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Review – Stolen Time by Keith Hughes (Podcast)

stolen_timeToday I’m reviewing Stolen Time, an audiobook/podcast novel by Keith Hughes. You can follow follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/edgizmo.

Synopsis: Ness Relevant has traveled through time before. Now once again he must use his machine to confront a determined foe. Only this time his personal stakes are even higher. Threatened by his future, he must find a way to save his wife and thwart a mad-man’s schemes for world conquest, or he’ll never regain his stolen time.

Production: The recording quality is very good. The music he chose for the intro is fitting.

Grade: B

Cast: Keith does this in a “reader’s theater” style, voicing all of the characters himself. He does a good job, as he did with his prior podcast outings.

Grade: B

Story: This is the sequel to Borrowed Time (click the title for a review I wrote). If you haven’t read or listened to the first story, go check it out. This is more of a thriller with science fiction elements than a true science fiction story. Keith does a good job building tension. Ness and his wife Angie are working together. She’s been kidnapped in the future and her only hope is for her and her husband to save her and for them both to get to the bottom of why she will have been kidnapped. Sound a little confusing? Well it is a time travel story.

Truthfully, though I enjoyed this story, it illuminates some of the problems I have with the whole “time travel” trope. You often end up with a fair amount of confusion in the characters’ efforts to either set the future or past right or prevent a paradox from happening. The listeners are treated with a little more information on how it works in this world, but since Ness isn’t an expert and the only real expert died in the first book, it remains something of a mystery. What’s important to know is that at one point Ness is chasing himself through time and helps himself to save himself more than once.

The drawback to this is the deus ex machina of the PDA is used too often. Ness gets in trouble? So long as he can reach the device he’s okay. The final confrontation in the book is a good example of this and of the confusion that can result. That served to rob some of the tension that the story could have had.

So what helped me to overcome that? Angie. I really enjoyed watching her deal with her husband’s adventures in time from the first book (something she wasn’t privy to) and I like watching her get a little bloodthirsty. I’m a sucker for women who kick butt. Ness wasn’t as well developed of a character in this one as he was in the first book. Maybe the inclusion of Angie as a more active character in the book contributed to that.

Grade: B-

Verdict: There were some definite weaknesses in Stolen Time, but I did enjoy it. If you want some lighter fare with a good dose of action then this might be the podcast for you. It gets moving quickly and if time travel is your bread and butter then add it to your MP3 player today.

Grade: B


And the winner is…

me!!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I sold more copies of Keith Hughes‘ book Borrowed Time than he sold of my book, Through a Glass, Darkly. But while Keith may have lost the battle (by the narrowest of margins) I think we both and most importantly you, the reader, won the war. We both have new folks that know about us and are reading what we write and without folks believing in us enough to buy our works, we’d just be spitting our words into the wind. So thanks to you and to all the people that helped us spread the word.

Listen to the audio version of the results here.

Sweet, Sweet Bribery

So we’re nearing the finish to the E-book Death Match and at this point neither of us knows who is winning. It could be neck and neck or one of us could be waaaaay out in front.

I’ve done a lot that I know how to do including making a video:

I left reviews on Smashwords and Amazon. I’ve also crowed about it on the Kindle Boards, MobileRead, on Twitter, Facebook, and here on my own blog. We’ve also been tweeted about by some awesome folks, mentioned in podcasts like The Galley Table and Podioracket, and even blogged about by Channel37

In case that’s not enough, just to try and clinch it, I am going to resort to a little bribery. If you buy or have bought Borrowed Time during the period of the Death Match, I would like to reward your support of my villainy. Simply let me know that you have and I will supply you with a coupon code for the story of your choice from my Smashwords store. Any story, that is, except Through a Glass, Darkly. Unless you want to claim that coupon next week. 😉

So spread the word and go get yourself a great little e-book.

Borrowed Time – Review

Time travel as a sci-fi trope is pretty haggard by this point. I got particularly tired of the various Star Trek series attempts at doing interesting things with it, but they aren’t the only culprit. So when I see a book whose central plot line relies on it, I’m skeptical. Enter Borrowed TIme by Keith Hughes.

First, let’s get the science-y bits out of the way. The way that time travel works in this universe, essentially using an app built in to a PDA to harmonize you to a future or past universe’s resonance, seems a little wonky. But then so does slingshotting around the sun or a nuclear powered DeLorean. The interesting twist in this particular tale is the farther forward or back you go, the shorter your stay can be, thus the title.

The requisite dramatic tension is supplied by the men with guns and power that are after the PDA. Very Bad Men want what Relevant has and intend to do Very Bad Things with it. They’re willing to do anything they can to get it and Relevant needs to think fast and use every skill at his disposal in addition to taking advantage of time hopping to get and keep the upper hand. It moves very quickly and kept me anticipating the next chapter.

What’s this story really about though? Is it just a good read or is there more to it? (If you want to honk a writer off, ask them that question.) Not to be corny, as the story never falls in to it that I notice, but it’s really about making the best use of time that you have with the people in your life. That’s reflected in Relevant’s relationship with the professor that invented the device as well as in his failed relationships. Lacking a time machine it’s best for us all to remember that we’re all on borrowed time.

I think this story could stand to be fleshed out a bit. I’d like to get to know the professor and Relevant a little better. I’d also like the Very Bad Men to be fleshed out a little. As it stands they’re kind of two dimensional. It works in the framework of a fast paced sci-fi thriller novella, but I’m a sucker for a well written, complex bad guy. Overall, it’s that that keeps this from being the five star book that this could be. This book is well wroth the price of admission though, and I hope you check it out!

Borrowed Time is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

E-book Death Match

We got ourselves a little e-book death match going on here. I declared to Keith Hughes aka the Penslinger that I could sell his book Borrowed Time better than he could. The punk said something along the lines of “Oh, yeah?” I know, clever right? And so the gauntlet has been thrown down.

We will spend the next two weeks trying to out sell each other. The trick? We’re not pimping out own books. I’m spreading the word about Borrowed Time (please purchase it from Amazon or Smashwords) and he’s letting people know about my horror anthology Through A Glass, Darkly. If his book out sells mine, I win and vice versa.

So what happens to the loser? This is where you come in (besides buying the books). Let me know what you’d like to have Keith do when he loses. Put something in the comments or shoot me an email. We’ll put a poll up a week from today and you folks get to decide. Want him to compose and sing a little song or maybe dance a jig or two? You can make that happen.

I’d appreciate you helping me spread the word. If you like thrillers, science fiction, or a fresh take on time travel I think you’ll like what Keith is doing. Here’s a brief synopsis:

Ness Relevant is living on borrowed time. Molecular implosion, cellular degeneration, and dangerous men are but a few of the perils faced by the friendly and unassuming forensic photographer.

His quiet bachelorhood is interrupted when he receives an innocent looking device in the mail from a friend and former college professor. Ness unexpectedly finds himself embroiled in events driven by his friend’s success.

This device is the focal point of a struggle that could overturn the whole world should Ness or his friend’s invention fall prey to greedy men. Before his time runs out Ness must travel back to an uncomfortable past to prevent an unthinkable future.

In the race for the future, time has no boundaries

Review – The Guerrilla Poet

I’m going to start reviewing podcasts as I complete them. Since I believe in stealing only from the best I shall be using a format similar to Odin at View from Valhalla. I don’t promise that these reviews will be as good or as regular as his, but I will dedicate this first one to him. Go over to his site. He’s reviewed sixty-three podcasts (including Archangel: Valley of the Shadow).

So, onto the review for The Guerrilla Poet by Keith Hughes.

Synopsis: What if by simply Writing a Word you could build a wall, light a fire, or cloud someone’s mind? In an environment like this Alan Porter struggles to use his talents to overthrow a totalitarian government that controls the masses by controlling Words. Access to Writing materials is restricted, and creating Verse without a license is severely punished. Raised in this atmosphere of systematic censorship, Alan heeds the irresistible call of Words to create a better world.

Now Alan gathers people who will fight with him to bring about a society based on freedom. In a war where the weapons are stylus, paper, and Words, he is the only one who can lead the battle and show the way to victory, a fight that Alan Porter wages even long after his death, because he is the Guerrilla Poet.

Production: The audio quality is good and he does use some musical cues and some light effects. In a world where podcasters seem to go overboard on these things, I like a light touch.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a straight read a la Scott Sigler. For those of you not “in the know” on the reference that means that Mr. Hughes, like Mr. Sigler, does give each character their own inflection and tone. While I wouldn’t say that Hughes is anything like a voice actor, I can say that this didn’t detract from the story and did serve to distinguish characters. His reading of the narration is done in his own voice and his reading style is what I would call a bit soothing. Perhaps not ideal for a story that involves a fair amount of tension.

Grade: B

Story: This is a story within a story. While the synopsis would lead you to believe that this story is all about Alan Porter, the titular poet, there is a framing device around it. I think that this story would have worked better simply as the story of Porter, told in first person perhaps, that served as a prequel for what’s going on in the “here and now” world of Trev Haroldson. The frame seems to weaken both stories a little. The villains were also more than a little two-dimensional. Still, there’s a strong dystopian sci-fi vibe with a dash of fantasy and I like the characters and end up caring about them all. That goes a long way towards smoothing over the story cracks. I also like the world he developed and how it feels one world removed from our own.

Grade: B-

Verdict: The more podcasts I listen to the more I like to “mainline” them. That is, I wait til production finishes and consume them in large chunks. I did that with this one and it definitely had me coming back to it time and again. I would say if you’re looking for a new author this is one that deserves to be checked out. If you decide to listen, give it a few episodes, because it does get off to a little bit of a slow start.

Grade: B