Tag Archives: review

Review – Fables of the Flying City

Today I’m reviewing Fables of the Flying City by Jared Axelrod.

Synopsis: Ashe, a young woman from the streets of the flying city of Amperstam learns what it takes to be a member of the Aerial Guard, and finds herself at war with an invading empire and the rulers of the city she has sworn to protect!

Production: The audio here is very solid. Jared is a podcast pro. There’s no added production overhead.

Grade: B+

Cast: This is a straight read. Jared does most of it. There are a few episodes where he has a guest voice. All three voice actors do wonderful jobs with their segments. My favorite are the Hanner Gatling segments.

Grade: A

Story: This is a wonderful story. It’s a prequel for a graphic novel that will be coming out soon. He’s done a good job of setting up the world and characters. It has a very pulp, steampunk feel, but this isn’t just our world with gears tacked on. There’s some definite mystery here and this world is a different place than our own. Ashe, the protagonist is a wonderful character that we see grow and change, but as can happen from time to time, there’s an ancillary character that steals the show when she’s on stage: the afore mentioned Hanner Gatling. I’d kill for a Hanner-centric story.

Grade: A+

Verdict: This is a podcast to not be missed. I had the pleasure of being at the launch party at Balticon last year and I can say that it lived up to my own internal hype. Fair warning for those who don’t like short episodes, I think most of these clock in at about ten minutes each. Still, it’s done now so you can mainline it!

Grade: A

Review – Peace Lord of the Red Planet

This week’s review is of Peace Lord of the Red Planet by Steven H. Wilson

Synopsis: Shepherd Autrey is a Quaker, a physician, and a man deeply disturbed by the madness around him as the War Between the States bears down on his America in 1863. Dared by a friend to take an active role, Shep volunteers to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of Sherman’s scorched earth campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. There he runs foul of a Confederate recruiting drive and finds himself hanged by the neck from a tree. Awakening in a strange land which can’t possibly be earth, Shep is plunged into battle and saves the life of an alien warrior prince. Hailed by bloodthirsty killers as the bravest man alive, Shep combats his conscience, his flagging faith, and an ever-growing number of people who want him dead.

Production: The sound quality was good. One of the things about Podiobooks is, there is a quality standard so you can e relatively certain that all of their podcasts will be listenable from that standpoint.

Grade: B

Cast: Apparently Steven is part of an audio drama collective over at Prometheus Radio Theatre. This isn’t a full cast though. Instead, he elects to act out each part, rather than doing a straight read. He’s more than adequate for the task, giving each character a distinctive and believable voice. His female voices are well done, earning him more than the B+ he might otherwise get.

Grade: A-

Story: This is science fiction in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of the reviewers over at the Podiobooks site mentioned Barsoom and if you aren’t familiar with that body of work then I can highly recommend it. It’s not necessary to enjoy Steven’s work though. The story is fairly strong. It’s told in first person, as Shep relays his journeys and adventures from some point in his near future. It’s appropriate to the genre and his limited point of view helps in setting up the alien culture he’s becomes a part of. Shep and his companions develop throughout the novel and character growth is always a good thing. The ending provides some nice surprises and over all I am very happy with it.

Grade: B+

Verdict: This is an altogether well done piece of work. It raised some interesting questions and presented some fresh ideas. It left some questions unanswered and in my book that’s a plus. There were a few instances where character actions pulled me out of the story, but they were few. I give this podcast a strong recommendation.

Grade: B+

Sidebar: I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about something that’s been niggling at my mind for many moons now and that this novel brought to the fore. I’ve no idea what Steven’s philosophical or religious beliefs are. He does a more than adequate job of relating certain schools of Christian thought throughout the novel. The ending contains a certain theology that some Christians will find troubling, I’m sure. I personally don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t hurt the story and on some level I agree with it. However, I’m curious to know if the theology in the story lines up with the author’s or if the two are disconnected. It would likely be hard to tell without listening to more of his stories (something I plan on doing) and even then it may not be an indicator.

Some authors, like yours truly, might “change up” periodically and write stories that have nothing to do with a particularly belief system, unless it’s at a very low level. Other’s believe in making every story a bully pulpit. Still others, I suppose, may remain consistent even when the stories don’t reflect their beliefs. Which one Steven is I couldn’t say. Generally speaking though, when a story with a “message” is well done I don’t necessarily mind, even if I don’t agree with the agenda in question, but it can get tiresome. That’s true even when I DO agree with it. It would be easy to point the fingers at the usual suspects, but I’ve seen this in writers from all walks. In any case, well done or not I often wonder if it’s what the author believes or if they’re just trying to make you think about an issue.

So, my question is, do stories with, what is to you, an obvious message/moral bother you and is it worth while even trying to figure out what an author may or may not believe? Also, I’d like to know of some authors that you think do it well and if you’re so inclined examples of where it’s done poorly.

Little Brother – A Review

I’ve long been a fan of Cory Doctorow’s work. I think it discovered him through Escape Pod, but I can’t be entirely certain. In 2008 he released a book called Little Brother and for some reason it has taken me this long to sit down and read it.

Well when I say “sit down and read it” that makes it sound like I bought a copy. I didn’t (though now I want to). Instead I opted to read it for free through Daily Lit. They’re a site that distributes books legitimately through an email subscription service. They break books up into chunks and you set how large these chunks are and how often you get them.

This is one of those books that is likely to divide readers. There are a lot of controversial things that he deals with, everything from “ethical” hacking to government mis-use of power. The book starts with you getting to know Marcus Yallow, a 17 year old High School student, who is constantly in and out of trouble thanks to his tendency to try and circumvent the many electronic security measures that are placed in his day to day life. He and his friends are cutting school to play an alternate reality game when a terrorist attack occurs nearby. They’re picked up and taken to a detention center and things go downhill rapidly from there. Ultimately, and because one of his friends remains in detention, Marcus ends up trying to take on the Department of Homeland Security using every trick in the book and quite a few he invents along the way.

I can see where this book and the things that Marcus and the DHS do to one another would hit too close to home. It talks about things like secret prisons and racial profiling and it is arguably a teaching tool for anyone who wants to learn a thing or two about the tricks Marcus uses. I got into a lively Twitter discussion about this very thing. More on that in a ‘graph or two. Strictly speaking this is a very well written science fiction piece. The characters are believable. The pacing is TIGHT, at least for the most part. Interestingly, the places where it falters are where Doctorow uses Marcus to explain some bit of tech speak for the non-techie adults in the room. That’s forgiven though to a large part because the rest of it is so well done.

I highly recommend that you check it out. You can download it for free here or buy it here. Prepare for it to change how you look at some things around you, particularly if you read the afterwords (and you should). It might also offend you, particularly if you’re like some of the characters in the books who believe that the government should go to (nearly) any lengths to capture the terrorists in our midst. I will say that’s one area that this book failed in. As I said to someone on Twitter, every techno thriller needs a boogeyman, and Doctorow uses the DHS without tweaking them too much. I’ll say that he paints the DHS agents a little too starkly, to the point where I’m surprised they aren’t wearing actual jack boots. I’m willing to cut a little slack since this is written in first person and we are getting everything filtered through the eyes of a seventeen year old.

Now on to that Twitter discussion. The question raised by that discussion was, are the methods the kids used (which caused havoc in public, on mass transit, and in other ways) justified? In spite of the fact that the intent of these kids was nothing more than peaceful protest and to point out the flaws in the system, innocent people were inconvenienced (arguably harmed) and systems that they relied on in day to day life were brought to their knees. As a result the kids were branded as terrorists and actively sought by the authorities. I suppose the question I ask myself is, if the government became like the government portrayed in this book, and depending on your POV we aren’t that far off, what would I be justified in doing to fight that government?

Three times this quote is brought up:

‘Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’ – Declaration of Independence

That’s Marcus’ reasoning behind his willingness to do what he does. He is attempting to overthrow a form of government that has become destructive. I’d like to think that I’d be willing to do the same thing. It would inconvenience people, sure. But if the government is abusing us then that would be my right, correct?

Then I think about a website that I saw recently where someone is calling people to arms since they believe that our current government is being run by a man who isn’t even a citizen and that this could only come to pass as a part of a massive government conspiracy. I recognize the difference between open armed rebellion and kids cloning and swapping RFID cards on people, but it makes me pause none the less. I would have to be completely certain that there was no other way of dealing with the problem at hand before I took a step like that.

On a lighter note, I am certainly in support of ethical hacking. If you notice a weakness in a lock or a website or some other piece of hardware or software, I think it’s the right thing to do to bring it to the attention of the manufacturer. If they don’t do anything to fix it in a reasonable amount of time and you have some way of taking it to the next level then go for it. People will be mad at you. There will be repercussions. Those are things you need to be aware of. But it’s the right thing.

So what do you think? How far is too far when it comes to civil disobedience? Is some called for these days? I’m thinking here about those that elected to wear kilts commando/regimental style at airline checkpoints, but there are other examples. Is there some CD called for against corporations these days too?

Review – Fetidus: The Damned Heir

This week’s review is of Fetidus by James Durham

Synopsis: FETIDUS: The Damned Heir by James Durham is the first sci-fi/horror novel and original music score set in the grim and fetid alleyways of a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC, circa 2034. In this first novel, Art Blanchard, a jaded Washington lobbyist who works for The Foundation for the Ethical Treatment of the Innocently Damned, Undead and Supernatural (FETIDUS), takes up the blackmail case of a mysterious woman, which leads him on a twisted adventure filled with noir-humor, suspense and horror.

Production: James does audio production for a living. He’s also a musician and composer. It shows in every bit of this podcast. He won a Parsec for it and it was deserved, even though at the time he won it, it had not yet finished. Fetidus seems not so much produced as sculpted. The music and sound effects accentuated every bit of the story.

Grade: A+

Cast: Fetidus uses a full voice cast. Most of the people involved are pros, possibly all. As such, they do a marvelous job with their various roles.

Grade: A+

Story: This is a modern noir. There’s a healthy dose of violence and sex, though the former is more explicit than the latter. There’s a lot going on here and in that sense it’s perhaps more complicated than its cinematic predecessors. Of course he injected vampires, zombies, and a horrific apocalypse into it as well. Taken all together there are times when it almost seems like too much. It’s easy to get overloaded with plot threads in addition to the world building that he’s done here. If you’re looking for a straight forward romp, this ain’t it. It also gets really, REALLY dark and there are times where the violence is a bit too much for my taste.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I heartily endorse this podcast. In case it’s not obvious I think it’s one of the top ones out there and it earned the Parsec. Odin rightly dinged it for it’s release schedule, since it did go through a reboot. There are good reasons for that that I won’t go into since they’re immaterial now. You as a new listener have the benefit of all the episodes being out there for your consumption. If you’re into noir and zombies I’m frankly surprised you haven’t already listened to it!

Grade: Solid A

Review – Other People's Heroes

This week’s review is of Other People’s Heroes by Blake M. Petit

Synopsis: Josh Corwood has spent his whole life in a world full of superheroes, even becoming a reporter just to get a little closer to their world. When he finally comes face-to-face with the Capes of his dreams, though, he realizes his ideal view may not be in synch with reality.

Production: The audio quality in this podcast is good. He made serious strides compared to his previous podcasts. I’m going to ding him here for one pet peeve of mine. Edit marks. Not infrequently, he’s guilty of leaving obvious edit marks in the episodes. This is easily rectified and according to the author he will be doing more serious QA for the Podiobooks version (which they would, of course, require). No idea if he’ll be doing the same in his own feed. For this, he loses a letter grade.

Grade: C

Cast: Blake elects to act as the voice for each of his characters and stays consistent within each character. If hearing a man do a woman’s voice irritates you then this isn’t the podcast for you, but then that would also disqualify Sigler and a number of other podcast novels. He’s a stage actor and this is to his credit as I’m sure it played a role in his being able to… play… roles.

Grade: B+

Story: This is a comic book in audio form. The characters are fairly well fleshed out (some more than others). The story is certainly enjoyable and there are a few surprises towards the end. That’s always good. If you’re looking for a serious treatise on the state of humanity at large, well there’s actually a little bit of that here. If you’re looking for an interesting take on what it would be like to live in a comic book universe, then I recommend this. It compares favorably in my mind to Playing For Keeps*.

Grade: B+

Verdict: Audio issues aside, I think this is a strong entry. It’s funny. I love the takes he has on some of the superhero/villain tropes and the world he’s constructed is very interesting. There are more stories in this universe including on that was published in Flagship. I will continue to check out Blake’s podcast projects. I might recommend waiting for the Podiobooks* version though.

Grade: B

*At the time of posting the Podiobooks site is down due to upgrades. Consider donating to help them defray costs and keep money flowing to the authors!

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

Kindle Love

I am in love.

I got a Kindle yesterday and it’s awesome. Now I didn’t do a whole lot of comparison. I know there are a bunch of awesome e-readers out there. For about twenty four hours I waffled between the Nook and the Kindle. I really don’t think there’s a wrong choice there (unless you were really offended by the 1984 debacle). My funds were limited so I went with the bare bones wifi model and it’s enough for me.

To break in the new device I loaded a few different docs on it. I put an extended version of Fetch on it for my wife to read. I also went out and grabbed a couple of e-books from Smashwords. That’s a great place to find new authors. There’s a mix of free and pay content there. I even have a few stories there. The best thing about the site is the sheer number of formats they have available. If you have a device, they have a compatible format.

The first story I grabbed was “Breakers” by Paul E. Cooley. I’m a big fan of Paul’s. In a world where most fiction classified as “horror” involves an excess of gore/sex or sparkly undead, he’s a breath of fresh air. What fiction of his I’ve read uses a degree of subtlety that I appreciate. It’s also horrific in ways that truly exemplify the word.

So what is “Breakers” about? Well I’ll use the synopsis that Paul chose. “Paranoia and anarchy are the tools of the Breakers. A Breaker agent explains his typical day in this bone-chilling, psychotic tale.” At four thousand words it goes quickly and the price tag of “FREE” is perfect. A true “review” of this is difficult without going into too much detail. I find that’s always true with short stories. Here’s what I can say. He sets up a world in this story that could easily be the one we’re living in right now. That alone makes this frightening.

Check it out and if you like it, I think you’ll enjoy his other fiction. I give it four out of five scalpels.

The second book I loaded (that wasn’t mine) was “A Ghostly Christmas Present” by Dan Sawyer. I’m also a big fan of Dan’s. This is the second story in his Clarke Lantham series. I reviewed the first one, “And Then She Was Gone”, here. What is it about winter time and “scary ghost stories”? Well whatever it is, I like it.

This is as noir as the previous entry, so if you like it, you’ll like this. Here’s the synopsis from the Smashwords page. “It’s hard to beat being thrown in an out-of-state jail on a trumped up charge as a Christmas present, but detective Clarke Lantham loves a challenge. So when he calls up his brother for help with bail, he thinks he’s prepared for the ordeal of spending a holiday weekend with relatives who put the “strange” back in “estranged.” That was his first mistake.”

This one is a bit more fun than the first, though no less dark or edgy. I read it all in one sitting and it kept me going until a quarter to one in the morning. If that’s not enough to push you in the direction of buying this, then let me see what I can do to nudge you along. In addition to being a modern noir, this is also a classic murder mystery with a twist. He makes a number of nods to Agatha Christie and/or Sir Doyle, but as with the classic noir of “And Then She Was Gone”, he adds modern sensibilities.

Dan takes the time to walk his readers through the processes Clarke uses to solve the crime, though never at the expense of pacing. There’s a dash of action, a dollop of sex (handled with humor and taste), and more than one laugh out loud moment. The only thing that really hurt the story for me were a few sections of prose early on that I had to re-read a time or two for clarity. I think $2.99 for a story that comes in at over thirty thousand words and provided me with a few hours of pure entertainment is money well spent. I give this story four and a half out of five bloody icicles.

Lilith – A Review

This is a review of Lilith by J. Daniel Sawyer. The short story can be found here.

The Bible as it stands tells us that in the beginning God created one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. There is a tradition however, in texts from the Middle Ages, that God created an equal to Adam and her name was Lilith. In the short story, or rightly classified faeirie tale, by Dan Sawyer we get to see what she might have been like had she existed.

I first got to hear this story in podcast form. If you’re not familiar with Dan’s podcast work I highly recommend it, particularly Down From Ten. You can find it all at his site http://jdsawyer.net/. Why, you may rightly ask, would I go through the expense, however minimal, of buying a short story I’ve already heard? Well, that’s a good question. I think that some stories benefit from being read in addition to being heard. There’s also the matter of thanking an author for an excellent story by buying it where there’s opportunity. My purchase of Lilith is actually a result of both.

There’s a fair amount of sex in this story, though much of it is less about titillation than it is about power. Sexual politics is at the core of this story. The struggle for equality, the different roles and gifts that men and women have, things that have been plaguing relationships since perhaps the very beginning of civilization are played out in these three thousand plus words. Of course all of this is filtered through Lilith’s point of view and like any first person narrative you have to ask yourself how reliable a witness she is. She does, after all, represent chaos and all of the pros and cons that involves.

Like any good fiction, this story raises a good deal of questions about our own reality and our relationships with others. Does Lilith fall into the same traps that some men do in achieving her desires? She holds the Voice, the creator of the universe, responsible for the state of things. We strive to do the same with God, hesitant to take responsibility for our own actions. Is that warranted? There’s a lot more I could say, but that risks revealing things about Dan’s story that I’d rather you discover for yourself.

If you’re looking for a provocative and interesting tale for your e-reader then I can definitely recommend this one. When you’ve read it make sure you reach out to Dan and let him know what you think. Then drop me a line and we can talk about the rest of the story.

I give Lilith four and a half out of five Golden Delicious.

Geist – A Book of the Order

Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists… Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse. But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows. And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?

It’s not too often I run across a book that I feel has something truly original to offer. Much in the world of science fiction and fantasy seems to be someone trying to retell Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (themselves not entirely “original”). Finally in the form of Geist, Philippa Ballantine brings something to my bookshelf that’s a breath of cool, autumnal air. Not to push the comparison too far, while I was reading it there was some summer heat and the occasional slap of winter’s chill. Okay enough seasonal analogies (for serious seasonal analogies I recommend a powerful anti-histamine or possibly handcuffs for the writer).

The story starts off with an intense action scene that does more than just set up the pace for the rest of the book. You also get to learn a good bit about the world, Sorcha, and the odds stacked against her. The book’s not just about her though. It would be good enough if it was, but Philippa also introduces several other characters, each with hidden depths and secrets that go somewhere. Add to that a world that’s as complex as any other fantasy realm (without all the weighty exposition that bogs many of them down) and you have a book well worth buying.

When I got to the end of the book I wanted more and here’s where it gets really good. You can find out more about the world of the Order here. Several writers have pitched in to write short stories set in this world. If you like it as much as I did you can also look forward to Spectyr next year and Wrayth (probably in 2012).

If this is the first you’ve heard of her work then you’ll also want to go to her site and check out the rest of her stories, many of which can be had in podcast form for free.

I give Geist a hardy four and a half out of five Egons. So go buy it!!

And Then She Was Gone – A Review

I was thoroughly pleased when Dan Sawyer offered to send me a reviewer’s copy of And Then She Was Gone. I enjoy his writing style and I’m also a fan of detective stories, so I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with it. It also gave me something else to put on my iPhone to continue testing it as an e-reader. Yes, Dan’s publishing it as an e-book and selling it through Amazon and Smashwords. Add to that, for me as a publisher, it’s always exciting to see authors continuing to test the electronic publishing space as a first, rather than a last, resort.

So, onto the review. There’s a lot of “noir” in this. While I’m no expert on the genre, I’ve seen my share of takes on it both light hearted and traditional. It has all of the elements you might expect. Clarke Lantham is a private eye and the story is told in first person. He has a girl Friday and the story opens with an attractive woman walking into his office. It also has the sort of content that would be considered “lurid” enough for a twenty-first century audience. If all of this seems a bit too “on the nose”, for me at least it was ameliorated by a thoroughly modern take on these elements.

Lantham is a very fallible detective, prone to errors in judgment and very human, believable motives. He’s hardly the iron jawed detective I recall from my exposure to the genre. His office assistant, a grad student working through her interneship, kicks his butt as much as she helps him out. While a bit of sass might be expected from a P.I.’s secretary, Rachel’s hardly satisfied to stay in that role. Finally, the good looking, wealthy client you’d expect to see is interested in finding out what’s happened to her daughter. I can’t recall having seen a noir with an over-protective soccer mom as the P.I.’s client so that’s anohter nice twist on the genre.

Speaking of twists, the trail that the various clues Lantham uncovers leads him down a dark and convoluted path. From a bondage clubs and patrol cars to wealthy neighborhoods and universities, he covers the depth and breadth of San Francisco. I won’t give anymore away, save to say where it ends up isn’t anywhere near where I thought it would go. That’s actually something I’ve come to expect from Dan’s work.

So what’s to like? The thing about first person narratives is that you spend a lot of time in one person’s head. You don’t necessarily have to like that narrator, though that often helps, but they have to be interesting. There isn’t much to like about Lantham. He’s not exactly cuddly. He’s not afraid to lie, steal, or do (almost) anything to get the job done. When he gets roughed up, shot at, or otherwise abused I wasn’t really broken up about it. In fact those were some of the more fun bits of story. Still, Dan has a knack for taking a jerk like this and making him interesting enough for you to care about what he’s doing and what happens to him.

The other thing that really appealed to me about this book was its sense of realism. I get the sense from what I know of Dan that he’s a research junkie. Whether or not that’s the case, he’s very thorough. Upon finishing this story, I was left with a sense of what it feels like to be a detective in our modern age. Lantham’s use of technology, particularly hacking Facebook accounts, data mining, and the ubiquitous cellphone, appeals to a geek like me. He also takes advantage of (literally and figuratively) a number of experts. As much as I like detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, having a protagonist with a less than exhaustive knowledge of everything under the sun is good as well.

I only have a couple of gripes with this on the whole, one minor and one major. First, there’s a question of language. Dan does love his F-bomb. While cursing generally doesn’t bother me in fiction or in life, it can get distracting here. I suppose in this case it can be defended as realistic given the gritty nature of the tale in question, but it still seemed excessive. That’s the minor quibble though and for some, perhaps most, it might not be an issue at all.

The bigger problem I have, and I don’t want to give anything crucial away so I’ll be a little obtuse, is a matter of science that’s a large plot point. I’m no scientist and I’m not up on my research in this area. However, given how realistic the rest of the story seems, the tech in question strikes me as being more at home in the realm of science fiction. While it doesn’t hurt the story per se, it was jarring.

Is the story worth the price of admission? This e-book costs $3.20. In a market where authors/publishers/consumers are still trying to figure out what an electronic product is worth you see prices all over the place. You can get a lot of fiction for free and quite a bit for $.99. A lot of those examples are worth exactly what you’re asked to pay. I think in this case, if you aren’t a reader that’s bothered with the language, it’s a good investment. It’s a quick read and one that I think would bear up under multiple readings. I give it four out of five Maltese Falcons.