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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

And while I may have made the campaign commercials, I am not in any way responsible for this one. I wish I was though.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cinematic Titanic



So every Christmas, my brother-in-law supplies me with geeky gifts, usually from Comic Con. Autographed photos, drawings, and so on. Well, you can imagine my consternation when I opened a DVD of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" performed by some group called "Cinematic Titanic."

Really? Someone else dared riff on this? Let me explain why this upset me: one of my holiday traditions is to break out one of two Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. This year, it was "Santa Claus," a Mexican kids' movie that featured a fight to death between Santa and the devil. Seriously. It's so great.

The other is "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." So how could some other group dare transgress such a great episode?

I didn't realize that this was done by Joel Hodgson along with four other MST3K veterans. Tonight I broke it out and decided to see how they updated it.

It was okay. Part of the problem is I've seen the MST3K version so often, I "heard" the jokes from that a split second before they made the new ones. It was still very funny.

The only gripe I have is that I didn't totally understand the format of the show. I guess the cast was in some sort of compound to make some sort of time capsule thingy. Why? No idea. I mean, in a show like this, the premise backstory isn't all that important, but it would have been nice to know exactly why these five people are being forced to watch bad movies.

So I guess I have something new to watch for. It'll be fun to see some "new" bad movie riffs!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Plastic Jesus

I don't know why I got this exactly. Long story. Moving on. Let's talk Plastic Jesus by Eric Sandras.

Sandras's thesis is that far too many Christians are stuck in what he terms "spiritual suburbia." It's pretty on the outside, hollow in the inside. We settle for less than what God intends, often ignoring our calling and getting too involved in things that seem helpful and holy, but ultimately don't bring us closer to God.

It was an interesting read, full of many insightful stories and ideas. It's a good "afflicting the comfortable" type of book, holding a mirror up to contemporary Christian society and urging them to search for a deeper relationship with God.

My one complaint is that while Sandras identifies many problems, he doesn't offer many solutions. He makes a few suggestions how to change one's faith but nothing that seems to go too deep. That's not exactly helpful, especially with a book like this. A reader might see how hollow their faith is but then have little to no idea how to "fix" things. Given how short the book is, Sandras probably could have included a little more material.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ice


Imagine my delight at finding another Christian science fiction book at my local library. It's rare to find books like that, so finding Ice by Shane Johnson was a treat.

At least it was until I started reading it.

I didn't care for this book at all. To put it bluntly, it's an altar call wrapped in a science fiction story, one that really didn't work for me.

The premise itself is interesting: Johnson creates a counterfactual history where the Apollo program was extended to Apollo 20. On this fictional Apollo 19, two astronauts are sent to the lunar south pole, only to have the lander malfunction and strand them there. As their supplies run low, the two astronauts head out into the darkness to see what they can see. And that's when they make a discovery that could easily set the whole world on its ear.

I won't say much more than that. I will, however, explain some of my frustration with a sort of running commentary.

The initial crisis, namely the malfunctioning lander, comes pretty early in the story (hence why I said that it happens; it's not much of a spoiler). It helps kick things off, but it made me worry. Johnson engages in some heavy-handed preaching in his book and it starts when the lander's engine won't fire. One of the stranded astronauts is a Christian and the other isn't, so naturally, the Christian starts witnessing to the non-Christian. And I grew worried because I feared that the entire book would turn into one long altar call set on the moon between two doomed men. It didn't, but I'll explain why I worried about this in a little bit.

My second real frustration came when Johnson created a scene where NASA scientists conclude that the best explanation for why the engine didn't fire was because it was Lunar Module #13. Seriously. That's the explanation they come up with and there's nothing better offered. This might be Monday morning quarterbacking, but it might have satisfied me more if Johnson came up with a better reason. Maybe something broke that the astronauts can't fix. I don't know, but the mysterious break-down and nonsensical partial explanation just didn't work.

So off the astronauts go, deep into the lunar darkness, and I braced myself for more heavy handed preaching. That didn't happen, thankfully, as the two astronauts made their startling discovery (I won't say what it is in case you want to read this for yourself).

Shortly thereafter, I was able to predict what the rest of the book was going to be. And the sad thing is, I nailed it. Perfectly. I was able to predict every single last turn (except for one). And that really annoyed me.

To add to my frustration, Johnson threw in a weird time bending plot line that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I mean, he had to do it to get some of his information across, but as I was reaidng it, I kept thinking, "No way. No way. No way." My disbelief refused to remain suspended and kept rattling in its cage.

By the time the book wrapped up (with more heavy handed preaching and some well nigh nonsensical speculation about the antedeluvial world and allegorical interpretation of some Biblical stories that came completely out of left field), I was glad I didn't spend any money on this book.

Now maybe some people will enjoy this. I didn't. While Johnson clearly knows his stuff about NASA and the Apollo program, that didn't excuse what I thought was a poorly crafted story, especially since it's clear that Johnson didn't think through who his target audience was going to be.

That's what I think a lot of Christian ficiton suffers from. When I was in the Seminary, one of the things we were told about preaching was that we should always keep our audience in mind. Who is going to hear our sermons? What are they like? How educated are they? How many will be Christian? What sort of temptations will they be going through? That sort of thing.

Johnson apparently believed that his book would be read by non-Christians, hence the lengthy preachy passages about accepting Christ and coming to faith. But really, how many non-Christians do you know who will go and pick up a Christian book out of the blue? The only reason why they would is if it was either recommended to them by a Christian friend or if the book itself generates enough buzz.

In other words, Johnson's main problem was that he was preaching to the choir. I'd be willing to bet that most of the people who pick up his book are already Christians. So the altar call business is wasted space. By and large, his audience will already know that stuff. That's part of the reason why I appreciate Christian novels that understand that their readers are already Christians and try to focus on issues and ideas that Christians might struggle with.

I seem to have gone off on a tangent here. Sorry. To sum up, not a good book. Skip it unless you're really curious.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Coruscant Nights

The other day I was at the library and I spotted these two Star Wars novels on the shelf in the sci-fi section. And I figured, "Why not?" So I left with Jedi Twilight and Street of Shadows.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what I think of these two books. I suspect that author Michael Reaves was hoping to create a sort of Star Wars noir novel, given the series name and the cover design. And in some ways, he succeeds. Both stories are grimy and dark.

They follow the adventures of Jedi Knight Jax Pavan shortly after Order 66 brought the Jedi crashing down. In the first book, Jax joins the hunt for a missing droid, one that contains information that a group that calls itself Whiplash needs to hurt the Empire. In the second, Jax is contracted to find the killer of a Caamasi artist while dodging a bounty hunter who is bound and determined to capture him.

The books were okay. Reaves did a good job of capturing the feel of what downlevel Coruscant must be like. He creates some new alien species that were interesting to watch. And he pulled in some characters from the Extended Universe and utilized them well.

My one major gripe about these books is that Reaves has fallen prey to a problem that has afflicted many Star Wars authors. He can't capture Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith shows up in both books and I had a hard time believing I was really reading about the Emperor's right hand man. Let me put it to you this way: in the second book, Darth Vader laughs. Twice. It wasn't with joy or amusement, but can you picture Darth Vader laughing? Me neither.

Unfortunately, these books do continue a mental trend for me, a growing dissatisfaction with Star Wars novels in general. I think the reason why is because of how deep and wide the Extended Universe has become.

Allow me to elaborate. I jumped onto the Star Wars novel bandwagon back when Timothy Zahn published the first three novels way back when. Zahn was able to capture my imagination because these were new stories about characters I loved. And those three books were it as far as Star Wars was concerned. Nobody else was telling new stories.

Now look at how things have grown. There are who knows how many dozens of novels, both for adults and children. There are the numerous graphic novels. There are the video games. There are the prequels and the new Clone Wars TV show. In short, there's too much information to keep straight. The Star Wars franchise is beginning to collapse under its own weight.

That's not to say that there aren't faint glimmers of hope. I, for one, have been enjoying the Star Wars Legacy graphic novels, but that's mostly because they're set a hundred years into the future. In other words, everything I know is pretty much gone (with a few minor exceptions). The characters and situations are new yet familiar at the same time.

The same is true for the forays into Star Wars's dense backstory. I had a fun time reading the Darth Bane novel a while back. And the reason why is because, while there were connections with other parts of the EU, it wasn't overwhelming.

So what's the solution? I would almost suggest that Star Wars should lay fallow for a while. Let the fans digest what's out there and wait for a bit more. Let us get hungry again. But then, I doubt George Lucas would ever stumble across this site to take my advice.

Still, a guy can dream, can't he?

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Late Night JengaJam

I've blogged about this before, but it always bears repeating. I listen to one podcast faithfully and religiously, namely The Late Night JengaJam, hosted by the ever incredible J. G. "Jengaship" Edathil and the lovely and talented Lauren (a.k.a. OboeCrazy). He always comes up with the most interesting guests from all walks of life. And tomorrow night, his guest is none other than ... well, me.

This is the second time I've been a guest on the JengaJam. I had a great (if rambling) time. Jengaship invited me on this week to help promote our congregation's podcast, but I'm sure that the topic won't be limited to simply that.

I'd like to invite anyone who passes through my little corner of the Internet to join us tomorrow night, starting at 10:30 PM EST (9:30 CST). Bring your questions, comments, whatever.

There are three ways you can participate, if you so wish:

1) Via the Internet. Tomorrow night, you can head on over to the Talkshoe website, the service that Jengaship uses to both broadcast and record his show. Head on over here and you can log and listen in. You can also participate in the Jengajam chat room, which can be pretty wild sometimes.

2) Via your phone. Talkshoe also allows people to listen in and participate over their phone. All you have to do is call this number: (724) 444-7444. Then enter the show ID number: 6478, #. You can listen in. Jengaship is also pretty good about bringing people into the conversation so they can ask questions.

3) Download it later. While you'll miss out on the fun of the chat room and you won't be able to ask any questions, you can always find the Jengajam on iTunes and download it for future consumption.

And if you need any further reason to listen in, just consider the title that Jengaship has given tomorrow night's episode: "Sermon on the iPod." Sheer awesomeness.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Scarlet



Okay, I seem to have fallen down on the job here. I thought for sure I posted a review of Hood, the first book in the King Raven trilogy, but I must not have. So I guess I have a lot of ground to cover, especially since I finished reading Scarlet, the second book in that trilogy, late last night.

I am not normally a Stephen Lawhead fan. I bought copies of Dream Thief and the Dragon King Trilogy about ten years ago. I disliked the former and thought the latter was simply okay. Then about five years ago, while Jill and I were vacationing in Australia, I grabbed a copy of Patrick in an airport bookstore, read it, and left it Down Under. I didn't care for Lawhead's departures from what we know about the real St. Patrick, nor did I appreciate his sympaethetic portrayal of Pelagius.

So you can imagine my reluctance to try the King Raven trilogy, even after I read some glowing reviews for it. But when I saw Hood in a bargain bin at my local Christian bookstore, I decided to give it a try.

I'm glad I did. Hood and Scarlet have gone a long way towards rehabilitating my opinion of Lawhead. I still question some of his theology, such as the blending of druids with Christianity, but he tells a riveting tale. He resets the Robin Hood stories in eleventh century Wales, making Robin Hood not an English hero, but a Welsh freedom fighter, one called Rhi Bran y Hud, or "King Raven the Enchanter." And he does so with a great deal of wit and excitement.

Scarlet continues the story, focusing on poor ol' William Scatlocke (or Will Scarlet, as he prefers to be called). He's turned out of his home by the Norman invaders and so he sets out to find the outlaw Rhi Bran. After joining Rhi Bran's Grellon, or flock, he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy against the English crown. Can Will survive, especially after he's captured and sentenced to hang?

Lawhead's voice, especially when he tells us Will's story, is superb. He truly puts us in Will's head and you get a definite feel for his cadence and rhythm. Sadly, the voice falters a bit when we get out of Will's head. There was one scene where it seemed like Lawhead was popping in and out of different points of view with little or no warning.

But it's still a great book and definitely worth the read. Personally, I'm looking forward to Tuck, the final book in the trilogy. Past that, we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Havah


Hoe. Lee. COW!

I find that my words are woefully inadequate to describe my feelings after reading Havah by Tosca Lee. Simply put, this is one of the finest books I've read in a long time and Lee has become one of my all-time favorite authors.

Where to even begin? I mean, Lee's undertaking is massive, trying to tease out a whole novel in what amounts to three chapters in the Bible. But she pulls it off, injecting a lot of drama, conflict, and beauty to very familiar stories. It may be a cliche, but I can honestly say that I'll never look at the early chapters of Genesis the same way again.

Part of what really hit me is the lyrical quality of Lee's prose. I noticed it when I read Demon: A Memoir but it shines like a diamond in this book. It helped transport me to a very different place when I read it and kept me thoroughly absorbed.

The interactions between the characters were also very believable. Obviously I don't know what it would be like to be created perfect and then lose the Garden, but as I read how the adam and Havah dealt with their new lives outside, I nodded and thought to myself, "Yes, that's how it would be."

Lee makes some interesting dramatic choices in telling Havah's story. There were a few times when it seemed like she departed from the Biblical text, but that actually turned out for the best. Her poetic license was exercised with great care and deliberation and really, I can't fault her for the way she constructed her story. Any time I questioned her choices, I wound up retracting my questions a few chapters later.

To put it bluntly, this is an exquisitely crafted story, one that everyone would do well to pick up and read.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Shade Day Three

So how much ambiguity is too much?

Recently my wife and I rented and watched Get Smart. While I found it a hilarious movie, I noticed something pretty interesting. The bad guy didn't monologue. There was never any cut-and-dried explanation as to why he did what he did. There was no great speech detailing the many wrongs he was trying to avenge or set right. He just did what he did and it was up to us to figure out why. I kind of liked that. It was refreshing to have that left in the dark. I certainly have my theory, but I can't say for sure that I'm right. And I'm okay with that.

So why do I bring that up when it comes to Shade? Because the book is chock full of ambiguity. Lots of it. Slathered on. To put it bluntly, I was confused an awful lot in this book. I still don't totally understand what a Mulo is. I'm not sure exactly what the Mulo was trying to accomplish. Maybe I missed it (I seem to recall I finished reading this book late at night; I tend to skim when I get sleepy), but the ambiguity didn't diminish my enjoyment all that much. If anything, it helped me get in the characters' heads a bit more since they were all a bit confused at times too.

Now obviously there has to be continuinty and an overarching explanation of all that happens. If we got John Olson locked in a room, he would be able to tell us exactly what was going on and why. But it's all right to leave readers in the dark every now and then. Or at least, I think it is.

The key, I think, is balance. Isn't that the way it is in everything? Too much ambiguity and the reader will become too frustrated to finish the book. Not enough, and things become too predictable and the readers might get frustrated for other reasons.

So there you go. Have I made myself clear? If not, that's okay too.

Go see what the other tourists are talking about on this, the final day:



Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Shade Day Two

I think I should tell you about how I bought my copy of Shade.

I was at the ACFW National Conference this past September. The first thing I did upon arrival was head to the bookstore to see what was available. I had very specific criteria: it had to be weird and/or I had to know the author or at least have heard of them. Emphasis on the former. I found a few interesting books but Shade was not one of them.

Later on, I bumped into John Olson. I told him I was a bit disappointed I couldn't find a copy of his book in the store. He told me that they hadn't arrived yet, that they would be available the next day, but that there were only going to be six copies.

Six?

The next morning, as soon as the opening session was done, I bolted out of the ballroom and made a mad dash to the store. Sure enough, the clerks were setting out the stack of six books. I launched myself into the fray and was one of the lucky few to get a copy. And for the rest of the conference, I could smile smugly as I overheard people complain that they wanted a copy but the store had sold out.

Okay, so maybe I ratcheted up the dramatic tension there a little. I'm a storyteller at heart. But why was I so anxious to get my hands on it?

It all has to do with anticipation. Perhaps I should explain.

Two years earlier, at a different ACFW National Conference, I had the privilege of meeting John Olson for the first time. He taught the speculative fiction track and I shared a meal or two with him. In the midst of chatting, he told us all about a story he had written. A story about vampires. Apparently when one of his friends read the story and then had to sleep with the lights on. He told us about how an agent (he gives the name in his Acknowledgements; consider this another enticement to go and buy the book yourself) told him he wouldn't touch the story with a ten foot pole.

Needless to say, I was intrigued. A Christian vampire story? That strong of a reaction from two different people? I had to see this book for myself. When I saw John Olson mention that Shade was coming out on his Facebook profile, I sent him a message to ask him if it was that book. Sure enough, it was.

I bring this up because I think there's a valuable lesson for us author-types. Buzz can really build your book.

Look at what's happened with The Shack. Here's a book that, for good or ill, has built a lot of buzz around itself. People are sharing this thing with all sorts of different people. The buzz sustains sales, keeps it in the public eye, and garners more readers. Just this past weekend, someone asked me if I had read it yet. I haven't. But I'm planning to just so I can see what the buzz is about.

In a smaller way, that's what happened with Shade and me. I looked forward to getting my hands on the book, not necessarily because I enjoy vampire stories (I didn't enjoy the last one I read all that much) but because I had to see what it was all about. It worked on me.

So how do we generate that buzz for our own books? Darned if I know. This blog tour certainly helps. But beyond that, I can't really say for certain. All we can do is keep plugging away and hope that we strike upon it.

Oh, and one last note. One of the five other hands reaching in to snatch up a copy of Shade at the Conference as the aforementioned friend of John Olson's, the one who slept with his lights on. Needless to say, that brought a smile to my face.

Go and see what the other tourists have to say:



Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just a little bit of unrelated boasting

I know we're in the middle of a blog tour and usually, I try to keep unrelated posts to a minimum during that time. But I just had to share:
At this rate, I may just manage to cross the finish line by the end of the week.

CSFF Blog Tour: Shade Day One

So is Hailey Maniates losing her mind? Or is what hulking homeless man Melchi saying true? Is she being stalked by a Mulo? Or is it all in her head? That's the basic question at the heart of John Olson's latest thriller, Shade.

The story starts out with a bang, with a young Melchi losing his mentor and master to the Mulo. And then we're off and running. Hailey gets attacked by something in her research lab, only to have a fully grown Melchi save her. Soon Hailey is running for her life, unsure of who she can trust or what exactly is happening to her. Melchi seems so sure of himself that an ancient evil is trying to claim her. But can he possibly be right when his stories and theories are so outlandish?

I have to admit, I didn't have a clue what was going on half the time. The backstory of Melchi's beliefs are never fully explained. But that's okay, because the ambiguity works so well with the story. The tension Hailey feels is also pretty believable. She wants to trust Melchi and is instinctively drawn to the gentle giant, but there are so many competing theories for what's happening to her that she can't be sure.

Olson also did a great job of putting the reader into Melchi's strange world. The first time you encounter the full grown Melchi, looking for his lost backpack, he doesn't make a lot of sense. His unique, slightly warped belief system slowly unfolds throughout the book. It's a gradual pace which really helps. It doesn't overwhelm the reader.

My only complaint, and it's minor, is that Olson might have been able to ratchet up the tension a little better. He tries to do so by calling Hailey's experiences into doubt in the early going. Is she suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or was she really almost attacked by some boogey man? But this tension disappears about a third of the way through the book. While Hailey questions what's happening to her, the reader doesn't. Olson tries to restoke those fires toward the end by casting Melchi in a less than positive light. But by that time, we've spent so much time in Melchi's head that it isn't that effective. If Olson had done this earlier, perhaps immediately after Hailey's doubts about her sanity, it might have been a little more effective.

As it is, Olson has put together a thrilling ride through an ancient battle between good and evil, one that brings the reader through harrowing near misses and some great personal salvation.

Go and see what the other tourists have to say:


Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Magma
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Only Uni

Like I told my adult Bible study this morning, I blame Camy Tang for the fact that I got very little sleep last night. More specifically, I blame her book Only Uni. You know how you get to a point in a book where you just have to keep reading until the very end. I hit that point last night right about the time I should have gone to bed. Thankfully, I made it through the morning without becoming too incoherent.

But this was a great read. I'm not a regular reader of romance, especially not chick-lit (I mean, hello, Y chromosome), but I had heard some very good things about Tang's books and I had to check it out.

I'm really glad I did. This is the story of Trish Sakai. Trish is feeling a bit ashamed of herself after sleeping with her artist ex-boyfriend Kazuo. In a spiritual funk, she reads both 1 and 2 Corinthians and comes up with three rules for herself: #1, no looking. #2, tell more people about Christ. #3, persevere with God's help.

But this isn't going to be easy. Kazuo keeps popping up everywhere she goes. And then there's Spenser, a hunk who she's assigned to work with. But she's determined to make herself better for God and somehow redeem herself from her past.

Tang's story is an interesting journey into Japanese American culture. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and quite a few gut-punchers as well. And there were a couple big twists I didn't see coming until I was right on top of them. That's part of the reason I was up so late last night. In the interest of fairness, I haven't read the first book in the series, namely Sushi for One, but that wasn't a problem. The book stood alone on its own just fine.

I do have one major gripe about the book. Actually, it's not just this one. It's something that popped up in Jerk, California as well. The kicker is, I can't really go into detail here because if I try to explain it at all, I'll be guilty of dropping major spoilers for both books. I can understand that what was said came from the genuineness of the characters. But the message that was delivered (perhaps unintentionally) really upset me and made me kind of angry.

But that should not stop anyone from reading this. I'm probably overreacting to nothing. If you want a delightful, romantic story told with (as Camy's website puts it) "a kick of wasabi," then this is for you. I'm even tempted to go out for a little Single Sashimi.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jerk, California



You have to feel for Sam Carrier. This highschool senior suffers from Tourette's syndrome, which makes him something of an outcast among his classmates. His step-dad, Old Bill, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, hates him and absolutely dotes on his half-brother. Sam believes he is worthless, the son his true father ran out on before he died. And then he meets a beautiful runner in the rain and everything begins to change.

Jerk, California is the debut novel of Jonathan Friesen and tells Sam's tale.

I wasn't sure how I was going to like this book. Those who have read this blog for a while know that I tend to gravitate toward the fantastic, straying from speculative fiction only if I know and enjoy an author (or if I got the book for free). But I had heard good things about Jerk, California, and so I decided to take a chance.

I'm glad I did. Friesen has a lyrical quality to his prose that drew me into Sam's story and really put me in his shoes. One of the interesting choices that Friesen made was to tell the story in the present tense. It lent an immediacy to what was happening throughout the story as Sam struggles with his condition and tries to learn who he truly is.

Another nice touch was the way Naomi, the perfect running girl, was presented. She drove Sam nuts throughout the book. She did the same to me. I had no idea what she was thinking half the time, and while I had a feeling I knew how the story was going to end, her portrayal seeded enough doubt in my mind that I was pleasantly surprised.

This definitely isn't your typical Christian novel. There's not a lot of preaching to it, no big spiritual decisions reached at any point, and there was a bit of foul language that took me by surprise but didn't ultimately bother me. But there is definitely a redemptive quality to Sam's journey, one that moved me.

So take a chance on a new author and see what it's like to run a mile in the shoes of J ... Sam.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hero, Second Class

And so now, I have made it through the first list of Marcher Lord Press. Last night, I finished the rollicking tale that is Hero, Second Class by Mitchell Bonds.

This is the one that I was most intrigued by. Jeff Gerke, publisher of Marcher Lord, has been raving about this book for a while, especially since Bonds was only 18 when he submitted this book to Marcher Lord Press. And seeing as I'm a cautious fan of Peter David's books, I was looking forward to a goofy send-up of fantasy tropes.

Bond's book did not disappoint. Right from the first three sentences, I knew that I was in for a goofy story. We have a hero that narrates his fight scenes, guilds that govern the interaction of the Heroes and the Villains, wise-cracking cat people, invisible centaurs, and a plethora of elvish races with their own unique names.

Bonds accomplished what he set out to do in telling this story. It is a great parody of fantasy stories with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. A few jokes fell kind of flat for me, especially the times when Bonds "broke the fourth wall," so to speak. But by and large, I was satisfied with the silliness of the jokes and the way he skewered fantasy conventions.

But I did have a bit of a problem with the theological content of the story. I hesitate to bring that up, but in the interest of fairness, I feel I have to. Simply put, there were times when I thought I was reading a standard fantasy book that just happened to have some Christian thought glopped onto it.

The reason I say that is because of the strange pantheon of gods that's hinted at. In the opening paragraph of the book, Bonds makes a reference to Vertis the Sky god. Other gods are named throughout the story. And in the mix is the Creator, the obvious Christian analogue. I guess my question is, how does the Christian God fit into this pantheon of twelve lesser gods? Are the lesser gods not real? It's not discussed in the book. While this might be addressed in future books (for this is the first book in the Hero Complex series), it left me a little uneasy.

The same is true about the fairly standard use of magic throughout the book. How does that fit into a Christian worldview? Again, this will probably be addressed in future books as well, but it again left me a little worried.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. As a matter of fact, I probably am. This is still a solid debut novel full of wit and energy and well worth the investment to read.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obi-Wan's Biggest Lie

The Personifid Books

I know this is yet another review two-fer, but I think I'm doing it for a valid reason. I just finished reading both of R. E. Bartlett's books so I figured I'd save some bandwidth and post them together.

So let's get started with the first, namely The Personifid Project.

At some point in the distant future, humankind will develop the technology that allows them to locate human souls. This leads to the creation of personifids, basically artificial bodies. People can shed their natural bodies in an attempt to become functionally immortal.

The book's heroine, Aphra, works for Sevig Empire, the leading producer of personifids. One day, in the course of her duties, she overhears something truly horrible and soon, she's caught up in a mad chase. Sevig wants her badly, so badly he's sent out assassins and bounty hunters after her. Aphra's only hope lies with a couple who believe in something called the Tri-une Soul. But can she survive as her whole life is turned upside down?

To be honest, the writing in this book drove me up a wall. Bartlett did a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. She would simply inform us of what Aphra was thinking or feeling and it often came off a bit stilted. Now that might have been a creative choice. Aphra, it turns out, likes hanging out with robots and androids better than humans. It could be that the "telling" was a way to show us how Aphra's thought processes would be different after keeping that kind of company for most of her life. But it's hard to say for certain.

The other major problem I had with the book is the odd choice that Aphra makes at the end of the book, but I can't really get into it without revealing some major spoilers. Suffice to say, if I were in her shoes, going through what I did, I wouldn't do what she did. Is that sufficiently vague?

So it was with a great deal of trepidation that I picked up the sequel, namely The Personifid Invasion.

The story picks up with Aphra shocked to discover that her brother Antha has located their sister, Ashley. The problem is, she's a personifid now in the city of San Edhem. Aphra wants to go with Antha to find Ashley, but he won't let her. San Edhem is Interterrestrial territory and Aphra couldn't survive. So Aphra and company head off to San Edhem in the company of Nik, an Infiltrator, to track down Ashley. But will Aphra follow their advice? Or will the beguiling Datricius convince her to put her life in jeopardy?

I was pleasantly surprised. Bartlett's writing has matured since Project, and the "telling" seems to have given way to "showing." The plot made a little more sense as well. The spiritual aspects also shone through much clearer than in the first book and it had some interesting things to say, especially through the character of Gun. My only gripe is how quickly everyting got resolved, especially given Aphra's journey. Her storyline especially ends with a deus ex machina that seemed a bit contrived and too pat for my taste.

Both novels share the same strength. Bartlett's futuristic world is an interesting one. Robots, androids, intelligent computers, personifids, sky cars, it all adds up to an intriguing setting, one that she explores and exploits quite well. While a bit bleak at times, it's realistic and seems like a genuine possibility.

The one really glaring weakness of both books revolves around Aphra. To put it bluntly, she seems too weak. She's got flaws (who doesn't?), but she has little to no strength. At least, she didn't seem to have much if any to me. There were times when I groaned because I wanted her to stand up, take charge, that sort of thing, but she always seemed to leave it to other people. Perhaps her character arc isn't done yet. Who knows?

Regardless, Bartlett's books are an interesting foray into Christian science fiction.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Beyond the Reflection's Edge Day 3



I hate to admit it. I got nothin'.

Normally when I read one of the books for the blog tour, I have half a dozen ideas pop into my head for posts. Most of these die a quick death when I realize that they can't support a full post. But this month, for some reason, I couldn't muster much.

So faced with the possibility of skipping out on the last day of this blog tour, I instead went out to see what my fellow tourists had to say about Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis.

Actually, I went out to see if I could find any interviews with him. And lo and behold, I did! S. J. Deal conducted an e-mail interview with Davis for his delightfully titled blog, It Comes in Pints! Check out the interview.

But I also found perhaps one of the most creative posts I've ever seen over at Steve Trower's Old Testament Space Opera: a list of songs that somehow are about mirrors.

And I even found a hint for something I'll have to track down today. Steve Rice, at Back to the Mountains, says he'll "have a post that will probably cause some readers' heads to explode, as [he'll] not only explore a theological issue but give an alternative that will probably tick off a lot of people." Don't keep us in suspense too long, Steve.

So there you have it. Perhaps next month I'll have more to say about Shade by John Olson. In the meantime, go check out the rest of the tourists and see what hidden gems I may have missed:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Magma
Terri Main
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Beyond the Reflection's Edge Day 2



We continue our tour around Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis and today, I thought I'd do some musing about Nathan Shepherd's partner in crime, Kelly Clark. And as I usually do before launching into these sorts of ruminations, allow me to warn you:


I actually found Kelly somewhat refreshing because, to put it bluntly, she's pretty broken. She comes from a broken family. Her mom stepped out on her dad, her dad is bringing women home, and he even tries to use Kelly's sexuality to build a better basketball team. She has some serious self-esteem issues and apparently came close to making some pretty serious mistakes in the past.

It's good to see someone like Kelly in a Christian novel because it's a good reminder that we all have sin we're struggling with. She's a reminder that we're all works in progress, striving to be more and more like Christ. As I pointed out in a post a year and a half ago, characters like Kelly allow us to remind us of how much we need salvation and Who it is who gives it to us.

But at the same time, we can't forget how Kelly's past can be redeemed. It seems as if she's improving herself solely for Nathan's sake. That might be good for a start, but Nathan Shepherd won't be the one who will ultimately save her because he can't. But I'm willing to bet that will come up in future books as well.

Be sure to see what else is going on in the tour:


Brandon Barr Jennifer Bogart Justin Boyer Keanan Brand Kathy Brasby Jackie Castle Valerie Comer Courtney CSFF Blog Tour Stacey Dale D. G. D. Davidson Shane Deal Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Karina Fabian Marcus Goodyear Andrea Graham Todd Michael Greene Katie Hart Timothy Hicks Joleen Howell Jason Joyner Kait Mike Lynch Magma Terri Main Margaret Rachel Marks Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Eve Nielsen Nissa John W. Otte Steve Rice Ashley Rutherford Mirtika or Mir's Here Chawna Schroeder Greg Slade James Somers Steve Trower Speculative Faith Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

Monday, October 20, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Beyond the Reflection's Edge Day 1



This month, the blog tour focuses on Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis. I've loved Bryan's Dragons in Our Midst series, so I was very interested to see what he had up his sleeve for this young adult book.

It's the story of Nathan Shepherd, whose life is shattered when his special investigator father and concert violinist mother are killed. Nathan has to unravel why they were murdered and what this has to do with a creepy man named Mictar. Could it have something to do with the odd mirror that his father left for him? Soon Nathan and a young woman named Kelly are thrust into a life-or-death adventure that takes them through multiple realities, all while trying to keep Mictar from achieving his goal of interfinity.

When I read the book, I have to admit, I wasn't all that impressed. To put it bluntly, I was confused for the first couple of chapters. Bryan threw a lot of characters at me in rapid succession, some of which lived, some of which died. The problem was I didn't know how they related to Nathan. As a result, I had a difficult time deciding whether or not I should care about them.

The plot also left me scratching my head from the early going. I know that we should always start a story in media res, but in this case, I wodnered if maybe Bryan didn't start things a bit too media, if you understand what I mean. A little more build up to explain the characters at least might have been helpful.

My only other complaint is about the villain, Mictar. I couldn't wrap my head around him. I'm not so concerned as to who or what he is. He's clearly some sort of supernatural individual of some sort and I'm sure that will become more and more clear as the stories unfold over succsessive books. But I was completely mystified as to his motivation. We're told that he wants to bring about something called "interfinity." As near as I could tell, that involved merging disparate realities into one. But I couldn't figure out why Mictar would want to do that. What benefit would he get? Maybe that will unfold in the future books but it left Mictar seeming a bit hollow to me.

What really worked well was Nathan's relationship with Kelly. I have to admit that it left me scratching my head a little, but that was fine. Does Nathan have romantic feelings for her? Is it just platonic? It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I'll have more to say about Kelly tomorrow.

So that's about it. I was a bit confused by the book but it was a fun adventure through multiple realities. Go and see what everyone else as to say:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Magma
Terri Main
Margaret
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Chawna Schroeder
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Take On Me ... Literally

Summa Elvetica



A week ago while I was feeling under the weather (thanks in part to a reaction from a tetanus booster), I got a little pick-me-up. My order from Marcher Lord Press arrived. So after I finished up Stepping Into Sunlight, I decided to dive into the stack and read Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy.

This was one of the books I had been looking forward to reading ever since I heard of it. The story centers around the intriguing premise of setting a Roman Catholic Church analogue into a medieval fantasy setting. The Church would probably have to wrestle with any number of issues, the stickiest of which would be whether or not the non-human creatures had souls.

That's the question that the Sanctiff (the pope analogue) is out to answer. Do elves have souls? So he sends Marcus Valerius, a young church scholar who might someday become a priest, with two prominant theologians to the kingdom of Elebrion to answer that question once and for all.

The stakes are pretty high. If the delegation decides the elves do indeed have souls, then the Church has an obligation to send missionaries to them. If they decide they don't, then it's open season on the elves. They can be killed without any qualms and the human beings of the Amorran Empire can steal all their stuff.

Beale is an accomplished storyteller. This is evidenced by the fact that he stuck what amounted to two massive flashbacks into the front of his story and I didn't realize until I got to the end of the first. And Beale also put in a great deal of tension and I didn't see the ambush coming until it was too late. On top of that, the way the Sanctiff decides the question of elvish souls is so deliciously simple, I couldn't stop smiling after I read it.

That being said, there were two things that bothered me about this book, both of them related to craft.

First of all, there's the fact that the fantasy creatures are pretty much straight out of Tolkien. The elves are tall and willowy, the dwarves and stocky and earthy, the orcs are mean and stupid. Beale did put something of an interesting twist on the elves by making them both hedonistic and somewhat cowardly, but otherwise, it was pretty much stereotypical creatures. It might have been better if Beale could have done a little more "twisting," so to speak, to make the creatures truly his own. But a lot of authors do this, so it's not that big of a deal.

The second problem, though, really rankled me. Let's take a spoiler-free walk through the book. You start out with Marcus Valerius receiving his assignment from the Sanctiff and setting out for the kingdom of Elebrion. Along the way, we have the aforementioned "flashbacks." By the time you're done with them, 120 pages of this 322 page book is gone. When I realized that, I was a little surprised, but figured it would all work out because Beale had plenty of "room" to work.

But then I realized that the last 100 pages of the book are two shorter stories set within the Summa Elvetica universe. The story started to seem a bit more rushed and shorter than it could have been. And then Beale sums up some major developments in the books in one paragraph and tells us about a major event in one sentence.

At first, I was surprised by that and only a bit annoyed. But then, when I realized that that major event wasn't just major for Marcus Valerius, but was pivotal for the entire book, I got a pretty upset. This might be Monday morning quarterbacking, but it may have been better for Beale to show us this major event rather than describe it after the fact, especially because of its import to the hero's journey and the story as a whole.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy this book. Beale created an interesting universe and I really enjoyed the short story "Master of Cats." If there's a sequel in the works, Beale has a ready reader. I just hope he doesn't gloss over future important events!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stepping Into Sunlight


Stepping into Sunlight is the latest book by Sharon Hinck and is, in my not-so-humble opinion, her best book to date.

The story follows Penny Sullivan. Her life has been upended recently because her husband has joined the Navy as a chaplain and is on his first deployment. But before he left, Penny witnessed a violent crime and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She has difficulty leaving her house. She finds herself sleeping through the day and experiences horrific nightmares. She wants to hold it together for the sake of her son, Bryan, but it's becoming too much of a struggle. Can Penny put her life back together before her husband returns home? Or will he find a wreck waiting for him?

Sharon weaves in some powerful emotions throughout the story as she tells Penny's tale. You definitely get a picture of what it's like to go through PTSD. The prose is rich and evocative (as usual for Sharon!) and really draws you into the story. I'll probably get in trouble for sharing this, but when my wife (who read this book before me) found out what Penny witnessed exactly, she actually had a few nightmares from it. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, but it certainly speaks well for how Sharon paints pictures with her words!

What's most fascinating is "Penny's Project." One of the things that Penny does to cope with her trauma is start a project. She sets a goal for herself. She'll do one good deed for a person every day in the hopes that each little step forward will get her closer and closer to being mentally whole again. Sharon weaves this idea in with Matthew 25:40. Look it up for yourself. Sharon even did some fun marketing with this idea. When I saw her at the ACFW Conference, she gave me a small notebook to give to Jill so Jill could carry out her own "Project" and keep track of her own good deeds.

So go get this book and enjoy it.

Oh, and one last thing. Speaking for myself, I was tickled pink to see Luther's evening prayer in the middle of the book. Go Lutherans!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Friendly Aquaponics



It'd admittedly been a while since I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, namely The Late Nite JengaJam. I won't offer any excuses as to why I haven't been listening, but I finally listened to the latest episode this morning. I'm glad I did.

J. G. Edathil's latest guests were the folks who run Friendly Aquaponics, an aquaponics facility that's run in Hanokaa, Hawaii. I'd never heard of this technology before. I'd heard of hydroponics, but never the aqua- version. I wasn't sure what to expect but I decided to listen to find out more.

I'm so glad I did. This is an incredible technology, one that deserves a lot of research and development. Basically, it's a system that allows people to grow vegetables and fish in the same farm. According to their data, they can produce 30 times the vegetables as a traditional farm in the same land area while using only 1% of the water. In the interview, they make a great case for using this technology since it can be built on any type of land.

If you've never listened to the JengaJam, this is a great episode to start with. Fire up your iTunes and head on over to "Late Nite JengaJam" and download Episode 89. Take a listen. It'll be an enlightening 50 minutes.

The Lightsaber Lie

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Dark Foundations


Earlier this year, as part of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, I reviewed The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. In my review, I said that I was actually rooting for evil to show up because the first half of the book proceeded so slowly.

Well, I don't have that complaint for The Dark Foundations, the second book in the series. It was an action packed tale from beginning to end.

The book picks up where the first left off. The people of Farholme celebrate after their victory at Fallembet Lake. But they can't rest on their laurels. The evil Dominion now knows of their existence and Lord-Emperor Nezhuala is bound and determined to take on the Assmebly, for both personal and political reasons.

Merral D'Avanos, the hero of Fallembet Lake, is placed in charge of Farholme's brand new military, but he finds he doesn't have an easy task. The society of Farholme is splintering under the effects of sin, creating situations D'Avanos has never experienced. Can he keep things together long enough to defend his home from the invasion he knows is coming?

I loved reading this book. My previous complaint about a slow pace no longer apply. From beginning to end, this was a great read. It was interesting to watch Farholme's society fall apart as more and more sin entered the picture. Walley's battle scenes were also well crafted and exciting. While there were two deus ex machina moments, they were organic to the story and worked out well.

My only complaint about the book is its marketing. On the cover, this is called "A fantasy in the tradition of C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien." I take issue with that. This isn't fantasy. It's sci-fi. I mean, this is set in the future, approximately 13,000 AD. There are spaceships. There are artificial lifeforms. They talk about terrforming planets. I just can't figure out why they would classify this as "fantasy," aside from a few fantastical creatures like the Envoy and the baziliarch.

I suspect that the publisher (Tyndale) classifies this as a fantasy because in the Christian world, fantasy has been selling a bit better while sci-fi hasn't. It seems like a dodge and one that I'm not entirely pleased with.

But the story makes it worth it. More people should read Walley's works. I know I'm certainly looking forward to reading The Infinite Day. It might be a while; I've got a stack of six books to read right now and five more are on the way. But when I get through that, you know I'll be looking forward to seeing how this epic story concludes!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Demon: A Memoir



So what would you do if someone sat down across from you at dinner and introduced themselves as a demon? What's more, what would you do if he told you he wanted to tell you his story and you were going to write it down?

That's the central premise of Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee. Clay, an editor for a major publishing house, is confronted by Lucian, a demon who wants to tell his side of the story. Over a number of harrowing months, Lucian spins his tale, explaining why he and his brethren were expelled from paradise. Clay becomes more and more obsessed with the beguiling tale and he has to know, how does it end? And why does Lucian keep insisting that it's also Clay's story as well?

In some ways, Lee's story is nothing new. While she spun some interesting speculation over what happened before Genesis 1:1 kicks off the human story, once we got into Adam and Eve's story, it was all very familiar. That isn't a bad thing. Lee tells the story with passion and a great deal of voice. It carries through the familiar and makes it incredible, a thing of beauty. I had a very difficult time putting it down and this book kept me up late last night so I could see how the story ended for both Lucian and Clay.

What really made this story sing for me was the fact that it left me asking a lot of tough questions. It made me see salvation in a whole new light and that's a great, great thing.

Needless to say, I can't wait to get my hands on Havah. I'll just have to wait since my book budget is spoken for until sometime around November.

CSFF Blog Tour: Marcher Lord Press Day 3


So now we're less than a week away from the launch of Marcher Lord Press. If you haven't been able to tell, I'm pretty excited about its launch. I can't wait to read the first three books to come out. I can't wait to find out what the next three will be. I can't wait to see the back list that Jeff Gerke will assemble. It's my dearest hope that Marcher Lord will become an industry success story.

But it's not there yet. There's still a big question mark hovering over all of it. It'll need our help to turn into an exclamation point. There are a few things we can do to make sure this is a roaring success:

1) Pray. As Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain." I have no doubt that Jeff Gerke has sought the Lord's counsel in this venture. But he'll need us to help hold up his hands, so to speak, by praying that Marcher Lord will be a roaring success.

At the ACFW Conference, Jeff specifically asked us to pray for his shopping cart. The way he explained it was that right now, you can go shopping, put books in your virtual cart, but you can't pay for anything. Apparently the software is having difficulty working with PayPal. Hopefully things will work out in time.

Even if it does, we can continue to support Marcher Lord via prayers. We can pray that many people will find and enjoy the books. We can pray that Jeff Gerke will continue to find excellent authors with wonderfully bizarre stories. I'd say we can even pray that the success of Marcher Lord will show the rest of the CBA that speculative fiction can work and work well.

2) Buy stuff. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be stated: Marcher Lord will only work if people actually purchase the products. We can't just pray, we need to pony up the money and help support this venture financially. I'm personally planning on buying all three books the day Marcher Lord goes live. It'll take pretty much my whole entertainment budget for October, but it will be worth it, especially since you can get cool bonus books. I've been really interested in the virtual coffee table book, especially after seeing the samples on Hanna Sandvig's blog.

3) Spread the word. This blog tour is a good start, but we need to reach out beyond the blogosphere to those we know who would like these books. The more people who learn about Marcher Lord, the bigger and better it'll be. Word of mouth can be incredibly powerful.

If you need to give them incentive, remind them of the cool giveaways, the greatest and coolest of which is a trip for two to the 2009 ComicCon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that.

4) Write. For those of us who are speculative authors, Marcher Lord Press represents a phenomenal opportunity. But we can't squander it. While we are encouraged to submit our wild stories to Marcher Lord, we should do our best to make them the best we can. That means studying our craft, perfecting our stories, making them shine. That way, when people speak of Marcher Lord Press, it won't be, "Oh, that's that small press that publishes weird stories." It'll be "That's the house that publishes fantastically weird stories that you have just got to read!"

It'll be a wild ride. But it's one I'm looking forward to.

Be sure to check out what the rest of the tourists are saying:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CSFF Blog Tour: Marcher Lord Press Day 2


Let me tell you a fun story. This past Thursday, the ACFW Conference held its annual editor panel. Most of the editors at the conference were put in front of the firing squad and were asked submitted questions from the slathering horde of writers, both published and unpublished.

Okay, perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic. But we ran through the usual questions: what's good, what's not, what are you looking for, that sort of thing.

And then the question the editors dreaded popped up: what about speculative fiction? What is that, exactly?

The editors looked a bit stumped. They hemmed, they hawed. One took a long, exagerrated look at her watch and declared, "Oh, look at the time!" They offered a few pat answers, one of them raising the question of whether or not to include the Left Behind series.

And then Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press leapt to the rescue. He strode up, politely took the mic from the moderator, introduced himself, and then explained to everyone present that speculative fiction could be summed up in one word: "Weird."

How true it is. And how wonderful it is as well! That's part of the reason why I'm looking forward to October 1st. On that day, just one week away, three books will hit the market which are, to put it bluntly, weird. Gloriously, superbly, creatively weird!

The first is The Personifid Invasion by R. E. Bartlett. This is a sequel to the previously published The Personifid Project. In this sci-fi story, people can cheat death by having their souls transferred into artificial beings called "personifids."

Admittedly, this is the book that I'm least enthusiastic about. I haven't read the first one, and while I know that Invasion can stand alone, I wasn't too thrilled about dipping my toe into a story that's a continuation of a previous one.

But after nosing around the blog tour yesterday, I saw that several of my fellow tourists (for lack of a better term) are impressed and excited to get their hands on this. Perhaps now's the time to say that I held a copy of this book in my hands already. Jeff Gerke had a copy with him at ACFW and he showed it off a lot. Very well done.

Anyway, seeing the enthusiasm of others has piqued my interest, so much so that I placed an order on Amazon to get a used copy of Project. That way, I can read the original before I delve into the sequel.

Moving right along, we have a book with a mouthful for a title: Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy by Theodore Beale.

This one has intrigued me ever since I heard its premise. Most fantasy novels are set in an alternate version of medieval Europe, but they leave something pretty big out of it. That's the Roman Catholic Church. So what if the Catholic Church existed in a fantasy world? How would they relate to the fantastical creatures such as elves? To put it bluntly, would they believe elves have souls?

That's what a young priest has been sent out to determine, only he gets caught up in a great adventure as he wrestles with that issue. What a crazy premise, right? But I can't wait to see this and read it for myself because it sounds like a great speculative story and should prove to be a wild ride.

That brings us to the last book being released, namely Hero, Second Class by Mitchell Bonds.

Jeff Gerke raved about this book the whole time he was at ACFW. Bonds was 19 when Jeff acquired the book. Jeff says Bonds's writing is phenomenal. Reading the description on the website has me salivating already. I have a bizarre sense of humor to go with my weird taste in stories. This is going to be a wild ride and one I'm sure I'll remember for a long time.

You may have noticed that in all these cases, I have not taken advantage of the sample chapters that have been posted on Marcher Lord's website. That's a personal choice; I wanted to wait to read the books for the first time after I have them here. So I have to go on the little bits and pieces I've picked up here and there.

Now here's the fun: Jeff Gerke is already hard at work getting the next books that Marcher Lord will put out. He told me a little bit about one of them at ACFW. It's a sci fi book that includes a mystical talking wooden puzzle box. Seriously. I can't wait.

He also said that he's hoping that Marcher Lord will be able to acquire out of print books so readers can continue to enjoy them.

Whatever the case, here's hoping that Marcher Lord will soon have a massive list to keep those of us who love "weird" fiction in wonderfully bizarre stories for years to come.

Go out and see what the other tourists have to say:


Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Courtney
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Kait
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Margaret
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Greg Slade
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise