The only reason I write the occasional short story or flash fiction (all unpublished) is so that I have something to read. I'm a reader. Was, ever since the age of 3 (or so I am told; I've never known not being able to read). I discovered science fiction at age 8 or so, and it's been my favourite ever since, but I wander through fantasy, thrillers, detective fiction, and even some mainstream fiction, as long as it is either (a) mind-bending (b) funny or (c) an easy read. My favourite books are the ones I can reread again and again because the characters are my friends. I'm not fond any more of characters that are too clever and too ruthless to want to meet in real life. With some hilarious exceptions, of course, like Saki's Clovis Sangrail.

Since I want to read, I try to ensure I write reviews as often and as soon as possible, to encourage writers to write more. My reviews will always be honest first, and kind second, but even then, it's only the famous authors whose books will sell despite my poor reviews that I sharpen any knives for. The idea is to write a review that will tell the next reader what to expect. You may well like different stuff from me. I am scrupulously fair in this, so that you can always rely on my reviews. You can find more of them on ABookUnopened.blogspot.com.

Where to find JQDahiya online


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JQDahiya's favorite authors on Smashwords

Smashwords book reviews by JQDahiya

  • My Abstract Life on July 12, 2017

    I'm a great fan of Gord McLeod's books. This is a wonderful little short story which takes an unexpected turn in a brand new public library. His books, particularly the Dolesham series of steampunk stories, are even better. I strongly recommend them to anyone who likes attention to detail, solid plots, well-fleshed out characters, and gentle happy endings (the rest of the story need not be gentle, of course). They feature adventure, conflict, convincing villains and heroes you root for automatically.
  • The Girl with the Scarab Necklace on July 12, 2017

    A wonderful story for all Dr Who fans, who (heh heh) love a good detective story with a solid plot. But wait, what are guys with these laser swords doing? The game is afoot, Watson. I finished this story with a big grin on my face. Fun!
  • In Tartarus on July 12, 2017

    I'm dashing through smashwords, looking for books to download in the Free Month of July. So it's rare that I'll actually read one of the stories in the mad rush. But what an intriguing description! And what a wonderfully tantalising review from James Jenkins. And, after I read it, such an accurate one. A great story, laugh out loud funny dialogue -- a real charmer. Well done, Gareth Lewis, nicely played!
  • Letting Go on July 12, 2017

    A short piece, moving through the stages of grief. But Susan's mother isn't really dead, is she? Or is she? Well written. The only reason it loses a star is the end was rather cynical for my taste. YMMV.
  • Manhunt How Long Can You Run on July 19, 2017

    I can't explain exactly what about this story I found chilling, but that's the word for a one-word review. Rich kids use time travel to be hunted in the past. Justin has the current record, but he wants to break it. Again and again. Yes, certainly sounds like a spoilt brat playing yet another immersive video game. Except that this time travel game can get you killed. So does he survive? And for how long? What happens at 'game over'? The description is remarkably tongue-in-cheek, once you've read the story. ;) Recommended for a quick read. A couple of grammar errors need to be fixed, but let's not cavil too much.
  • Killin Machine on July 19, 2017

    At first, it didn't read like a sci fi story at all. At all. We have this weird loner guy. And then we have a kitten. Then he has kittens, in the British sense of the term. And slowly the sci fi part emerges. And the horror part. Except that it's at least as funny as it's horrible. I'm pretty sure I'm glad I live half a planet away from the story's location, given how it ended. But it was funny as anything. If Stephen King wrote funny stuff, and was as funny as he does horror, he might aspire to write something like this.
  • The Wipeboard (Terminator Flash Fiction) on Aug. 06, 2017

    A well-written piece of flash fiction, rather cleverly done. A quick two-minute read. However, it didn't add anything to the Terminator world, and it was unsatisfyingly implausible.
  • To Find a Thief on Aug. 06, 2017

    What a little gem of a story! :D Wish fulfilment at its most satisfying, and manages to get digs into TV reporters and insensitive policemen, too.
  • Specimen on Aug. 08, 2017

    Writing quality and grammar/proofreading: Great. Concept: Mediocre. Humour: Based on stereotypes of amorous women and jealous men, which is extended across to aliens of different species. I'd say: Forced. Redeeming feature: The end is more subtle than the rest of the story. Overall: A disappointment.
  • Possibility - A SUM Inspired Story on Aug. 08, 2017

    Once in a while, you stumble upon a story that has a concept that is mind-bendingly grand, that makes you rethink everything. And when this is packed with good writing and a simple but solid storyline into a tiny bundle of wow, there is only one thing that can make it even better. It's free!
  • Snow Wonder on Aug. 08, 2017

    I love puns, which is why this short story attracted me in the first place. It had good reviews, too, including '50's style', 'retro experience' and 'entertaining blend of sci-fi and light horror', all of which I found to be accurate. It starts just-about-promisingly, what with the retro feel and the 'alien goop' tropes, but ends with a flourish worthy of sci fi masters. The characters come alive despite their near-stereotypes, even within this short piece.
  • Two Psychics in a Typhus Epidemic on Aug. 11, 2017

    This is a story of morality and choice, the choice between compassion and pragmatism. Ursula LeGuin did it better in Those Who Walk Away From Omelas, but then she didn't do it in one page. The dry and authentic voice of the narrator underscores the choices made. Well done!
  • The Star Creature on Aug. 11, 2017

    A story that has aged gracefully in 38 years, and still reads as fresh. What happens when an alien finds a 'star creature'. Poignant.
  • Breaking Down on Aug. 11, 2017

    By page 2, you can guess what's happening, but it's a fun story, and surprise isn't everything in life. You'll be grinning by the end.
  • Lost in the Dark on Aug. 12, 2017

    WW3 is no excuse for sending this inadequate astronaut out. Extremely implausible, which is not what one wants in sci fi. It's a very unsophisticated story.
  • Letters to a File on Aug. 12, 2017

    A creepy little story (and I mean that as praise). Hair raising in the blandness of the Letters that go into the File. You sit there at the end, wondering exactly what the crime was supposed to be, as you see the crime that results from ... Compliance.
  • Death Comes at Midnight on Aug. 12, 2017

    An interesting enough story. It's based in the 22nd century, but reads like a 20th century story. Apart from being located implausibly in the future (paper reports, typing on a computer, really?), it's not science fiction. Read it like it's a crime story, and you'll be fine.
  • Dark Station on Aug. 12, 2017

    Wow! What a breathless pace. A space station hit by a ... zombie epidemic? Something has shut off contact, and the General wants the research recovered. Gebbley and the rest of the crew walk unsuspecting into hell. A short novel that reads like a Hollywood movie. Recommended for fans of space opera, zombies, or psychological thrillers.
  • Interview Room 9 on Aug. 20, 2017

    It's part of a larger series, but fairly self contained for all that. A well written and atmospheric piece. However, while there are hints of retribution or justice, the crime is nowhere obvious. This detracts from the story. I guess things would be more obvious if you followed the series.
  • Flipspace: Flight of the Mockingbird on Aug. 20, 2017

    This is a space opera that's good for an hour's light reading. A distant research station stops reporting and a crew is sent for rescue and repairs. The story is suitable for filming with action scenes. The negatives are shallow characters introduced in detail in early chapters who do absolutely nothing thereafter, too much cuteness in fancy backronyms, and spelling mistakes, particularly of homonyms. The story is ok, but the characters don't engage with your emotions, nor is the tech sufficiently gee-whiz to compensate. The best part of the tech, the bio stuff, whizzes past in less than one page. Shame that. However, the story picks up as it goes on, and becomes more interesting. The end comes up rather suddenly and the series moves to the next episode. This was a good concept, with reasonable treatment, but it doesn't make me want to go back and read it again.
  • Chemical Creatures on Feb. 15, 2018

    We have here a depressive with blackout episodes and an alien with a humble task at which he/it hopes to excel and get promoted. There are chemicals involved and a weird kind of salvation for the depressive. The bit focussed on the depressive is very very chemical and the bit about the alien is a little funny and a bit of a surprise. The best part is the description of Cape Town. It's neat, but not really my type.
  • North Pole on Feb. 17, 2018

    This is the kind of story that makes you regret having liberally given 5 stars to other stories, and wish for the ability to give 6 stars. An exceptional treatment solidly in the middle of the horror genre and What A Concept. Full marks for concept, language, editing, pace, build up, climax and post-climax, and ending. A classic piece of horror fiction. A military doctor, recently bereaved and feeling a numbed apathy to life, agrees dutifully and promptly to a trip in advance of a snowstorm in Greenland, to respond to an SOS from a location where no research group, military base or civilian settlement has been known. All that is known to be around there are tales of UFOs spotted but not quite. The soldier and the doctor set off in their sturdy truck and reach a strange mansion, decayed and foreboding, where no mansion should be. Anything that I write further to this will be a spoiler, so all I will say is that the SOS-sender is also bereaved, but in a more sinister way. After disarming you charmingly, the story whips you back to horror, which grows slowly and relentlessly and does not spare you. Awesome, Edward Punales, awesome! Worth every one of the 5 stars.
  • Orussian Quarantine on Feb. 17, 2018

    This is a story we are told, not shown, a bit in the fashion of Doris Lessing's sci fi (unfortunately, I don't like that style, so this is not a compliment). There are a lot of clever acronyms, but the technology and planet are finally given short shrift. Characters are introduced in detail about their looks and position, but then they don't seem to *do* anything. The Orus star system is covered in bewildering detail, lots of planets with names and alternative names, but then nothing else, really. And when a 'water world' turns out to be nothing more or less than a giant fish tank, I just gave up. That's not how water worlds are. There are other physical impossibilities, too. Sometimes, you forgive them if the rest of the story carries you with it, say, emotionally or with a moral question. There is a moral question or two, but it's skirted and never tackled. Sorry, Rob J Meijer, it's a lot of detail, as if a bigger story is about to jump out at you, but it never does. There isn't any character whom I can remember, just two days later. A potentially nice concept, but it didn't get a good treatment.
  • Zero 'g' on Feb. 19, 2018

    Two stars because this is not my expectation of a sci fi story. This story has all the masala but none of the main ingredients. I'm reviewing after only a few chapters, but you lost me at the earth losing gravity for no reason given, not even a mad fantasy reason. Gravity is to be replaced by Particle B, to be hauled from outer space. That's too banal and ... Hollywoodish. That said, there is nothing objectionable about the story or the treatment. The writing is fairly taut, there are neither typos nor bad grammar nor bad editing. The characters are reasonably developed and decent humans. I just expected it to be more hard sci fi, which is my fault because the intro on this page is clear enough that the Earth is just sick and tired of humans. So, if that's your scene, have at it.
  • You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories on Feb. 19, 2018

    A collection of weird stories that reminds me of 70s sci fi/horror, in a good kind of way. You have been murdered: as described in the synopsis above, the horror is in the need to show a smiling face despite life-shattering events. Teller of tales: Heart-rending Breach of contract: Funny in a macabre way, with urban mediocrity running straight up against rural high fantasy. The trouble-men: Creepy and suitably end-of-the-world. Recommended for those who like their horror a bit laid-back, a bit incomprehensible, and a bit thought-provoking (with shudders).
  • Volition: An Extra-Terrestrial Incident on March 04, 2018

    A fairly standard alien abduction story. Actually, it's more about the interactions between two of the four friends involved in the first abduction (the youngest one, physically challenged, was abducted). There is lots of dialogue between them, much of which could be cheerfully cut in half, but which actually makes them into more than cardboard characters. There are also aliens, govt officials who ought to know better, a number of characters who appear and then don't do much, a dog and a grumpy cat (who is there just for lulz). The aliens are in contact with govt agencies, and exchange tech in place of being allowed to abduct people. It's not clear why that is expected to make sense. There is a lot of whee-magic! in the story. References to pop culture movies abound. The alien is a mix of omnipotence and ineptitude. The various agencies indulge in a lot of jargon-speak. The motivations of the bad guys are never clear. The motivations of the good guys are a bit better placed. There are astounding amounts of naivete, and very little plot tension, which makes for a fairly shallow story, though with TV-level special effects. There are also spelling mistakes, I regret to say. Rappelling is not repelling. However, while not great, it's not a bad book, probably better than some of the potboilers that actually see the light of paperback sales. All in all, a reasonable lazy Sunday read when you have nothing better to do.
  • Grey Enigmas on March 04, 2018

    An excellent mystery, with proper clues, a sci fi world in which a detective is resurrected (from death? incarceration? virtuality?) and tasked with solving a murder which should not have been possible. Alex takes up the task with a cheerful and endearing lack of penitence which not only disarms us but the stubbornly pro-law and order Theresa Patel, the closest the crimeless future has to a detective. The introduction of mind-bending tech is done deftly. The tech is far-out but the motivations for murder are everyday and human. The pace is excellent, the suspects plausible, the backstories clear enough, and the climax and ending sufficiently unpredictable to keep our interest. Recommended for people who liked Altered Carbon more for its concepts than the violence and sex.
  • Time Travelers on March 04, 2018

    Gary Kuyper has a fine appreciation of irony as applied to time travel stories, and this comes out beautifully in the five short stories that comprise this book. In What Goes Around, an angry inventor tries to outdo the villain who stole his concept and tech. Made to Order has a military R&D team trying to beat the enemy by grabbing tech from the future, and an equally desperate enemy. Latent Images has an inventor make version 2 of a technology for 3D movie spectacles, or is it? What's the man really up to? A Mammoth Error has both mammoths and errors, and the tech team blissfully unaware. Frozen Assets is a macabre look at the super rich who just want to freeze themselves into a future where their investments will pay for medical cures for their present health issues. All in all, a very enjoyable read. 4 and a half stars.
  • Expressions of Freedom on Aug. 04, 2018

    Category: Will AI take over the world? Star rating: 4 stars + a bit A curious journalist investigates rumours that all is not well with the foundations of democracy in a near-future world where everyone votes for everything, since it’s all technology-enabled via your personal AI. What’s good: The protagonist is quirky and likeable. The villains are villainous without being demonic. The personal AIs and new tech are woven in neatly. Smooth writing, no hiccups. What’s not good: A wee bit predictable. Hat tip to the detailed review by Francis W Porretto. Thanks for that; made me download.
  • Back Again (The Short Story) on Aug. 04, 2018

    Star category: 5 (recommended) Category: Time travel, fate Synopsis: A taut, breathless-speed story about a woman stuck in a time loop, reliving the death of her little boy, trying with all her soul to change the outcome. There are three main characters, the mother, the woman who runs over the boy while focused on texting rather than driving, and the presence of the boy which the reader and the other two are keenly aware of, but who remains oblivious through it all. What’s good: Everything. Plot, characterisation, plot twists, writing quality, high emotion, suspense. What’s not good, if anything: - It was subsequently expanded into a book (like Nightfall and Flowers for Algernon and other classics, it probably did equally well in a longer format, but I haven’t read that version).
  • Beware the Well Fed Man on Aug. 04, 2018

    Star category: 5 (recommended) Category: Post-apocalypse Synopsis: In a world of municipal darwinism, where walking cities populated by the lucky are trailed by less-lucky camp-followers, and those who aren’t even camp-followers are preyed upon by bloodthirsty tribes of killers, a Mall falls from the sky and prepares to take in customers. Ebon and his curious brother Crassus join a group of the most disadvantaged in converting the Plexis Shopping Centre to Home. Except that it’s not so simple. The nearest City wants to take over. Crassus learns more about how the mall works. Along with Thunfir (elected chief) and Euclid (a mathematical man whom only Crassus can barely keep up with) and other less savoury allies, they prepare to take the City on. What’s good: A novel and thoroughly entertaining plot, high-tech post-apocalypse, weird social structures, weirder world views, nanotech, 3D printing, evil villains, cruel killers, friends and loyalty, heartbreaking choices, extreme capitalism. Crackling good SF, and the title is spot on. What’s not good, if anything: I don’t have the next book! Waa! Hat tip to Zachary Seibert’s excellent review.
  • War Stories from the Future on Sep. 13, 2018

    The Atlantic Council Art of Future Warfare Project created in 2015 a book of science fiction, ostensibly "to shed the shackles which bind us to our current constructs and instead imagine things as they might be, for better or for worse," as Gen Dempsey says in the intro, "hope they make you think. Glean as many lessons as you can, but don’t blindly accept the authors’ conclusions. Challenge them. Wrestle with them. Refute them if you can. And build these insights into your mental arsenal so we can better understand how these evolutions—in some cases revolutions—of technology might affect our national security." Pfft, say I. Read them as sci fi and review them the same. Hardly two stories made me think of how war would take place in the future, and I think they may already be outdated. So, here goes, story by story: From a Remove by Alec Meden brings us a shadowy cyber group of 'sovereign citizens' who enforce the peace, at the point of space-based weapons platforms. Any of them could be your classmate sitting with you in a lecture, and controlling the drone spacecraft that protect the space reflectors set up to combat global warming, like Donya. But what if the nation states, displaced by the Sovs, chafe and plot revenge? Space opera, by all means. Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 by Ken Liu. This story brings home how little the USA believes in international law except in its own understanding, though that's probably not what the author intended. An irritated presidential hopeful lets loose cyberterrorists, granted permission by the USA government as 'privateers', with not-so-well-anticipated consequences. Wish fulfilment, possibly. A Stopped Clock by Madeline Ashby is a little love story set in the great cyber crash that afflicts future S Korea. A little rice and kimchi goes a long way to a return to barter when the entire cybergrid mysteriously goes down. This one is more pure story than thought experiment, and better for it. A Visit to Weizenbaum by Jamie Metzl is a story of psychological support provided to soldiers manning the last line of defence, by an AI. It's also a chilling look at the kind of pressure a 'last line' faces, and how dehumanising such military demands can be, never mind the light touch and relatively innocuous problem the soldier brings. ANTFARM by August Cole is one of the most future-war stories in the collection. The title of the story is the name of a flying 3D fabricator which produces custom bombs and drones to destroy designated human targets. The targets are validated by crowd-sourcing analysis from civilians back at home, who have rather strong views on how seriously their thumbs up or down should be taken. The pilot on the spot, though, feels he has to overrule them sometimes. That's a conflict entirely separate from the distant war of drones that most of us already know about at the current, less high-tech levels. This one is macabre in its opinion on what's just. One of the best in the book. I normally read the story first, and then check the author but when you see that Linda Nagata wrote Codename: Delphi, you won't be surprised to find I thought this one of the strongest stories in the book, heartbreaking and eerily predictive. Delphi is the code name of a volunteer who makes extra money by taking a shift, sitting in the home country, monitoring the drones that gather on-ground intelligence for soldiers in the field, and giving them back-office support in real time. This is one of the stories that seems to be a likely prediction of the wars of the future. It's the stage between human-run wars and wars run by drones and AI. The Exception That Proves the Rule by Mathew Burrows is based in near-future UK, with its ubiquitous surveillance, and shows how human failings break the best models. The story is about a predictive system to analyse everything from DNA to friends' networks to finger terrorists before they strike. It only needs one failure... Coffee, Wi-Fi and the Moon The unknown story of the greatest cyber war of them all by Nikolas Katsimpras starts with blank computer screens and the sound of typewriters in newsrooms, and walks us through a cyberwar that brings most nations to their knees. Like most near-future sci fi that predicts near future, it gets some things spectacularly wrong: Dick Cheney has comprehensively beaten the predicted death in 2016, Putin is still alive and Hillary Clinton is not the President of the USA. But it's not yet 2019... Nope, I see no chance of this story being real in any way. A Need for Heroes by David Brin has a war in Central Europe in its past, and the big military targets being ... poachers. UNEPA is the glam group that mere UN soldiers aspire to. This is still a story of the camaraderie, cowardice and courage that form most soldiers' real life experiences, not really predictive in any sense. Another Day of Infamy by Ashley Henley is a future declaration of war, bland and scary in its almost stereotyped phrases. I don't forgive it for the acronym of the Federation Alliance of Socialist, Communist, and Islamic State Members. I suspect the writer giggled his way through 1000 words on that basis alone. Nope, buddy, no forgiveness. All in all, mostly good stories, three good pieces of art inside the covers, and a few gems.
  • Dra'Tribek Five: Or, How to Destroy a Planet From Within. on Sep. 14, 2018

    This is a lecture disguised as a story. The grammar and spellings are poor. The characters are simpletons and their mannerisms are no better. This is the last sentence, for a sample: "Although the preceding is a fiction written my Mac McDonald, it does offer food for thought."
  • Finding Gaia on Sep. 14, 2018

    When Kimberly Chapman first mentioned her book Finding Gaia on Google+ as a romance, sci fi, fantasy, paranormal, I just nodded and moved on. However, when she mentioned it was feminist romance, I stopped and wondered how that would differ from the standard romance novel (which I don’t normally read). So finally, having cunningly waited till there was a sale of books, I went out Finding Gaia. And yes, there is a difference between the standard ‘romance’ novel and a feminist one, and I can understand more clearly why the standard romance novel is so very unappealing to anyone who believes that humans are humans first, and not men or women first and last, and hardly humane in the ways ‘standard’ romance novels treat the characters. A book like this makes it even clearer that the drama and twists in a romance should not come about by jealousy and misunderstandings, that hate does not beget love, that contempt and ruthlessness and the use of force have no place in a real romance. Yes, this book is a romance first, but it’s also sci-fi, it’s also fantasy, it has paranormal stuff in it, it has humour, it has relatable characters, it has terrific writing, pace, suspense, villains and heroes, even superheroes and superbly horrible villains (these occur later in the book than the merely horrible villains in the early chapters). Sure, run off immediately and leave this review and go buy your copy and ignore me. See if I care. What happens in it? There is Jason Truitt, who is really old (centuries), and who is looking for someone like him (centuries old) and thinks he is again hot on the trail of the elusive Gaia. He is rich (compound interest over centuries, duh, what else would you expect? No? Well, okay, he’s a successful businessman). He has proteges (kind of heartbreaking to see your young friends age past you, grow old and die, so it must take real strength of heart to continue having proteges) who are Trish the peppy, enthusiastic, witty and impatient one, and Don the nerdy scientist who is barely aware of the world (except when wife Trish pulls him willy-nilly into the real world) but superb at his nerdy work. They are all on the track of a woman Jason code-names Gaia, whom he last saw centuries ago, and whose trail keeps going cold. Why does her trail keep going cold? Is she evil or is evil done to her? What effect does the evil she encounters have on her? Can we get to like her? Will she be Jason’s friend or foe? Bwahahaha. In case you were expecting spoilers from me, I won’t give you any. Yes, they find Gaia. She can make things grow, besides being immortal. Does or does Jason not have a superpower of his own? Shrug from me. Here’s a small sample, which to my mind, encapsulates the difference between a feminist/sensible romance and a bodice-ripper (said with true loathing). It’s also a sample of the humour you get all the time from Trish: “Where are you going?” Trish shouted, running after him and pointing east. “She’s out there!” He paused, his foot on the first step. “If she comes back, we’ll work it out calmly and slowly and properly.” “And if she doesn’t?” “Then I’m the one who is unworthy and don’t deserve a second chance.” “Oh that’s profoundly stupid,” Trish spat. “I’m not going to make it worse by chasing her down and saying the wrong thing.” “How about chasing her down and kissing her? Leave words out of it!” Jason turned and snapped back, “Yes, hunting her like an animal and assaulting her would be bloody brilliant.” Trish shook her head incredulously. “You know, I love you so much that sometimes I really hate your guts.” “Fine,” he grumbled and then ran up the stairs two at a time. Trish shouted after him, “Yeah, fine! Go off and sulk then! That’ll really help!” Just before he slammed his bedroom door shut, he heard her mutter, “Moron.” Yep, this book gets five stars, and I’m waiting for the sequel (it’s been outlined, she said).
  • Secrets of Goth Mountain on Sep. 20, 2018

    I've just finished Secrets of Goth Mountain, and very entertaining it was, too. Like a Disney movie, almost, but with better special effects. Johnny Goth abandons his job in a box-making company to finally find out what makes him have super-powers and why he remembers unicorns and shape-shifting friends from his childhood, while his mother insists he forget all that. Reaching Goth Mountain, he finds his Indian (native American, actually, not from India) friends are fighting a rearguard action against a logger who is salivating over all those old-growth forests that the Reservation and The Goth have been protecting. Johnny meets Elizabeth Winters, a teacher on the reservation, and a much nicer person than his cheating fiancée Angela. Mr Dark, an almost-elemental, is an evil being who loves death and destruction, and has naturally teamed up with the logger. Many shenanigans later, Gary J Davies delivers the happy ending (yess! An author who swears to create only happy endings!) The writing is breezy and whizzes along. The backdrops are gorgeous. The spellings sometimes trip you up (proof-editor! Drink more coffee, please, and don't rely on autocorrect), but not often enough to be jarring. There are a lot of old-friend tropes, but trees hitting villains with broken-off branches is surely brand-new! This book can be read by anyone above 12, for a good time. Nothing heavy at all, and you can anticipate some of the outcomes (like who's the hidden villain), but the action runs along smoothly, and there are no forced scenes. The thing I like better than an author who promises happy endings is an author who makes all his books self-contained, even if the same characters turn up elsewhere. With a multiverse to play in, that's reassuring. You know how much I hate falling into a series and wondering if I should press on. Okay, I'm off to read one of his other books. [Review written in July 2014, being uploaded now]
  • Brood of Bones on Sep. 21, 2018

    The best kind of fantasy. Inventive, new concept (imagine! a new concept in fantasy?!), engaging, mysterious, magical. Our heroine is the Elder Enchantress, and has won 27 gowns in academia, showing her prowess. For some reason, in a land of banyan trees and protectors named Gautam, she wears all of them at the same time, making movement tiring and complex. Which is the least of her problems, since she keeps falling asleep all the time. In this world, magic is done only when asleep, so her magic is fine, if only she can keep awake long enough to find out what the problem is she needs to fix. The great city of Morimound, from where she hails, has suddenly been afflicted with mysterious pregnancies. Every woman 12 or older is pregnant. Is it godly or an evil magic? Whom can she trust? Our heroine turns out not to be snobbish, incompetent, sociopathic or stupid, but a shy nerdy young woman you begin to love more and more as the book moves on through horrors and petty people to a rivetting end. Read this book! I look forward to more. [Reviewed in 2012; uploading here now]
  • The Offices of M. Coopersmith on Jan. 02, 2019

    From books which I read in 2018 (even though I downloaded some the previous year; yes, my backlog is not funny) are rated 3 stars, meaning I liked them well enough to write reviews and hope they get good sales. A light read. Two teens find their school assignment to pick up a cheque from the mysterious Mr M Coopersmith turns out to be a bit more than they bargained for. No new or mind-boggling sci fi/fantasy concepts (indeed, even trope-heavy), but a fast, smooth read that made me smile often. It has humour, some level of thinking, lots of entertaining action in which the mysterious Mr C shows a sense of humour and, dare one say it, humanity, which carries the story onwards. The teens start as standard YA characters, but by the end, they are pretty much three-dimensional.
  • My Name is Mark Nine on Jan. 02, 2019

    Rated 3 stars, which means I liked it well enough to write a review and hope it gets good 'sales'. You're in Tokyo, and you don't know why you're there. People crowd in front of you, but behind you, they vanish into shops. Someone is tailing you. Why? A short mystery with an amusing reveal. Some stories gain more stars towards the end; this is one.
  • Linehan's Ordeal on Jan. 02, 2019

    Rated 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good 'sales'. A very well written story, but simply inserting one movie hologram in it doesn't make it science fiction. Linehan goes to Hong Kong for his company and gets kidnapped. Why, and what role his new love plays in it is the rest of the story. He's friends with a top cop, but it made almost no difference to the search, which I found baffling. The writing is top notch, but the plot itself left me unimpressed. Some stories start by looking like they will get more stars than they finally gather. This is one.
  • Point of Origin on Jan. 02, 2019

    Rated 3-1/2 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good 'sales'. Why space probes should not have manufacturer's addresses. Amusing little short. You can read and enjoy this very quickly. The alienness of the aliens is extremely well done; one of the best. Marred by minor errors like homophone spellings.
  • The License on Jan. 02, 2019

    3 and 1/2 stars Corruption is possible in the Bureau of Parenting, Marriages and Dying. So what if you're not really qualified to be a parent? A very clever if not exactly ... edifying piece! Plenty of twists and turns.
  • The Eye Of Renithi on Jan. 02, 2019

    3 and a half stars This is a story of Mars. Not the real one, but the mythical one of Burroughs. Which is probably why the cover is a black and white image of Mars itself. A dying planet with hot deserts, barbaric Martian worshippers of a horrific goddess of death, and greedy colonial Earthmen tomb raiders. In the tradition of King Solomon's Mines or Indiana Jones. For which I have less patience from the 21st century. Withal, well written and atmospheric.
  • The Intervention on Jan. 02, 2019

    3 and 1/2 stars The parents of an addict in a dystopic future stage an intervention, which results in his being committed to an institution. You can guess he's addicted to something mild that creates frissons in a conformist society, but the end is still a wry surprise.
  • The Implant on Jan. 02, 2019

    3 and 1/2 stars A funny take on unearned, instant knowledge. The narrator keeps getting implants that give him instant knowledge, like language or karate, but without the skills. The whole thing is an eye-rolling sitcom till the bleak end, whereupon it becomes face-palming sitcom.
  • Three Very Short Stories on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. They have a very 70s feel, hallucinogenic almost. The first one starts hinting the conclusion, but by then it's almost over so no spoilers after all. Classic sci fi. The second one is disturbing in its implications. The third one is mystical, a parable, almost.
  • Viridian System Sampler: 8 Short Stories on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. This is a sampler from the ‘Viridian star system’, where asteroids are mined for orichalcum, no less, and the miners go for recreation to a planet with a double fast rotation, two suns and three moons. Far in the future, yet it has male miners hiring female 'miner-suppliers' for company, sex and service, from what can only be a pimp. Eyeroll and loss of stars! Well written shorts despite that major drawback, they do draw you in, and you may be tempted to read more about the system in the rest of the books in the same world.
  • The Mighty Peculiar Incident at Muddy Creek on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. A mashup of western and sci fi, featuring train robbery and time travel. Not bad at all. We find that the guys with the technology indistinguishable from magic need not necessarily be smart enough to use it to best effect.
  • The Interdimensional Dilemmas of IAN and Betty on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. An adventure story that includes: a librarian studying the phenomena (plural) of interdimensional bleeds, an interdimensional traveller, a bigfoot, Ancient Ones, vampires, werewolves, dhampirs, vampire hunters, Dr Frankenstein in an off scene role, a vampiric power struggle, blood and confusion, spelling and grammar mistakes, in order of importance. All within a faux 19-century culture that charms and irritates in equal measure.
  • Divergent Dreams on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. A collection of short stories that ranges from slightly creepy to very creepy. What can I say about a book the very first word of whose title is misspelled on the inside page? (I retained that spelling here.) All I can say is, it gets better than that. A lot.
  • The Sapphiran Agenda on Jan. 29, 2019

    This is rated around 3 stars, meaning I liked it well enough to write reviews and hope it gets good sales. A gentle look at sentient telepathic mobile plants that find herbivores horrifying, and carnivores that eat anything (including humans) easy to get on with and even control. Now, what happens when one meets a human it can deal with? Yes, I call it a gentle story despite its being gory and displaying sneaky cunning in equal parts.
  • Tessili Academy on Jan. 29, 2019

    4 stars means I really, really liked it. Excellent fantasy, thoughtful, well executed. I want more, and fortunately, sequels exist.
  • Elysian on Jan. 29, 2019

    4 stars means I really, really liked it. A short, sharp love story. Isla has a strange artistic talent, which others will kill for. Josh will protect her at all cost. Happy endings do exist, of sorts.
  • Palimpsest on Jan. 29, 2019

    A new concept in fantasy is rare enough. This well written gem, set in the far future, shows us an elf-human conflict with stubborn heroes and a subtly built up denouement that thrills and horrifies in equal measure. 5 stars means I loved it.
  • Pest Control (A Short Story) on Jan. 29, 2019

    A creepy little horror piece. You can guess what's coming fairly early, but it still manages to be creepy, because it's so well-written. Four stars means I really, really liked it.
  • Tears on Jan. 29, 2019

    A well written short. It begins: “He was four the first time he saw his grandmother cry.” The end sneaks up on you, unexpected till almost the last two words. Read it. Four stars. I really, really liked it.
  • The Phantom Fleet on Jan. 29, 2019

    Four stars. (I really liked it and recommend it!) This is a cute piece of space opera, fast paced, with humour and a sly take on all kinds of tropes. The protagonist emerges as an... unexpected... person, very delightful. The trusty AI sidekick is well done, too. The end is deadpan not-so-happy-ending that made me laugh. I was fully prepared to roll my eyes at laser beams lighting up the interstellar medium, spaceships that whiz between Mars, Earth and Moon within hours, but the author thankfully assures us these are artistic liberties. As long as there is no dodging between asteroids, I'm good. Read it. It's fun.