R Ralan


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.


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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.
  • Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall on Sep. 18, 2012

    Good grief! 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.
  • 13 Years in America on Nov. 05, 2012
    (no rating)
    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
    (no rating)
    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
    (no rating)
    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.
  • Lookin' For Trouble on Jan. 12, 2016

    There's a lot to be said for this book. It's almost overloaded with excitement, and for my taste IS overloaded with sex, but the quality of plotting, characterization and action is first-rate. Its title is well chosen. The anti-hero, Romanian Nicolae Caramarin, is a seriously dangerous criminal, a continuing threat to himself and others who richly deserves the bad treatment he so often receives. On the other side of the coin, his conscience reacts often enough to gain the reader's partial admiration, and he's practically angelic in comparison to some of his outlaw peers. The action takes place in the English Midlands among a mixed Eastern European immigrant population. Nicolae Caramarin is coerced into undertaking a criminal errand by threats of torture and death to a former lover and her fatherless child as well as to himself. Rather than run for his life, the wiser choice, a hint of chivalry deep in his nature leads him to agree to risk prison and possible death traveling to a nation where he has no support and doesn't speak the language. His reward will be a mobster's promise of safety for the two estranged females, plus whatever money he can skim along the way. Caramarin knows it isn't a good deal under any circumstances, even though the crime boss bids him goodbye with kisses on both cheeks.
  • Sudden Death on Jan. 28, 2016
    (no rating)
    If you like to read about pro golf and celebrity high-life, this is the book for you. If you want escapism with a puzzling mystery and manly hero to admire, look elsewhere.
  • Rescued Runaway on Jan. 28, 2016
    (no rating)
    Fairly decent writing and plotting with a premise often done before—the marriage of convenience. The problem is that Sanderson makes the whole arrangement seem so easy. Within days of a rushed marriage the man and young girl seem perfectly relaxed and in love with each other despite having vowed celibacy. Worse, the Christian hero can't keep his hands of the seventeen-year-old nor his lusts hidden in the back of his mind. Not suitable for teenagers—MY teenagers, at least.
  • The Penny Dreadful Curse on Jan. 28, 2016
    (no rating)
    Watson never seemed more stupid, nor serial killing more casual.
  • Alien Invasion: and the origins of mankind on Jan. 28, 2016
    (no rating)
    Seems to be written by a teen-ager disguised as an adult. Weak.
  • Degrees of Clarity on Feb. 05, 2016
    (no rating)
    Well-written with an unusual though not unique premise. The plot starts well with an innocent gal pursued by police dullards. Then, unfortunately, the victim of circumstances decides to play detective, and realism takes a hike. But who needs realism, eh, when there's excitement and a too-good-to-be-true man involved? Enjoyable light fiction for most readers.
  • The Storm Episode One on Feb. 05, 2016
    (no rating)
    This is, in effect, a free prologue to the actual story. Characters and situations are introduced but each situation is left hanging. The premise of the book to follow is apparently survival in a dystopian world brought about by a strong and long solar storm that affects the minds of some of the good folk on Earth. Excessively wordy descriptions in my opinion, and might be just as well to start with the book and skip this intro. OTOH, it's free.
  • Swan's Path on May 13, 2017

    A well-written Icelandic saga that takes place a generation or two before Leif Ericsson's brief exploration of New England in the year 1000. Gives the tragic tale of Swanhild the Half-Finn, her Norse father, her outlawed Norse lover, and a large and colorful supporting cast at a time when Christianity has begun to roll back worship of the old gods. Reads true, in my opinion, to the original sagas of that time and place, and is sufficiently gory to suit the most demanding saga-admirer.
  • Three Treasures on June 01, 2017

    Three Treasures has a great deal of merit, and I'd like to see more by this writer and the period of history he's chosen to portray. I wish I could give it a better score. The story takes place early in the English Civil War, apparently before either Cromwell or Fairfax (?) have gained leadership in the Parliamentary forces. Insofar as I 'm able to tell, though, the tale shows a good deal of historical accuracy. As to flaws, it has a few that irritate. The narrator is almost always wise, brave and honest—too good to be true, in fact. Based on his talents he should have been mayor or councillor rather than a pharmacist. The other characters, including his wife and infant son, play hardly any part in the tale, only a few villains standing out. When our hero is traveling the author must have had a map next to his keyboard. The reader, though, can't tell which direction he's headed nor what kind of scenery is passing by. We get too little description of dwellings, shops, streets, hills, the sea or weather. To pick at a minor nit, the hero spoils two sets of brand new clothes and doesn't attempt to salvage and repair them. Doesn't sound right for the period.
  • Crawlspace on June 19, 2017

    Excellent horror novella that is worthy of a sequel. I say it despite the fact that I'm ordinarily no horror fan, tend to consider it gruesome science fiction. More thoughtful and better-plotted than much of conventional horror. Deserves a high four stars.
  • The Old Dog and the Doorstep on June 19, 2017

    Reminded me of I Capture the Castle but not at the same level. Two sisters, worried about the family income and future. Not quite the same, though—no real romance, and Dad plays a very small part. Told in first person by both girls, primarily the elder. At times difficult to figure out who is narrating, and the action isn't as smoothly described as it could be. Both are far advanced intellectually for their ages to the point that I couldn't quite believe in them. Worth a read, though, and next book should be better.
  • Drink, Dance, Divorce on June 19, 2017

    My rating is generous considering it's a bit weak in style and over-long for the plot. But it's a chipper book and a decent way to kill some time. Centered on a dance school run by two brothers and the quasi-evil wife of one. Comically gritty.