept for Equilibrium: The First Signal is a promising take on the urban fantasy classic of a magical society living hidden beside, or in this case, above, London; think Harry Potter meets the Marvel comics.

Unfortunately, the book itself failed to live up to the premise. The start of the book jumps around to introduce all the major players, giving it a rather choppy start. In addition, the technical aspect of the writing makes this a difficult read to remain absorbed in. From multiple grammar and spelling errors on literally every page to similes scattered through the story that are frankly unfortunate, the writing got in the way of the story in almost every way possible.

The characters were slightly stronger than the general writing, with possibly the most convincing aspect of the book lying in the back story, but the interactions between characters were lacking that crucial draw for me. It felt as if they would frankly all have benefited from some more work and a lot more depth. Add to that the unfortunate simile syndrome undermining the exchanges and I found that they failed to achieve the effect that was probably originally intended.

Overall, this was the second book all year I thought seriously about not finishing. I try really, really hard not to DNF books, but this one skirted very close. When something makes me wince on every page I turn, admitted editorial nut that I am, it makes it impossible for me to enjoy a read.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books

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