Lucinda Elliot describes her novel as a “cod gothic,” a seriocomic parody of a venerable genre that often satirizes itself. The book is a delightful read, with an intriguing story, lively sometimes-outrageous characters, and well-placed touches of humour. An outstanding feature of this amusing vampire tale is the delicious contrast between the staid nobility of settled aristocrats intent upon keeping up appearances and the scandalous behaviour of an arch scoundrel (himself of noble blood) named Emile Dubois.
A sophisticated and sensual blend of humour, horror, and romance.
Complicating matters is a regal country house full of bloodthirsty half-vampires, one of whom, Goronwy Kenrick, schemes to harness “thought forms” so he can travel through time. Throughout the tale, serious trouble with vampires alternates with episodes of good-natured fun or even all out farce. Especially droll are the scenes where the vampire elite angrily holler down corridors and stairwells at reluctant servants (who often distantly shout back).
The Quickening is above all a novel of mood. It has a pleasing quality of intriguing familiarity that brings other writers and their works to mind while at the same time setting out its own unique ambiance. As an old-fashioned atmospheric ghost story, the author’s style suggests that of a young Wilkie Collins or a less-ornate Edgar Allan Poe. The feel and theme of the story inevitably bring to mind Henry James’ classic, “The Turn of the Screw.” The isolated house and flat marshy landscape of the setting remind one of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, although Biella’s story is pure horror without the science-fiction elements introduced to such tales by Hodgson. The intelligent cosy conversations between Fairweather and the local medic, Doctor Devonald, echo similar talks between those in charge in the upper-class adventure novels of John Buchan. The creepy spiritualist, Mrs. Marchant, with her dramatic séance (one of the novel’s most powerful scenes) recalls the supernatural thrillers of Charles Williams. In short, The Quickening rests comfortably among the works of some of the English language’s most entertaining writers.
If you enjoy period ghost stories that generate a sustained atmosphere or mood, The Quickening is a feast.
With its homosexual relationships and dominant slavery theme, this powerful well-written novel seems a challenging read for those of us who are in the mainstream. Yet George Orwell’s1984 hardly slots into the norm and we have no trouble reading about Winston Smith’s brutal torments at the hands of the virtual slave-state known as Big Brother. Most Goodreads members who have read Hidden Boundaries classify the novel as M/M (male on male) Romance, but that trivializes a work that may best be described as homosexual literature. The question remains as to whether we really need to make a literary sub-category based on sexual orientation.
If you relish a thought-provoking read that will open your eyes to aspects of life you may not be familiar with, Hidden Boundaries is highly recommended.
A good comic science fiction novel by a university student. Available for free at the time of this writing, and an entertaining read.
The Garden Wall is Lichfield Dean’s first full-length novel. Reminiscent of works by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, the humorous science fiction tale is entertaining enough to be a decent read. A young female university student named simply Eradani is probably the main character. I say “probably” because the book opens with scenes featuring a number of characters and it takes a fair bit of reading before the young woman emerges as the most likely prospect for the job. This approach seems popular with indie writers. One wonders whether this is a deliberate ploy or today’s young authors suffer from a chronic inability to focus. Perhaps the idea is to demonstrate a new kind of “inclusive” storytelling. The influence of film, with its numerous short sequences and shifting viewpoints, may also be a factor here. In any case, the lack of a consistent viewpoint character gives the book a rambling incoherent feel that detracts from what could have been a much stronger tale.
Please note that material such as this is time sensitive and may vary somewhat from one genre to another. I offer what is here as a framework for your own research and thinking. Do your homework.
Confusion abounds when deciding the best price for ebooks. (Image: public domain.)
Many fairy tales surround pricing for indie ebooks. Looking over the first four pages of the Smashwords bestseller list for full length science fiction, I see only one title for sale at the often-recommended price of $1.99 – everything else is higher, most of it much higher. I have been studying the price issue for months and have concluded the following:
This one is usually free at Smashwords. Why not enjoy an exciting read that costs you nothing?
Birdie Down is Jim Graham’s second novel and a science fiction version of what Rudyard Kipling would have called a “ripping good yarn.” What we have here is high adventure of the best kind with a motley collection of crashed revolutionaries and hostages struggling to survive on a jungle planet rife with bad weather, deadly creatures, and hostile enemy forces. The odd dose of rank treachery adds even more spice to the rich mix.
The book opens with some solid foundation-laying. Birdie Down is an episode within the greater story told in Graham’s first novel, Scat (see my review), and early chapters provide the tie-in. We soon reach the story’s heart.
Revolution is a fast paced, engrossing, and enjoyable read.
Rachel Cotterill’s second novel, Revolution, is another fast-paced adventure fantasy, and something of an accomplishment. A sequel to Rebellion, the book continues the exciting adventures of the interesting and remarkably independent hero Eleanor. The knife fights keep coming, the rousing action remains all pell-mell and helter-skelter, yet, astonishingly, Eleanor gives birth to two children in the course of the book. Even more surprising is the way Cotterill manages to keep Eleanor in the thick of things – and make it believable.
The political situation laid out in Rebellion is – as you might infer from the title – overturned in Revolution and the story heads off in a fresh direction. Martial arts share centre stage with the classic “ordinary people versus the oppressors” theme. As the book progresses, and Eleanor takes on a major leadership role, she comes across increasingly like a feminine Robin Hood. She even has her own Little John. A fellow revolutionary – by the name of Dash – upends her in a practice knife fight. As with good old Robin after Little John and his quarterstaff have knocked him into the drink, Eleanor takes it all in stride.
A lot of struggling writers are still hoping to break into print. They see self-publishing as a humble temporary stop on a journey towards grander things. Their ebooks are merely practice runs as they whip themselves into shape for their real careers as print authors. It is easy to see why they might have this attitude. The old publishing paradigm has been around for centuries, an awful lot has been written about it, and it is still surrounded by a powerful aura of tradition, respectability, and substance. Even the least literate know a little something about the lives of a famous print author or two. Many such authors are positively draped in glory, with reputations that span the globe. Some of them have even become very wealthy. What up-and-coming author would not want to join them?
Print is now ancient and definitely on its way out. Your local bookshop probably fills space with new kinds of merchandise. (Image: public domain)
Scat is Jim Graham’s first novel. Best described as a hard science-fiction thriller, the dialogue-driven plot revolves around ruthless resource-based political machinations worthy of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Like Dune, there is also a struggle for planetary independence. While lacking the mystical allure of Herbert’s Muad’ Dib, the book’s main character – hard-nosed laconic ex-soldier, Scat – makes a far more believable rebel leader. We follow his travels and exploits throughout the novel. However, Graham has chosen to use multiple points of view so we sometimes briefly see things through the eyes of other characters.
This stellar SF novel has garnered great reviews on numerous fan sites around the web.
Fantasy writer Brian S. Pratt is one of the most popular authors on Smashwords. Yet, while he generally gets good reviews overall, many people have panned his novels for their bad grammar, poor character revelation, and skimpy plots. (I believe that he had cleaned up his spelling atrocities before I discovered him.) I’ve read only the first book in his lengthy Morcyth Saga series, but unless he has improved dramatically, I have to agree with his critics. To make matters worse, his writing style is clumsy, repetitive, and lacks imagination. With all this going against him, you have to ask the obvious question:
Pratt’s heroes have sound values and genuine courage.
To answer that question we have to start with another: who reads Pratt’s novels, anyway? I think it is safe to assume that his audience comes mainly from the young. These readers, while enthusiastic, are not sophisticated; they lack the broader reading experience needed to tell the difference between a well-written book and a clunker. However, that’s not the same as saying they are stupid. We humans are born with an instinctive feel for story. No one – sophisticated or unsophisticated – wades through a full-length novel unless they gain some genuine satisfaction from doing so.