Tag Archives: sci fi

Review: The Lone Prospect

Amazon may block me from reviewing, but I can spread the word to you all! I am doing a series of reviews on the first three books of Ginny’s Heaven’s Heathens series (and yes, that’s a link to all three in a bundle). We’re starting with the beginning which I hear could be a very good place to start… Okay, no more Sound of Music references, I just gave myself bad flashbacks. On to the review of The Lone Prospect!

Gideon is searching for a place to belong now that he has been discharged from the New York military. He can’t go back to his family farm, so he instead begins to wander the other surviving countries that carved themselves out after the Cascading Wars. There may be a place for him in Jasper, Colorado, though when he arrives, nothing is quite like he suspects. Enter one Savannah Barker. Savannah finds herself saddled with the new puppy when her grandfather Brand decides to test Gideon’s mettle by throwing him into hot water to see if he sinks. She’d be (more) annoyed, except for two things, not counting Gideon’s good looks that she isn’t going to think about too hard. One, her grandfather does these sorts of things far too often for his own amusement. And two, as a biker club of werewolves, their concept of dangerous is a little different from everyone else. Add in that they are mercenaries, and well, she has to hold on to her patience by her fingernails. Gideon’s smart mouth is not helping.

Believe it or not, I am capable of being impartial here. (Hell, Ginny’s and my relationship started because of a review, what do you all think of that?) And I can honestly say I love these characters. Everyone has a personality, everyone has a backstory, and everyone has their own goals. While normally in an ensemble writing type book, that could get ugly, Ginny not only keeps the story centered around Gideon and Savvy, she also takes the time to let the story breathe. Rather than worry about the book being too long, she gives us time to know the characters, to be invested in them, and then the plot comes second (it’s still a good plot, you just don’t worry about it as much, you are having too much fun watching Giddy get boggled). The characters, and the relations between them, make this book.

In particular, I love the fearsome foursome and the female-forward approach. There are so many female characters, none of them have to fit this pigeon hole of “every woman” that is impossible to do. Similarly, the men are there to balance them out to avoid the same problem of “every man.” As a result, you are able to pick your favorites and run with them. It also allows for different relationships to be shown–some healthy, some not. And it asks some uncomfortable questions, ones I think we should be asking that I don’t think have right or wrong answers, it just depends on the people. It’s hard, and it sucks, but they are important questions.

Speaking of plot again, its a fun action romp. Don’t look for super deep angst or drama or mystery here, think like a good action movie. I’m not saying there isn’t angst or any of the other flavors, I’m just saying it isn’t key to the story-arc. It does provide you a sense of completion while it continues to lay the ground work for more later. It may meander a bit, but it’s important meandering to help you understand the world that she’s built. Relying on it being similar to current standings will only get you so far, you have to have those bits of facts. Her werewolves are also different, since they rely on both old legends, old Hollywood, and real wolf facts rather than the false stuff they feed you in elementary school. (Even if Savannah is awful at explaining.)

I’ll admit it, the world building is where I get lost. Not because Ginny doesn’t do a good job, I don’t think, but because a) I don’t read sci fi, or even fantasy sci fi like this, regularly enough so my brain isn’t trained for it, and b) first book in the series and unreliable narrators. I understand enough to get through this book, and then it gets significantly better as it has a chance to build, but you do have to keep your mind open and be tracking it all as you go because otherwise you are going to catch yourself thinking it’s an urban fantasy instead of future dystopian and then you are sunk. (Because sometimes labels are important.) There are reminders, so you aren’t Alice in Wonderland with the path getting erased in front of you and behind you, but the book is long enough that if you are reading in sections over several days, I figured I’d give you the warning.

If you like a fast paced book with a tight plot…eh, go elsewhere. There’s plenty of those to read, and then you’ll have to go to fanfic to get any actual emotional weight out of them. (We like Harry Dresden, we don’t see enough of him outside of panic-mode to love him.) But, if like me, you will start a 600k fanfic at midnight and stay up all night reading it… Ginny writes for you. She pays attention to the things we really want out of a long read, and gives it to you. It’s fast, it carries on so quickly you wonder how you got to where you are, and it’s full of lovable characters. I definitely suggest checking it out if that type of book is your cup of tea.

Advertisements

Review: Age of Adaline

I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this movie but never getting around to seeing it theaters. Well, I’ve rectified that, and what do you know, a romance movie that doesn’t make me want to drill my brain out!

Due to an accident when she was twenty-nine years old (the first time), Adaline has stopped aging. Her daughter now has to pass as her grandmother. Her only friend who she has been able to keep through identities is only possible because she is blind. Adaline lives in fear of being discovered, but is she truly living? She starts to question that when she meets Ellis, who reminds her of what she once had. But there are complications with being immortal, and sometimes they come to catch up with you in the most unlikely of places.

The genre for this one is a little weird to nail down. Normally when you are dealing with immortals, some level of fantasy is involved. But this time, there’s an annoying little voice over guy who goes, “Noooo, there’s science involved!” Not real science, my sort of soft science that sounds technical and doesn’t rip me out of my movie experience by making me go, “Really?” and is from far enough in the future they may manage to avoid getting called out on it…maybe. (After self-tying shoes and hover boards happened on time, I can’t exactly argue against it.) So it’s sort of straddling the line between urban fantasy and soft sci fi with a heavy reliance on the butterfly effect.

This movie is a loving ode to San Francisco. The setting just breathes life and is almost a character in and of itself. They really took the time to find all these little historical nuggets of information and to portray them in such a way that we the audience could see why they were so loved by Ellis and Adaline. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I love a movie that acknowledges the past and the touches it leaves behind for all of us to discover. Plus they wove it into to Adaline’s history, and her own personal struggles, that you just felt like this movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else and been the same.

The characters are quirky and I love them. Adaline never stops learning, and she is so much fun to watch her use that knowledge to beat the ever loving tar out of the boys. I love how she holds on to her routes back in time but isn’t living in the dark ages of technology either. (I made a comment to Ginny about pluses of being a vampire, you hold on to your stuff until it becomes vintage and in and then you just have to refurbish/adjust it.) And Ellis doesn’t try to change her, he doesn’t want her to be anything less than who she is. And he can stand on his own too, as proven by his date choice, and he’s just as stubborn as she is which is probably a good thing. Even William hit you close to home because he was trying to grapple with this thing he thought he had dealt with and now it’s coming back at the absolute worst possible time.

I am a known hater of most modern romance movies, but this one is a smart one. There is definite humor, but it’s smart humor, not people being gross or overly sexual or idiotic. It’s little things like Adaline making the joke that she was reading Norwegian in Braille just to screw with Ellis, or really the entire Trivial Pursuit game, that was priceless. And what this allowed you to do was really focus on the emotionally moving parts of the movie. About Adaline still trying to mother her daughter, only to get the tables flipped. About the past, and how there are several great loves in a person’s life. Just…ugh. I could gush forever about this story. Is some of it really annoyingly vague, like what Flemming is supposedly doing in her life or has done in her life, and who the men who came for Adaline at one point were working for? Yeah, but at the same time, it kept its focus on what it wanted. On conquering fears and remembering the past without being afraid of it, to truly live.

As someone who has held on to parts of her past and struggled with healing, this movie really spoke to me on a personal level. I’m not surprised how hard it was for Adaline to stop running because I’ve been there myself. And she got a happy ending, which puts this movie about a couple of others I can think about that do similar things but go all tragic at the end. If you haven’t seen Age of Adaline and you like some smart, gentle romance, I highly recommend it.


Tabletop RP: d20 Future

…I have no idea how I skipped a week. Really, I don’t. But I’m sorry! Hopefully I can get things straightened out around here…

This post is talking about another system, created by the same people who brought us Dungeons and Dragons, meant for people who intend to try and RP something in either a modern or future setting. My friends and I just call it d20 Future to reference both. While some of the schematics are the same, there are some differences that make the entire process more enjoyable…and more of a headache.

First, the fun side. I know it might sound crazy, but I really like that it breaks from the traditional alignment system and instead focuses on what a character is loyal to. Sometimes, the three by three system is  rather limiting if you have a particular concept that you are trying to base your character’s motivations around. Using this loyalty based system, it allows you to play with that rather than limiting your actions to just what is considered good or evil or lawful or chaotic. Sometimes your decisions you make for your character are based on something like what their family would think of him/her or if its all about choices (taken from a friend’s idea). It opens up a lot of what you can do with your character.

In the same regard, the classes are really versatile. They focus on a particular strength, such as dexterity/speed or charm, but leave so many of the particulars up to you and what you pick for the profession and feats. It makes the classes super customizable, perfect for a modern or future RP since for a DM, you can run almost anything, and as a player…you can run almost anything. Really, it can cause some seriously awesome campaigns. I have a character who is not what she looks like at all, just because of the different things I picked for her. And she’s in a Gundam inspired campaign. Yeah, this is going to get amusing. I’ve also made a space pirate of all things. There are almost no limits.

…notice I said almost. Some of the things are kinda wonky, and I’m not afraid of calling them on it. To begin with, the way different progress levels work together is often confusing or completely nonsensical, and it makes me wonder if anyone capable of logic looked over the book before they published it. I also think it relies rather heavily on the player being interested in the mechanics about scifi. As my earlier post on hard sci fi versus soft sci fi shows, I am not that big on hard sci fi, and like having wiggle room for interpretation. Having had one DM who thrived on being rule-bound and loves hard sci fi, I wish that there was almost two versions of this. One for the soft sci fi people, one for the rule mongers.

The characters are also very, very squishy at first. And experience is hard to get. It makes the first few levels hard from a DM’s perspective, because you don’t want to just curb-stomp your players. Or at least, most people don’t want to. From a player’s perspective, it’s hard to meet almost any check, and then to further complicate things is battle. Most of the weapons are guaranteed to kill you in one hit, if not two, and there is almost nothing you can do to bolster AC at first level. So you have the problem of how do you get experience points to be less squishy…without getting riddled with bullets in the process. Both times I’ve been involved in any kind of campaign, the DM’s solution has been to give us mechs, which can sometimes actually over power the opposition until everything blows up.

Speaking of stuff, oh my lord. The purchasing system. I seriously think they’ve lost their minds. You basically end up with these point systems to reflect how much something is worth in comparison to each other, and you start out with that point and basically can afford…EVERYTHING that costs that point or less. And then if you want something higher, you roll (oh, but you can take 20) and just… MESS, it’s a  MESS. With more issues from the progress levels changing how many points something is worth or if its available or if a better version is available… I hate doing inventory with this system. Absolutely hate it. And I normally love that part, so that says something.

Overall, I think this is a good first attempt at trying to take their success in the traditional high fantasy settings and RPG, and shift it to modern and future scifi. But they were a little too broad with it over all, and if they had broken it down into very clear, separate systems rather than sort of meshing and merging everything to work together, I think it would have been stronger. Except the inventory system That needs taken out back and shot.


Writing: Genres Part 1

(I’m sort of preemptively calling this the first of a series, though Lord knows when I’ll actually write any more discussions of this. Also, family visits are CRAZY.)

So, a dear friend of mine discovered this discussion on one of her favorite websites about the differences between fantasy, hard sci fi, and soft sci fi, all of it apparently a gigantic mess. (I can’t remember if it was fandom secrets or BRPS.) And let’s be honest, there is a LOT of chatter about the differences between the two. Seeing as how I have taken two different courses talking about the differences between these two genres and the professor was the closest thing to an expert I think exists (plus, you know, dabbling in at least two of them), I thought I would set the record straight for those who care to read/listen to me ramble. I’ll also talk a little bit about where YA fiction and my writing fall into all this.

Strangely, I’m going to talk about the one I’m least passionate about first. I’m going to be honest, most hard sci fi stories go completely over my head. I am not math, science, or technologically minded. Oh, I can understand it to a limited extent, but I sort of refuse to unless a class or book I like requires me to. That said, hard sci fi glorifies in the hard science. It will spend pages explaining how the science of the world works, whether or not it is based on real science (and it usually is) or if it is fake science (which is rare, but does exist). Everything else, from plot, characters, and setting are second to the science involved.

There aren’t really any limits on the science of choice. Astronomy, physics, engineering… Anything is up to grabs if that is what the writer is obsessed with. Some try to work the science into being the center of their plot, others just care about nothing else than the science and so the rest is rather shoddy. I’m not going to lie, I have my quirks. I love genetic squares to figure out what the kids are going to look like (in combination with two d10s). Of course, squares is an understatement. Mine get kinda crazy real fast. But I know better than to clue my readers into the level of crazy I go into when designing more worlds. Yes, logic is involved, but I don’t need to show my readers the inside of my brain. (Mostly because I’m sure many of my readers are smarter than me, and I would like to live in the realm of make-believe where I am a goddess who is always right.)

It will come to no surprise then that I prefer what is referred to as soft sci fi. While it still relies on the sciences rather than fantastical elements, it is not above fudging the details, or just omitting them entirely. The focus remains on the characters, the plot, and the setting, with the science being featured but not taking over the entire thing. My favorite cartoons, the DC animated universe, could be considered soft sci fi. My own story, Saving Emily, is considered soft sci fi. For all the unsubtle clue-batting it does, Cinder by Marissa Meyer is actually a rather intriguing world because of its soft sci fi status. It is a lot easier for those of us who want to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers to write than the technical-bound hard sci fi, and it is also friendlier to science-challenged readers (myself included). I can bond to the character, to the world, or the plot, maybe because of the science, maybe not.

The easy way to spot the soft sci fi from the hard is to look at the science involved. Are you drowning in every single detail about it? Does the book tell you who the inventor is, despite it being irrelevant to the plot? Could you take most of the science information out of the book and lose nothing? Ladies and gents, if the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are dealing with a hard science book. When it comes to writing, I don’t have the knowledge base or the patience to learn enough to write a hard science fiction book. I would go batty, and I would also struggle with finding a writing style. Admittedly, I can be bad about doing info dumps, but I’m trying to get better about those. It really seems like to me that hard science is nothing else but excessive info dumps. Of course, this is merely my opinion. Some people out there love them, and as a result can’t stand the soft science fiction. It is definite case of, “To each their own.”

Fantasy is just as bad, if not worse, than the science fictions. Any time you stretch reality farther than it can bend, you have fantasy. You have urban fantasy, where these unrealistic elements occur in our everyday world, you have high fantasy, which take place in historical settings of various levels of real or not. And then there is everything in between. Fantasy is one of the most difficult genres to put your thumb on as far as defining it, mostly because it does take so many different shapes. My rule is, if it can’t happen in reality/isn’t based in real world science, it’s fantasy. This is just my ruling, and can be completely different from someone else’s. (This is why the two share a section, just to cover all the bases. It’s annoying.) It is also one of the most popular genres at this point, though editors keep swearing it’s going to end any year now.

Obviously, I hope they are wrong. Almost everything I write is fantasy, and it’s really where my brain lives. Admittedly, I approach it in a logical fashion, wanting to always make sure there is a series of checks and balances, especially with magic systems. But every time I get told I’m not allowed to use fantasy, I want to cry. To me, there is so much potential in fantasy that I feel like I could write a thousand books, tell the stories of hundreds of characters, and I would still not be at the end of that potential. And despite what one of my professor says, I really do spend most of my time reading it. I guess I want to keep my nose in the market to make sure I’m not completely off the mark with what I’m writing.

Where does my other love, YA, fall in all of this? Well, you don’t find much hard sci fi in YA. Most YA readers don’t want it, since it reminds them too much of school work. But soft sci fi is well received, especially by those who enjoy math and science classes. It can serve as the beginning for future hard sci fi readers, or it could remain a genre for life, just depending on the kid. Believe it or not, The Hunger Games would be considered soft sci fi, really showing that the genre is getting a strong foot hold in the YA market. As for fantasy… In my opinion, it kinda rules the section as the king to the drama genre’s queen. If you look at the shelves, I honestly think for every realistic (or unrealistic realistic, more on this later) book, you will find one fantasy. While urban fantasy has become the trend these past few years, I’m hoping what with all the Hobbit movies we’ll swing back to high fantasy in time for my Erestith books to get their premiere.

So, all my rambling done, what are some of your favorite books for either of these genres? (Suggest a good one, and maybe I’ll do a review of it!)