Category Archives: Book Reviews

Craft Book Round-Up: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

warofart_bookIs The War of Art really a craft book? Maybe not by any reasonable definition, but it does cover a topic of great interest to many budding authors: if I want to write, how come I rarely actually write anything? If this question sounds absurd to you, you’ve obviously never spent much time on writer’s forums, where variants of it come up over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. See, with a little practice, anyone can figure out how to cut an adverb or cliché, but when it comes to the thorny issue of motivation, there are no easy answers–at least until now.

I read this book at the request of a friend who had heard rave reviews from various media outlets proclaiming it to be the greatest thing since spellcheck (perhaps the fact that he was too lazy to read it himself speaks volumes as to whether or not he needs it).   Impressed by the blurbs, I put it on my Kindle and ended up consuming it over the course of a couple hours (it’s not that engaging, but it is very short). What I found was a pretty good self-help guide, mixed with a good smattering of nonsensical blather, especially in the final third. Read on for details.

Continue reading Craft Book Round-Up: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield


Rust: Season 1 by Christopher Ruz

cover-205x300Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a huge fan of independent author Christopher Ruz, so when he asked if I’d like a copy of his horror serial Rust to review, you’ll be unsurprised that I jumped right on it.

I was excited about Rust because I’ve always thought that Ruz’s voice was made for horror. Horrific imagery leaks through in bits and pieces in his other speculative fiction, and he has propensity to get very personal with thoughts and desires, as well as hold nothing back from a character’s raw experience, even at the expense of making the reader uncomfortable.

All I can say is that I was not disappointed. Horror is one of those love/hate genres for me–if done well it can be amazing, but almost all the time you see it it’s not done well. And if making good horror movies is difficult, then writing good horror must be nearly impossible, because I can count on one hand the number of horror authors I’ve read who really got under my skin. With Rust, Ruz has joined an elite cadre of authors including King and Barker who can do horror well.

There’s a lot to like here, starting with the setting. Rustville is a suitably disturbing playground for all manner of macabre adventures had and yet to come, and the brilliant decision to place the series in the mid-1980’s only ramps up the creepiness and sense of dread (horror is so much better when no one has a cell phone). The plight of the main character Kimberly, waking up in a life she assumes must be a lie but which all evidence points to being real, adds a mysterious touch to the heart-pounding, skin-crawling action. But most of all, the story just flows in that typically Ruz-ian fashion, events transpiring at just the right pace to draw you in and not let go.

I’m also a fan of the serialized format, mimicking how shows like Lost follow one continuous storyline, while also delivering a separate climax at the end of each season. One thing I would like to see for future seasons would be an expanding of the cast to be more of an ensemble, though the focus on Kimberly and Fitch this time around works well as an introduction.

Rust: Season 1 is available either serialized or as an omnibus edition. If you’re a fan of horror, you need to read it as soon as possible. Then, hit up Christopher Ruz’s website and let him know you’d like more seasons to be produced.


Reintegrators Review by S.M. White

Bragging time…fellow author and all-around smart guy S.M. White graciously agreed to review The Reintegrators, and he’s written up his thoughts here. As you might have guessed, he was very complementary, so much so that the swelling of my head to gargantuan proportions has nearly left me at a loss for words.

It’s difficult to explain why authors dread seeing the initial reviews of their work. Certainly, the whole point of putting a book out there is for it to be read, and if I’m expecting people to read it then I’m also expecting them to have an opinion about it, and it’s more useful for both me and others if they make their opinions known. And it’s not as if I think the book is bad–clearly I like it quite a bit, or I wouldn’t be offering it to others. But no matter how confident I am, I also know that any judgement of “good” or “bad” is purely subjective, and that there’s a chance I’ve become so involved with the project and so biased that I could no longer make rational judgements about its quality.

So, it’s been somewhat of a relief this past month to see The Reintegrators attracting some really positive reviews. Of course, not everyone is going to love everything about it, especially since some it has some experimental aspects (how many books can you think of where the bulk of the storyline consists of the protagonist doing multiple things at the same time, in different bodies?). But every once in a while I see a review from someone who really “gets it“, and that’s when I feel like all the grinding and decision-making that led me to this point has been worth it.

I’m so glad that Mr. White is also one of those people. Getting praise from a fellow author is especially flattering, because our minds are so heavily involved in making enhancing the quality of prose that it’s easy for us to spot flaws. All I can say in return is that since he obviously has great taste, you should consider checking out his books, especially his new novel The Lonely Man: The Witch’s Price, and also follow him on Twitter.

Next up: Aetheria’s Daemon status update.

Book Review – The Eighteen Revenges of Doctor Milan by Christopher Ruz


Title: The Eighteen Revenges of Doctor Milan
Author: Christopher Ruz (Twitter, Blog)
Length: Approximately 32,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon

I haven’t done a review in a while due to time constraints, but when Christopher Ruz asked me to take a look at his new novella, The Eighteen Revenges of Doctor Milan, I figured I could make time for a quick one. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed, as Ruz utilizes his signature dark, excellent quality writing to deliver a sharp science fiction adventure.

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Craft Book Round-Up: 250 Things You Should Know About Writing by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s 250 Things You Should Know About Writing will always hold a bit of nostalgia for me. I was around a third of the way through my first novel when I stumbled across it on Amazon, and at the time I had never read anything about how to write–actually, it had never occurred to me that such books could exist. What clinched the deal was the price, 99 cents, and the pitch, which reads (in part): “Contained within are things you should know about plot holes, self-publishing versus legacy publishing, “on-the-nose” dialogue, story versus plot, metaphors, copy-editing, killing darlings with a claw hammer, cursing like an undead pirate, and generally being a cranky and irreverent creative type.”

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Book Review – Khe by Alexes Razevich

Title: Khe
Author: Alexes Razevich (Twitter)
Length: Approximately 70,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon

Science fiction, for all its great successes over the decades, has at times earned a reputation for producing too many works that are cookie-cutter or derivative. That’s why it’s refreshing to see a book like Khe which, while taking the form in interesting new directions, still nails the basics—a sympathetic main character, exciting adventure, and world building that unfolds gradually and leaves room for surprises at the end.

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Craft Book Round-Up: Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. Dean Koontz wrote a craft book. Please let that statement sink fully into your consciousness, so that you’re prepared for the wild ride we’re about to embark on together.

Now, one thing I want to make clear from the start is that it is not the intention of this review to “bash” or otherwise diminish Mr. Koontz. On the contrary; he’s exactly the sort of person who should be writing a how-to book. Unlike some of the half-baked yahoos out there handing out writing advice, he has a specific talent, is demonstrably good at it, and can articulate his method with extreme clarity. It’s just that, given the nature of Koontz and his work, one needs to set certain expectations as to what is to be learned. Writing Popular Fiction does have some information about the process of putting together sentences and paragraphs, but its main concern is writing to a market. Meaning: understanding what the market wants, and how an author who actually wants to make a living from writing can focus themselves on producing the right kind of work to actually accomplish it.

That being said, there are a couple of twists involved that make this book especially fun to read. For one thing, it was published in 1974. There’s no mention of self-publishing (obviously), and lots of talk about subjects like whether or not it’s wise to use carbon paper in one’s typewriter (Koontz says yes). Essentially, the book is a time capsule from the wild world of publishing in the mid-1970s, and you’ll probably be amazed at how much has stayed the same even more than how much has changed.

The second twist element is Koontz himself; from the first page, where he admonishes the reader not to send him feedback saying he missed anything, he comes off as a man who has too many other things to be doing to put up with any of your bullshit. Even at such an early phase in his career, he’s clearly put in an astonishing amount of time in front of the typewriter, and he knows it. When he says something, he’s not gonna mince around with “maybes” or “shoulds.” Take his advice and reap the benefits, or don’t take it and end up penniless and ignored—just don’t ask him to repeat himself–he’s got too many other books to write.

Continue reading Craft Book Round-Up: Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz