Alex Friedman

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Smashwords book reviews by Alex Friedman

  • Failure on April 03, 2012

    This is an exceptionally depressing collection. I can't say the poetry here is fantastic or polished, most of it is pretty amateur. I don't want to knock it, though, you can really feel the depression and desperation of the author. The situations described are pretty awful, and they come through well. Overall, I'd say this is a pretty emotionally effective couple of poems. It could be criticized academically but I don't feel that successful meter or whatever was the author's aim.
  • Welcome to Mars! on July 09, 2012

    Mr. Brown's "Welcome to Mars!" is an intelligent and entertaining piece of satirical hard science fiction. It's relevant, funny, and well paced. The writing is refreshingly well polished, the book feels professionally edited and presented. The realistic premise and good humor make for a highly satisfying read. "Welcome to Mars!" is a satire of the commercialization of American society. In the story, NASA has taken to funding itself through excessive commercial sponsorship (similar to NASCAR or Professional Wrestling). The crew travels to Mars, coping with their sponsorship duties as well as each other. The story is reminiscent of classic science fiction and engages in some enjoyable speculation. This is a fantastic novella and it is easy to recommend to any fan of satire or science fiction.
  • Terminator; The Razors Edge on Oct. 01, 2012

    This is 500 words of "Terminator" fan fiction that isn't properly attributed to the creators of the franchise. It is readable and edited, it just isn't compelling. Also it is fan fiction, which is a strike against it for originality. The story is told from a disembodied voice that represents all of human civilization. It ends with a big reveal that is very obvious when you realize that this is Terminator fan fiction. Oh well.
  • This Is My America on Oct. 01, 2012

    Opening with a pixelated, uncredited photo of an American flag, "This Is My America" is a poem of unoriginal musings about the United States. It is a free-verse poem, or a really short and disorganized essay depending on your point of view. I don't understand why this award winning author published this at all.
  • The Salt Moon Robots on Dec. 21, 2012

    Mr. Brown's latest novella, “The Salt Moon Robots”, is an excellent and creative work. This novella diverges from the style of “Welcome to Mars!” in a few ways-- it is not “hard sci-fi”, the prose is more varied and stylish, and there is less direct critique of present culture. I found it easier reading than “Welcome to Mars!”, which is perhaps due to the stronger characterizations in this novella. This novella's two major accomplishments are its characterizations and its seamless world-building. This novella lacks a “Captain Kirk”, a white male stand in for the 'everyman' through whom the audience is intended to experience the story. This is highly unusual for science fiction and is very refreshing. The novella's 3rd person perspective shifts focus between two main characters, Captain Ting and his passenger. Both are compelling and enjoyable to follow. The minor characters are also very well drawn and contribute context to the novella's deft world-building. Mr. Brown's world-building in “Salt Moon Robots” is something to behold. The audience is shown a mining colony on a wasteland moon with its own social problems, culture, landscape, and motivators-- and this is done completely within the plot's context. There are no long explanations here, just craft and contextual balance. This level of storytelling is what keeps bringing me back to Mr. Brown's work. It should also be noted that Mr. Brown exhibits some very finely crafted prose in this work. While the plot does eventually absorb the reader beyond noticing the language, it is clear that Mr. Brown took the time to refine this manuscript. “Salt Moon Robots” is a must buy for fans of Mr. Brown's work, and an enjoyable read for any sci-fi fan.
  • Idiot's Mask on April 20, 2013

    Cheesburger Brown’s novella Idiot’s Mask is a strange and tragic romance set in alien worlds. The first thing I noticed about this book was how tight the prose was, and (as is characteristic of Mr. Brown) how little the author sacrifices his prose for the lengthy world building exposition of other science fiction writers. Mr. Brown’s worlds are vibrant, fantastic, and alien while at the same time remaining relatable and wholly embedded within the character’s perception. The narrating character, Idiot, is compelling– a young man dragged into a revolution by happenstance. He finds himself a grifter, a terrorist, and even a fully socialized citizen as the conflict between Marxist classes threatens him at very personal levels. In many ways, this story is a reversal of 1984, as the libertine seeks stable ground to stand on in society. Mr. Brown writes more sincerely than those stories do about what actually motivates people trapped in these sorts of situations, though. The only complaint I had with the book was the opening line to the final major action scene. Mr. Brown’s usual deftness in handling action scenes fails him for about a sentence. It speaks to the overall quality of this novella, though, that this was my only major complaint with it. It certainly was not anything major enough to mar my overall perception of this work. Given the option, I’d rate this at an 8.5/10, but Smashwords is limiting.