30 August, 2011

Review - RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador by T.S. Church


Subtlety is an important thing in a novel. It allows the reader to at least think he or she has figured something out, like a mystery or important plot point. It allows for concepts to sink in gradually and become convincing to the reader.

Subtlety is not a concept this novel is remotely familiar with.

RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador [US] [UK] is based on the most popular free MMORPG (Massively-Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game), RuneScape, which, as is becoming a redundant theme around here, I have never before played in my life.

According to the back of the book:
In the kingdom of Asgarnia, though the Knights of Falador defend the land a protect the people, they face threats that clamor from all sides-and from within. Enemies mass at borders, and a killer stalks the night killing innocents and slipping away unseen.

When a young woman appears in the teeth of the storm, her sudden arrival launches a chain of events that endangers the very fabric of magic. And unless the knights can solve the riddle of Kara-Meir, everything they hold close may be lost.

Their one hope may lie in the hands, not of a knight, but of an untested squire named Theodore...
In a very cliche version of epic fantasy, Betrayal at Falador ("Betrayal"), has all your necessary components. There's the good guys, the squire and the knights, plus the dwarfs, the wizards, the druids, etc. And then there's the bad guys, the ones from out of town who want to rule over everyone in sight...for no apparent reason than having power, the werewolves, the goblins, and even the chaos dwarfs (opposite of good guy dwarfs).

The bad guys want to conquer, the good guys want to prevent this, there's also a mystery of a possible traitor among the good guys...but that's what we get. Under impossible situation after impossible situation, I'm sure you can imagine who takes the cake at the end of the day.

Now, I'm sure I would have enjoyed this book more if I had actually played the game, but at the same time, I'm also quite sure that that amount would only be a pittance.

As I mentioned above, Betrayal is not a subtle novel. It kind of slaps you across the face with foreshadowing, almost SHOUTING at you that something is about to happen. Then, unsurprisingly, that event happens and it's really not all that great.

Maybe I've been involved in the legal profession too long already, but one of an author's main responsibilities is to convince the reader that a certain action taken by a character or a certain event is not only entirely plausible in the world that's been created, but that it's also perfectly rational. I want to be convinced that under the systems set up by this world, that it was a reasonable choice that a character made or that by some type of magic something was able to happen. This suspension of disbelief has to happen or I will remain unconvinced and you've lost me as a reader.

As you can imagine, this factor was not apparent in Betrayal. There were far too many moments in my reading experience where I thought, if only the author had just said, "and a spell came over them" to make the events happen in a certain way. That's all I needed and it would have been fine, and yet that never occurred.

The characters likewise lack a certain kind of subtlety. They are bland and boring and ... pretty much all the same. The lead character, Theodore, is considered a brown-noser at the beginning of the story and the problem is, who likes a brown-noser? Are we supposed to relate to that and feel bad for him that no one likes him? In law school, we call those people gunners and no one likes them. No one.

Why Read RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador?

I'm positive that if I read Betrayal when I was around 10-13 years old, I would have loved it. Characters from all walks of life band together to defeat the bad guy, yadda yadda yadda, but now it's just too obvious, too cheesy and over-the-top, and just plain poorly done.

2 out of 5 Stars (I'm probably being too generous)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

29 August, 2011

What's the Deal With... This Amazon Kindle Commercial

An internet rant is a beautiful thing, I mean, why even be online, with all the anonymity that brings, and even attempt to contain all that angst. It's why we have comments on everything from blogs to Youtube to news stories. People need to complain! We have things on our chest and we've got to get them off...and our significant others are just plain tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.

In light of this, I decided to institute a new feature on the blog where I can bring up whatever's on my mind, be it terrible book covers, titles, ideas, bloggers (okay, probably just Pat), you name it and have some fun with it.


First, if you haven't seen this Amazon Kindle commercial, here it is:

So, this commercial is trying to tell you that you can download a book in less than 60 seconds, which is fine and all, but it's how they do it that bugs me.

Really? Of all things book people (or bibliophiles if that's how you roll) hate, it is going to book stores. They just despise looking through thousands of adventures and imagination-expanding possibilities and would do anything, including purchasing an Amazon Kindle, to avoid them.

Wait a darn second, I'm calling BS. If I say I'm going to the bookstore, you better not count on my coming back for at least a few hours. It's one of my all-time favorite places to play. :)

And while I realize we've allowed one bookstore to crash (although I'm pretty sure it's them not us at fault) and while the Amazon Kindle is a great thing (it's finally on my Christmas wishlist), bibliophiles do not want to avoid bookstores.

25 August, 2011

Giveaway: Gears of War: Coalition's End by Karen Traviss

My glowing review went up yesterday and now's your chance to get your hands on a copy of Gears of War: Coalition's End. We'll also be giving away two copies of the book, so yay for two winners!

The rules are a bit different from normal so be aware.

Giveaway Rules

If you are interested in getting your hands on Gears of War: Coalition's End, then follow the exceedingly simple instructions below.

E-mail me your name and address at (THIS IS THE DIFFERENT PART) seaksstamp@[removethis]gmail.com, with "FENIX WITH AN F" as the subject of the email. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. Open in the US only (sorry) as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

24 August, 2011

Review - Gears of War: Coalition's End by Karen Traviss

Gears of War: Coalition's End [US] [UK] is technically the 4th book in a series that Karen Traviss has penned for the video game franchise. It is also touted as a bridge novel for the Gears of War trilogy and the Gears of War 3 video game coming out in September this year.

It's been a long time since I've played Gears of War.

I've never read Karen Traviss, but have heard good things.

It was time to remedy this situation at least partly by giving Gears of War: Coalition's End a go... and now I might just have to buy myself an XBOX 360 so I can be ready for Gears of War 3.

To catch myself up in the story, I found some good stuff on Youtube that explains the first two video games for Gears of War and for Gears of War 2. These are highly recommended if you haven't played either game in a while and this next blurb is pretty spoilerific if you don't already know the story so far.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss is the eagerly anticipated bridge novel for the Gears of War trilogy - continuing the harrowing story of Delta Squad and their struggle to save the remnants of humanity in a world overrun by a brutal enemy, the Locust Horde.

When the Locust Horde burst from the ground fifteen years ago to slaughter the human population of Sera, mankind began a desperate war against extinction. Now after a decade and a half of bloody fighting, and with billions dead, the survivors - the Gears of the Coalition of Ordered Governments, along with a band of civilians - have been forced to destroy their own cities and sacrifice their entire civilization to half the Locust advance.

The last-ditch measures have succeeded, but at an enormous cost: the survivors have been reduced to a handful of refugees.

Escaping to a haven on the remote island of Vectes, they begin the heartbreaking task of rebuilding their devastated world. For a while, there's hope... making peace with old enemies, and once again planning for the future.

But the short respite is shattered when Vectes comes under siege from an even deadlier force than the Locust - the Lambent, a hideous and constantly mutating life-form that destroys everything in its path. As the Lambent's relentless assault spreads from the mainland to the island, the refugees finally understand what drove the Locust from their underground warrens and sparked the global war.

While Marcus Fenix and the Gears struggle to hold back the invasion, the Coalition faces a stark choice - fight this new enemy to the last human, or flee to the wastelands to take their chances and live like the human pariahs known as the Stranded... even as Coalition chairman Richard Prescott still guards one last, terrible secret about the Locust, the Lambent, and the future of mankind....
I had some expectations going into my reading of Coalition's End. The main thing I expected would that it would be non-stop action - a ridiculous roller-coaster ride that goes from one inexplicable reason to have to shoot stuff to another. That's what video games do right?

Obviously, I was way off, not only in my assumptions for the book, but in my assumption for the video game. I said it's been a while, give me a break.

Gears of War has a great storyline that seems so simple, but it's something I've never personally encountered before. Instead of some alien force coming to earth to destroy the human race, these aliens were already here, just deep down in the earth. This brings up big issues such as who really belongs here. Then again, it's hard to feel sorry for a race that shoots first and asks questions later.

Coalition's End deals with the aftermath of the Locust Horde. The last survivors of the human race are essentially at the end of the road. The COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) has already run away as far as it can and not only have to deal with relationships between former enemies (the Gorasnians, who they fought in the Pendulum Wars before the Locust Horde emerged), but now there's a new threat - the Lambent.

Instead of finding excuses for action, Coalition's End takes more of a Speaker for the Dead type route where there's an alien mystery that the leading members of the COG just cannot explain, and with limited resources, don't really have the scientific knowledge anymore to research. There's still some good action, don't get me wrong. Along with this, Chairman Prescott (the guy who made the decision to use the Hammer of Dawn against his own people, decimating billions) is still playing his games, even at the end of the road.

At the same time Traviss explores the COG's fight against the Lambent and the senior leaders' issues with Chairman Prescott, the novel explores the backstory of some of the main characters on or around E-day (the day the Locust Horde emerged - 15 years earlier). These were some of my favorite parts, detailing how the relationship between Cole Train and Baird began, how Bernie was able to survive on her own, and how Dizzy comes to the COG. While Marcus Fenix does show up, there's no part that really focuses on him as far as flashbacks go.

The only real disappointment I had was that some of the main plot points remain unresolved by the end that I'm sure the upcoming Gears of War 3 video game will take care of.

Why Read Gears of War: Coalition's End?

If you're dying to get your hands on Gears of War 3, Coalition's End is a perfect lead-in to the game. They nailed it in their marketing promo. It's also a great way to get to know the characters that much better and should flow very well into the game since Karen Traviss also happens to be the head writer for Gears of War 3. Highly recommended for fans of the franchise and non-fans alike.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

22 August, 2011

What's The Deal With... Comment Approval

An internet rant is a beautiful thing, I mean, why even be online, with all the anonymity that brings, and even attempt to contain all that angst. It's why we have comments on everything from blogs to Youtube to news stories. People need to complain! We have things on our chest and we've got to get them off...and our significant others are just plain tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.

In light of this, I decided to institute a new feature on the blog where I can bring up whatever's on my mind, be it terrible book covers, titles, ideas, bloggers (okay, probably just Pat), you name it and have some fun with it.


Is it just me or does it kill the conversation when you leave a comment on a blog and then have to wait for owner approval.

Suddenly, you realize there were actually 5 other people who already commented and said the exact same thing you did (and now you look dumb) or you'd like to respond to someone and there's no way they're coming back by the time the comment is posted.

Please don't be offended because I love the many blogs that do this and I know lots of people have found it handy. I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons, I just like to complain sometimes. :)

There's a similar thing on Goodreads where you have to answer a question to "friend" someone. Dumb. If you don't want someone as a friend, delete them later. It's pretty easy.

18 August, 2011


Sorry for the silence around here this week. Since my last internship ended on Friday, I spent this week getting moved back to finish my last year of law school. Of course, I already have about a thousand responsibilities wracking up and it only goes downhill from here.

I wanted to let you know that things should be back on track next week. I've made some good headway into a few books and should finish a couple very soon...and therefore review them soon as well.

Plus, we have a big challenge coming up, although things may not actually start until the new year, in January. It will be a bit similar to our last-year's challenge where we attempted to find diamonds in the rough, but this year will involve the wonderful site, Good Show Sir. I'm sure you now have some inkling about what this challenge is all about.

So, start clearing your "to-read" list and checking out Good Show Sir if you haven't already. Oh, and there will be prizes and mass linkage.

11 August, 2011

How Many Have You Read? - NPR Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy

I thought this was a good idea to post what I've read (or at least partially read) of NPR's list of Top 100 SFF. So, those in BOLD are books/series I've read, those in RED are series I've at least read something of, and I'm adding one - ITALICS are books I own and plan on reading.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide the the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer by William Gibson
15. Watchmen by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
22. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
24. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
26. The Stand by Stephen King (kinda - DNF)
27. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
28. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
29. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
30. The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
31. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
32. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
36. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
38. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys
39. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad by David Eddings
42. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan the Barbarian Series by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
73. The Legend of Drizzt Series by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
87. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves of Steelby Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

That makes 39 books of which I've at least read something in the series and an extra 17 that I own and waiting in the TBR pile.

I don't think there's much on this list that wasn't expected. Some books just seem like they're on there because everyone's read it in English 101 and that's a bit disappointing. I'm sure plenty of people don't agree with many of the picks(like WoT or SoT), but I agree with most of the 39 I've read being on there.

It's News To Me #22 - New Abercrombie Covers and NPR's Top 100 Fantasy Books

Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books: NPR has officially announced it's Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy book list voted on by over 60,000 people. The criteria, as has been noted, was a bit questionable, not to mention the fact that top 100 lists are always a bit off. Can't please everyone I guess.

Amanda asks what will be popular in 50 years: On the same note as above, Amanda thinks the Lord of the Rings receiving the top nod doesn't make any sense. I disagree. It's still my favorite and everything else I've read at least started with me trying to recapture that same feeling.

Orbit Repackages Abercrombie: The two newest Abercrombie books, The Heroes and Best Served Cold, get new covers for Trade Paperback...and they are completely awesome.

Am I right?

Or am I right?

And that's the news...at least to me.

10 August, 2011

What's The Deal With... Fantasy Names

An internet rant is a beautiful thing, I mean, why even be online, with all the anonymity that brings, and even attempt to contain all that angst. It's why we have comments on everything from blogs to Youtube to news stories. People need to complain! We have things on our chest and we've got to get them off...and our significant others are just plain tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.

In light of this, I decided to institute a new feature on the blog where I can bring up whatever's on my mind, be it terrible book covers, titles, ideas, bloggers (okay, probably just Pat), you name it and have some fun with it.


This week I decided to change the title of this post/meme (What's the Deal With... instead of SFF Fail...). I don't think SFF can really ever "fail" so I decided to drop that and I apologize profusely.

So what's the deal with fantasy names that have an apostrophe. One of the worst usages I've ever found is from this review with the name - Ol't'ro, but can anyone beat me on that?

Two apostrophes seems to really be pushing it.

I also read somewhere that (for fun) you're supposed to pronounce the apostrophe as "boing." Lets make this happen people. Ol-boing-t-boing-ro. I like it.

09 August, 2011

It's News To Me #21 - Empire State and CassaFire

Hope you had a great weekend. I was in LA on Friday taking a test (MPRE) so that next year I can actually take the bar. At least we had some fun afterward going to Hollywood, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and then Saturday, the beach. Definitely made up for the horrible morning on Friday. I'll get some pics up of the wax museum. It's pretty uncanny.

Adam Christopher, Blogger and Published Writer: Many have gotten to know Adam through social media, but, after being picked up by Angry Robot, he's gettin' published and already has a cover. (click the link for Amanda's Interview)

CassaFire gets a Cover: I'm really looking forward to the sequel to last year's CassaStar, especially getting back to the world of Byron and the far reaches of space. Set for release February 28, 2012.

SFFMania - New Community for all things SFF: ...and I like it.

And that's the news...at least to me.

03 August, 2011

It's News To Me #20

I had to post this bit of news immediately as Sub Press is giving Deadhouse Gates a new cover already. Plus, I started a new update feature if you're interested.

New cover art for Sub Press Deadhouse Gates: It's perty. Better than the last even.

Game of Thrones Pedicab: Now that's riding in style, Seven Kingdoms style.

Review - Ponies by Kij Johnson

This will just be a short review. If I write too much, I run the risk of a review that's longer than the story itself.

Ponies (Entire Story Here) is the short story that has been nominated for plenty of awards and even won the 2010 Nebula award for short story.

Totaling all of about 3 pages, Johnson's unassuming tale about popularity and ponies draws the reader in despite the use of generic titles (like TopGirl and FirstGirl), but which establish the story extremely quickly.

How could I ever enjoy such a story? Guys, don't think you're too manly to read this. There may be ponies, but there's also blood and guts (minus guts).

My initial thoughts directly after reading (which were posted to Goodreads):

This may be relatively spoilerific, but the story IS only a couple pages long anyway (so go read the story right now and meet back here in 5...4...3...):

Wow, what an incredible story. My wife has been reading a book about communism in China and that's exactly what this story reminds me of. Instead of building people up, it's all about tearing people down.

Also reminds me of the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron, where after the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the constitution, all Americans are forced to be equal. If you're better than someone else you're forced to wear certain things (like weights if you're stronger) to keep you at everyone's level.

Wow, powerful stuff.

I'll leave it at that. Seriously, go read this and be humbled.

02 August, 2011

SFF Fail...Terrible Book Titles

An internet rant is a beautiful thing, I mean, why even be online, with all the anonymity that brings, and not make fun. It's why we have comments on everything from blogs to Youtube to news stories. People need to complain! We have things on our chest and we've got to get them off...and our significant others are just plain tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.

In light of this, I decided to institute a new feature on the blog where I can bring up whatever's on my mind, be it terrible book covers, titles, ideas, bloggers (okay, probably just Pat), you name it and have some fun with it.


This week, I wanted to bring up something that's been bugging me for a while. I know it's rarely the author's fault, but there are some really terrible book titles out there. Ones that not only make me cringe, but that will prevent me from picking up an otherwise good book.

The one that's recently caught my attention is one of of Katherine Kerr's latest, which came out last year, called License to Ensorcell. I've never read Kerr, but I know plenty that adore her. I'm sure I'll end up reading her Deverry series at some point...but I'm not quite sure about this new one.

Really, License to Ensorcell? Might as well call it: James Bond Girl Does Magic. It's bulky, it doesn't roll off the tongue, and it really just doesn't work for me. I know we're trying to show it's about spies and magic, but this is not the way to do it.

License to Ensorcell is an SFF Fail.

The only redemption is that the next book, Water to Burn, isn't too bad of a title actually.

Any other terrible titles you can think of? This may not be the last SFF Fail highlighting Book Titles.