Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Last night, I saw that Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords is today’s Kindle Daily Deal, on sale for $1.99.  I wrote up a personal story about it over at reddit/r/fantasy:

I rarely read physical books anymore, but one year ago our Barnes and Noble in Prescott, AZ closed down for good. Michael’s novel had just come out, and I really wanted to own a physical copy, for more than one reason. Not to toot me ‘umble horn, but I knew this guy was destined for great things back in 2010 when he was one of the very first fantasy authors to have tremendous success as a self-published author. So I interviewed him on my blog in August of 2010, and then again for our Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast in early 2011.

Of course I was bummed about our B&N closing. I stayed in the store until the end, on the last night of the year in 2011. I hung around and asked if I could buy the final book ever sold at the store. I chose Theft of Swords, because I thought that would be a well-deserved honor for Michael. It’s hard to see the story from this pic, but I didn’t have a camera with me so I asked a guy to take a picture of the book just before the B&N folks kicked me out for good. And there it is through the glass:

I wanted to support Michael by buying his book, but this paperback also symbolizes something for me. It’s proof that in this new age of digital publishing, a hardworking independent author can succeed in a really big way—even if you write good old traditional fantasy books.

As for his book, it’s a lot of fun. His series builds in complexity from one book to the next, but IMO it’s always compulsive reading. He’s not trying to be grittier than Martin, more epic than Erikson, to write better prose than Rothfuss, or to build a more magical world than Sanderson. He just tells you one hell of a story full of outstanding twists and turns, and he writes for anyone who can still enjoy a classic fantasy tale.

If you’ve got a couple of bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I say treat yourself for the holidays and vote with your wallet to support a fantastic new voice in fantasy.

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Fahrenheit 451I sat in a movie theater re-reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for an hour before Prometheus began. Terrible decision. Turrible decision.

Fahrenheit 451 is a masterful clarion call from 1951 warning us about dumbed-down, soulless, unconscious modern life: quick electronic entertainment over real relationships; staying numb rather than asking real questions; doing things the same old way instead of seizing the now.

Bradbury was Socrates asking us to examine our lives, to think rather than follow the herd. Thoreau calling us to live authentically. Jesus raising our vision to much greater things. Buddha reminding us of the suffering of others and calling us to put our feet on the path to enlightenment.

Prometheus is no District 9, a sci-fi movie which understood that speculative fiction can be mindlessly entertaining and possess uplifting social consciousness. Prometheus is the kind of entertainment that could have played the role of antagonist in Fahrenheit. Not that there’s anything wrong with mindless entertainment now and then (for the record, I really enjoyed The Avengers). It’s just going to induce some of the best parts of your nature to snooze more deeply, particularly when the end product is mediocre. Storytellers, we can do better. Audiences and readers deserve better.

Prometheus features gorgeous special effects, it’s nice and subtle in 3-D, but it’s cheap horror in outer space. It’s Hollywood. It’s fine for what it is, which is a spinoff on Alien/Aliens (better movies). If that’s what you’re looking for, then go see Prometheus. Disposable, one-dimensional characters who prevent your suspension of disbelief? Likable characters who turn into invincible killer space gorillas? B-Grade horror movie flashbacks? Action without humor? Prometheus has all of that. Go see it.

Then, when you need to put the pieces of your soul back together (and you will–whether you realize it or not), do yourself a favor and read Fahrenheit 451 afterward.

That will blow your mind. Completely.

p.s. Please check out one of the best tributes to Ray Bradbury I’ve read this week, from Stephen Hubbard at BookReporter.com: Farewell, Ray.

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22
Dec

Scriber, by Ben S. Dobson (My Review)

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III Tags: , ,

I don’t write many book reviews. As a reader, I’m pretty tough to please (which sucks, believe me). But I recently found a pretty fantastic little fantasy novel by an independent author named Ben S. Dobson. As an ebook it’s usually priced between 99 cents and $1.99 in the kindle store (sometimes as much as $3.99). By the way, I have my own novel on a temporary 99 cent ebook sale right now, too.

Here’s my review of Scriber, which you can also find at Amazon and Goodreads:

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber might be the best fantasy book I’ve read, or at least it might be my favorite. It’s not dense like Erikson or Martin, but it has the two things I always look for and rarely find together: great writing with great storytelling.

The best thing about Scriber is the telling of the tale through the voice of the incredibly flawed scholar Dennon Lark. This is first person epic fantasy, and first person is not easy to pull off, even harder when the lead character is a self-hating wimp. But it works. Brilliantly. One reason it works is because it makes sense that Dennon would be telling you a story since he is a historian–first person often feels artificial, but not this time–and because Dennon’s humility helps us root for him. And if you’re not sure at first, keep reading. You might find the author stumbling a little bit here and there (or not at all), but if you do, don’t worry and just keep reading.

Scriber isn’t “high fantasy.” No dragons (though the characters sometimes curse by saying “Damn it to the Dragon!”), no elves, no magical swords. There are wonderful fantastic elements, though, mostly related to a mysterious semi-undead enemy and nature spirits. The story is unconventional in many ways, but it also sticks to some tried and true fantasy tropes (big heroine, big stakes)–in just the right balance of being both different and familiar. The setting feels medieval and the author writes that flavor well. And it’s a true standalone story and a fast read (in the good way).

The story features the scriber and a large band of female soldiers. One of the few issues I had with the book was the abundance of characters in that troop. The women were referred to by first name only and, especially early on, I sometimes had a hard time telling them apart and remembering who was who. Another reviewer recently wrote that this wasn’t a problem for him, so that could just be me. I have to say that Sylla was my least favorite; she was believable enough but still a bit one-dimensional, but at least she played a good role. Also, I have to say this: Orya for the win. I loved Orya.

The book has two major characters, Dennon Lark and Bryndine Errynson, the leader of the company of female soldiers. No one else gets fleshed out as much as these two. The one limitation I wish hadn’t been in the book is that we never got deep into Bryn’s head–because the book was written in first person from Dennon’s point of view. Bryndine is a memorable, noble character and so easy to root for. I started playing a paladin in a D&D campaign recently and I had to resist the urge to name the character Bryndine (she’s really inspiring). On the flip side, though she was very human, she also had few flaws and she never felt quite as real to me as Dennon did. But that’s mostly understandable considering the first person pov. Still, I can’t help wondering how great it would’ve been to be able to take a peek inside the mind of Bryndine.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was a meeting between Bryn and Dennon when they first opened up to each other about their vulnerabilities and soon laughed at them–just a beautiful scene full of believable humanity. This is where I think the author’s gift for characterization really shone through.

The story is heavy on dialogue, maybe a little too much for my taste, but at least the dialogue was great. The plot sometimes moves forward in ways that are a little too convenient, but I never cared to nitpick because I was having too much fun. The pacing was excellent, although somewhere around the three-quarters point I though it sped up a little too much (after the big return)–this was the only part of the book that felt out of place with the rest, in my opinion. I thought the fight scenes were good, not great, but this isn’t a book about fight scenes.

This is a book about a man struggling against the shame of his past and trying to uncover lost truths about his world’s history. It’s a book about a colorful band of women warriors. It’s a book about a heroine as noble as any you’ve read. It’s full of great worldbuilding, heaps of mystery, and mature, skillful writing. And it finishes with a great crescendo.

As a horribly picky reader, I almost never find books that come this close to being perfect for me. That’s one of the reasons why I became a writer myself, because I wanted to at least try to take readers on the kind of journey that I want authors to guide me through, the kind of ride Ben Dobson just led me on. I’ve talked to Ben some since I started reading his book, but I didn’t know him before I picked up Scriber for free in the kindle store.

I just want to be clear in saying that although Ben and I are both independent authors writing in the same genre, and although I only write reviews for the rare books that I love, this review has nothing to do with a prior relationship with the author (we had none, even though he had already read my book and I didn’t know it) and everything to do with me loving this outstanding book and wanting to recommend this book to everyone. So this is just a guy named Moses, telling it on the mountain:

I’ve never found a free or cheap ebook as good as this one. It’s fantastic, and I’m so glad to have found a new favorite author. Ben, thanks for a great story told well. And sorry to be selfish, but I really hope you write more books as great as this one.

Here’s Scriber on Amazon.
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Welllll, not quite. But the Indie Book Podcast did (in an audio review), and they filled in nicely. Spoiler: Two thumbs up. They talked about The Black God’s War for about 7 minutes, and I really loved hearing their thoughts (I especially loved that Jane liked Narayani, Aayu, and Duilio–three of my characters that don’t usually get as much love as the others). I also found their criticisms right on the mark and helpful.

IndieBookPodcast.com is a book review podcast that focuses on indie/self-published books and news about indie publishing. Next week, their episode will also feature a brief interview with me.

Thanks very much, Jane!

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The Black God's War (Novel)The Black God’s War has arrived, to my sincere surprise, with some very kind reviews from three outstanding book reviewers.

GraceKrispy from MotherLode is a well-respected reviewer who rarely gives out 5 stars (so far, only four other 5-star reviews on her popular blog this year), but she had this to say at the end of her review of The Black God’s War:

If you follow my reviews regularly, you know I don’t give many 5 star reviews. In my way of thinking, there are almost always things I would have changed about a story. Although I’ve listed a few things I’d change about this story (clarify chapter headings and characters’ thoughts), I find that (hours later), I can’t stop thinking about the characters and their journeys. I find myself contemplating the messages that were delivered (whether overtly or veiled). Overall, I find I really can’t stop thinking about this story. Unforgettable story, intriguing characters, compelling journey with unexpected twists- in short, a very satisfying and engaging read. Isn’t that why we read for pleasure?

Then today a review came in from Derek Prior at IndieFantasyReview. Derek wrote a rather critical review of my previously released novella and he’s not the type to blow sunshine, so this was nice to hear:

The Black God’s War is, to date, the finest example of quality independent fantasy I’ve seen. This is undoubtedly due to Siregar’s willingness to write and rewrite until each chapter feels just right to him … As a reader, I was left with absolute confidence that this writer knows his world and characters inside out …

He’s also no slacker when it comes to presentation of his material either. This book has been professionally and extensively edited, proofed, and formatted. There is a remarkable map and a great cover.

This is what indie publishing is all about and I have no qualms about recommending this great novel.

A third professional review also arrived just today. It’s from Robert Duperre at the Journal of Always. Robert wrote the sort of deep, thoughtful, and thorough review that every author dreams of receiving. Here’s an excerpt from his 4.5 star review:

“… there is a rather brilliant climax that left me grinning from ear to ear …

In conclusion, The Black God’s War is a unique experience. The plot is intricate, the characters even more so, and the message is one of beauty. By the time you flip to the last few pages, I hope you have the shivers just as I did, which is how I know that Moses Siregar is going to be around a long time, and his voice, one of unity, passion, and loving sensibilities, is important – in the world at large as well as literature.

So bravo, Mr. Siregar. You wrote a damn good book. You should be very proud.”

Goodreads:

The Black God's War [A Stand-Alone Novel] (Splendor and Ruin, Book I)


Use the arrow in the bottom-right to turn the page:

Goodreads.com

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22
Oct

Red Adept Reviews My Work: 5 Stars

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III Tags: , ,

I found out that Red Adept–who is THE Kindle indie book reviewer–was going to review my novella last Saturday. She wrote me to let me know that she would be posting the review on Tuesday, and she sent me a letter that initially had me wondering if it was going to be a bad review, even though it should’ve been obvious that it was a form letter. For example:

“My actual rating in the review is final … While I am happy to listen to any issues you have with my review, please understand that a review is just an opinion, in this case, mine. Therefore, I will not engage in any “debates.”

After thinking about it, I knew it was a form letter, but since this was my first big review by a major reviewer, I felt pretty anxious until Tuesday morning when I woke up and pulled this up on my screen:

Red Adept Reviews

I received The Black God’s War: A Novella Introducing a new Epic Fantasy, by Moses Siregar III, as a Review Copy from the author.

Description: Set in the middle of a ten-year war, this novella is the story of Lucia, who is being tempted by the “Black God” and her brother, the savior of her people.

Overall: 5 Stars

Plot/Storyline: 4 3/4 Stars

I enjoyed this novella from its opening chapter to its gripping end, which left me wanting more, as all good stories do. As just a fantasy tale, it provided plenty of entertainment. However, I found further enjoyment on another level.

I found this novella to be an interesting metaphor for religion in the ‘real world’, both historical and present. One faction is fighting for the right to worship and follow their own gods, while the other faction is fighting to spread their “religion” (although it’s never called that in the book) and force the first faction into submission. The biggest difference was that in the book, the gods’ existences are undisputed. By that, I mean that no one is saying they don’t exist. They do. They are evident and visit certain people. Therefore, it was more of a war between the gods than a war between people; although it was the people who suffered.

However, it did appear that the people had some free choice. They chose which gods to worship, how to wage war, or even whether to not wage war. The gods didn’t force them, just nudged them a little.

The novella is mainly about Lucia, the main character, her interactions with the black god and her country at war. Upon reading the first chapters with this information, I developed a real empathy for her and her people. Amazingly, the author managed to turn that completely around with just a short section told from the viewpoint of the other faction. I went from empathising with the first faction to being horrified at their actions. What a difference viewpoint can make!

My only criticism stems from the dreams that Lucia experiences. Afterward, she has trouble telling reality from the dreams, but she eventually is able to divine truth. Unfortunately, one dream toward the end is so vivid that I got a bit confused for awhile, making me stumble a bit in the reading process.

Although this is a “prelude” for a future series, I found it to be complete with a satisfying ending. There is even a little romance thrown in for good measure.

Character Development: 5 Stars

For the format, the characters were sufficiently well developed. I assume the author will be developing them further in his first book of the series, but this was a great introduction to them.

I enjoyed Lucia very much. I hope that in the full book more is disclosed regarding her childhood.

Lucia’s brother is the “messiah” of his country. I was treated to a small taste of what he felt about his “calling.” This is another character that would be fun to see developed further.

Writing Style: 5 Stars

The writing style of this novella immediately put me at ease in the setting. The opening chapter is told from the viewpoint of a child, and the voice was perfect. The descriptions were rich and vibrant.
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This is Moses again. I also answered some questions at the end of her review.

Thanks, Red Adept, for your very kind review!
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