I regret that my comments and reviews tend to be candid and seemingly harsh. To make up for this to a slight extent I'll offer a sample edit of a few pages to anyone who wishes to take the chance. I am NOT a professional editor, nor am I interested in editing an entire book---but I believe I know something about writing.
Free gratis. And I'll praise the good parts.
This member has not published any books.
Smashwords book reviews by R Ralan
- Moon Dreams
on Sep. 07, 2012
This is quite a good example of hard science fiction, with the author managing to make most of his science sound plausible rather than depending on jargon. In addition, some of the bureaucratic aspects of developing advanced ideas are well explicated without dominating the tale. The plot develops slowly but is exciting and feels largely realistic.
Now for the negatives. Characters are just a tad cardboardy, and dialog curiously formal on occasion. But that's common enough in hard SF, where science itself, in a sense, is the leading character. The summing-up after the story climax is far too mushy and idealistic, a letdown after an exciting tale. A bit of disappointed hope and irony would have been more realistic. Further, the title Moon Dreams is too paltry for this tale, giving little idea of the excitement of space travel.
The worst flaws are in grammar and punctuation. Harris gives the impression of being an educated man, albeit primarily in the sciences. It's difficult to believe even the most tech-oriented individual would lack a higher degree of comprehension as to how sentences should be formed, too often in this book a collection of phrases strung together by commas.
Punctuation: I'm used to amateur writing (and some professional writing, as well) having problems with the use of commas and apostrophes. But Harris takes it a step farther, not seeming to know proper usage of question marks. All in all, it's a shame he couldn't have found a friend to do a proper copy edit.
The purposes of punctuation are to clarify meaning, to hint at the stresses and pauses which add emotion to verbal communication, and to enhance ease of reading. Poor punctuation is harmful to all these aims. The only saving grace is that about half way through Moon Dreams the errors seemed to get less jarring.
Worth reading despite the flaws.
- Judge vs. Nuts
on Sep. 09, 2012
Judge vs Nuts is a strange, somewhat off-putting title but an enjoyable book. It's two tales in one — partly about a new lawyer learning the ropes, partly about a murder investigation. I particularly liked the lawerly portion because of an interest in the way things work. As far as I can tell from my years of being dragged through the court system, it quite realistically describes our sometimes vain strivings for justice. The story is written in somewhat amateurish fashion, but that adds a bit to its charm, since the narrator is a rather amateurish lawyer as the tale opens.
It could use more dialog tags in order to make who is speaking clearer to the reader. It gives a great deal of Chicago history and myth, and so much description that at times I was reminded of Victor Hugo. An unusual homonym error crops up in the mention of "coffee clutch" rather than "coffee klatch" or Kaffeeklatsch.
And it has examples of the all-too-frequent confusion between plurals and possessives. Here's a quick lesson: Plurals add [s] or [es] except for certain old Germanic words such as mice and oxen. Possessives usually add ['s] (that is, [apostrophe s]) because they are abbreviations of an older formula: "John Smith his book" shortened to "John Smith's book." Possessive pronouns (its, hers, theirs, ours) are an exception.
There are some awkward sentence constructions, including the very first in the story, where a man waits for "the elevator filled with regrets." Pretty sure it's the man who is filled with regrets. And there's at least one passage where paragraphs are confusingly intermingled, as if the writer edited but neglected to remove the older version.
I don't particularly blame the author for the foregoing complaints, as these all should have been corrected in the editing process. What it indicates is that anyone who publishes with Echelon Press shouldn't expect much in the way of either content or copy editing.
The tale's narrator, Fiona Gavelle, is quirky, suspicious, nervous, and worried about her future — in other words, very much a real person with certain dryad overtones. The other characters are well-drawn and believable. Chicago is depicted quite as fully corrupt as it actually is, although the author denies the city's reputation.
Well worth reading despite minor flaws.
- Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall
on Sep. 18, 2012
Here we have a decent premise, written by someone who paid attention during English class, yet who has no conception of how people act during a crisis. When the nation is invaded and being bombarded, people should be having hysterics, not be spending time worrying about lesser concerns, or strolling about as if something merely inconvenient is happening.
Worse yet, perhaps, the characters make rookie mistakes that put themselves into bad situations, all with the (author's) idea of making the story more exciting. Another thing: huge herbivorous alien animals cannot be treated like pets. Would anyone go near a moose or buffalo without taking precautions? How about a rhino or hippo?
One scene particularly galled me. When the rancher's daughter is threatened by a dangerous animal, she runs upstairs and hides under her bed. Excuse me, but I'd expect a cowgirl to run to the gun cabinet for the biggest rifle on hand, not cower like a delicate debutante.
I could go on, but what's the point? Simply take warning -- you'll need to suspend a whole lot of disbelief to get through this one. Too bad, for the story has some good points.
- Secrets of Retail
on Oct. 03, 2012
Not badly written, but nonstop cynicism quickly gets tiresome, and the first few chapters were nothing else. The mild attempts at humor weren't enough to make up for it. I quit early.
- 13 Years in America
on Nov. 05, 2012
I won't spoil Steele's perfect five-star rating, but it seems no other reviewer has mentioned that this is a story of failure from start to finish. The only genuine success is their child. Even Melanie's degrees, obtained at great cost, lead to nothing worthwhile. And the cause? Always choosing immediate gratification, never being willing to delay it.
Melanie talks her husband out of following the career he's spent years training for, simply because it would require two years in an undesirable location. She talks him out of it a second time even though their financial situation is poor. They borrow money at ruinous interest, then pay ten percent to cash the check rather than open a bank account. They rent land to grow a garden in hopes of saving more than $100 per month on food bills! They heat one home with a woodstove yet have to buy the wood. These decisions make no economic sense.
Along the line the author reveals a fear of the U S felt by west coast Canadians, seeming to find our nation a sort of East Germany without the language barrier. She gives two horrifying examples of U S history, neither of them quite accurate. The most egregious is the story of offering smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians, an incident that occurred in 1763 during Pontiac's Rebellion. To wit, the BRITISH defending Fort Pitt gave two supposedly-infected blankets to the besieging Indians. The ploy failed, no doubt because Indians had been exposed to smallpox many years previously, before the Pilgrims arrived, in fact.
Still, it's a compelling, well-written story. But memoir is easy--I'd like to see what she can do with fiction.
- Artificial Intentions
on March 09, 2013
Not a bad read but a trifle unsophisticated. The heroine is portrayed as both too consciously naive and too cynically world-weary in some ways. The relationship between herself and her ex-husband is too idealistic, and would have been more effective if the heroine had severe but private doubts about his sincerity before the critical event.
Much is revealed through narrative rather than action and dialog during the opening of the story and setting the background rather than getting immediately to the good stuff, and she sure likes to shock with ugly language.
A good enough way to kill a weekend, though, and I think the writer has some promise.
- A Plague of People
on March 09, 2013
There are two problems with this book.
First, every forecast of societal collapse due to over-population has proved wrong, especially the laughable "Limits to Growth" by the Club of Rome. Advanced nations are faced with problems due to falling population, and population growth of less-advanced nations is rapidly slowing.
Second, Robinson isn't much of a writer.
- The Unsuspecting Mage: The Morcyth Saga Book One
on March 10, 2013
Is there a rating lower than one star?
Unfair, perhaps, since I couldn't get past the first page, present tense setting my teeth on edge. Beyond that, Unsuspecting Mage seems like a school-kid's attempt at fantasy writing after being first introduced to a role-playing game. What kind of name for a hero is "James?" Couldn't he have had a secret nerdish nickname such as Flash or Talvinn or Semba he could use in the alternate world?
As for those who rate this story highly, what do they think of writers such as Robert Heinlein, C S Forester, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury? Probably hate them, I suppose.