I'm not a writer, but I'm an avid reader. Finding Smashwords was a revelation to me. I have been devouring books, short stories and novellas at an alarming rate since I found this site. I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and love the fact that there are tons of independent authors offering up stuff at ridiculously low prices or even for free. I try to write reviews of everything that I read, as a way to hopefully help out the authors - especially those who aren't asking for any money. Seriously, I've read numerous free offering here that I almost feel guilty that there is no way to compensate the author. If they keep writing, I'll keep reading!
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on March 17, 2012
This short story was a very entertaining read. I would actually classify it along the lines of a Military Sci-Fi book (despite the main characters not really being military), with slight elements of horror thrown in. The pacing was really good, the plot was interesting and the characters were fairly well developed - this story could easily have been expanded to novel length and would have been just as good if not better.
My only gripe, and it's a pretty minor one, is that the science in Red World wasn't all that good. Yet, in a way, it added to its appeal - giving it an old school sci-fi feel.
Highly recommended. I look forward to reading some more of Melissa Szydlek's offerings.
EarthStar: A Steampunk Space Opera - Prelude
on April 05, 2012
An entertaining read that makes me wonder if there is more to it. The story itself is quite short, and its "Prelude" title implies that it is part of something bigger. To add to it, there is a glossary at the end to help flesh out the story. I'd be eager to read a full-length novel and/or more stories set in this Universe.
Essentially, humanity seems to have fallen on some hard times and is now just a moon colony and a few orbiting habitats, and they are unable to get back to Earth. Earthstar follows the perils of Ethan as he wakes up on one of the habitats and is put to work right away. Definitely a lot of potential here for a great steampunk/space opera mashup, as the title implies.
on April 05, 2012
Really good book, and somewhat interestingly written - it opens with a prologue that covers about thirty pages before launching into the story proper. Stylistically, it reminded me of Stephen Baxter or maybe Robert Sawyer but was very enjoyable and well worth the price I paid for it. Oh wait, the book was free, so what are you waiting for?!?!
The Earth Invasion Budget Cuts
on April 05, 2012
A fun little read - the humor was excellent (with some sly nods to some rather questionable invasions from sci-fi's history) and reminiscent of John Scalzi The story was a bit short and seems to end rather abrubtly - it could have been expanded just a bit.
Oracles of Aragret (a Steampunk Novel)
on April 13, 2012
Great book! Mark Whitney has created an interesting novel that is heavy on the steampunk (lots of dirigibles) with a bit of fantasy (some spell casting, a little necromancy, fortunately no lame prophecies) mixed in. It's a real page turner from the start, with tons of action, culminating in an extensive and very well-paced land and air battle that covers the last hundred pages or so. There are interesting, well developed characters. It bears mentioning that the antagonist Dillon is especially well written - there were numerous times that I actually felt bad for the guy, yet he was an awful human with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. That type of feat is quite impressive. Kudos to Mr. Whitney!
on April 13, 2012
A fun, short story that was easy to read an enjoyable. A little bit of a working-class steampunk mystery story might be the best way to describe it. I'll be sure to check our more of his offerings
Faster Than Light: The Fallen Goddess
on April 30, 2012
A very entertaining short story/novella (I'm not sure what it qualifies as). As other reviewers have said, Malcolm Pierce gives a fully thought out universe and some interesting characters as part of a ragtag crew that is trying to reunite the universe - only their "captain" (who is little more than an ambitious college student) really doesn't have a plan. I read through this story in less than an hour and then started on the second one shortly thereafter, and will certainly go to work on the third one quite soon. I really hope that Pierce continues on in this universe. The fact that they're free is really terrific - I'd be more than willing to pay for them
Faster Than Light: Dobhriathar
on April 30, 2012
The second book in Malcolm Pierce's "Faster Than Light" series is a bit longer than the first, and is every bit as entertaining. This book actually unfolds a bit like an episode of the TV show Lost, in that it focused almost solely on the development of the character Caitlin. It does so by flashing back to her life before joining Seth Garland's mismatched crew. I flew through this story very quickly, and jumped right into the next one. I can only hope that this series continues. Pierce has done an excellent job once again!
Faster Than Light: Babel Among the Stars
on May 03, 2012
This book is the third in Pierce's Faster Than Light series, and they are getting better and better. This offering, clocking in at just under 100 pages, focuses solely on Captain Garland's backstory and the challenges and decisions he faces against really difficult odds. I really hope that this series continues because an epic tale is slowly unfolding, and Malcolm Pierce does an excellent job of telling it - creating great characters and leaving me wanting more. I almost feel guilty not paying for it, and would gladly purchase it if it ceased to be a free download. Very well done!
We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore
on May 03, 2012
Obviously, this story is well liked around these parts - and justifiably so. It's a fun little short story that is (I'm guessing) intentionally written with some quirky anachronisms - record players in flying cars, indeed - to give it a 1950s sci-fi feel.
Hollowland (The Hollows #1)
on May 05, 2012
Okay, first a disclaimer: I am probably three times the age, and the wrong gender, of Amanda Hocking's target audience. My 12 year-old daughter, however, hits both of those qualifications. Since I do like me some Zombie fiction, we decided to read Hollowland together.
This book is pretty much the equivalent of a summer action movie - nonstop action from the very beginning. I read through it in about two days. While there isn't much in the way of character development, Remy is a tough, strong and smart lead character - which is exactly how it should be in a YA book. In a way, she reminded me of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games in that she was fiercely independent. The book ends on a terrific cliffhanger (with Remy making an extremely bold decision). I've yet to read the sequel, but my daughter quite literally purchased it immediately after finishing Hollowland and plowed through it by the end of the next day.
One Way To Mars
on May 12, 2012
A very entertaining and amusing read that I went through on a nice Saturday morning. I agree with some of the other reviews that it has a "written for the teenage sci-fi fan" market like some of the Juveniles (I believe they were called) from around the 50s.
As for the plot, the main character is a veteranarian and caretaker of a genetically modified chimpanzee (possibly a distant ancestor of Fiben Bolger? 8^) who gets stranded on Mars and is awaiting rescue. Nothing earthnshattering or groundbreaking, just a simple, enjoyable read.
My only gripe is that the ending seems kinda rushed, but that's a very minor nitpick. I'll certainly be purchasing the follow-ups, and investigating some more of Gary Weston's writing
on May 18, 2012
Such a beautiful, tearjerker of a story. My wife has been attending a Pet Loss Support Group since we had to euthanize our cat last year - I'm sure that she and many of the other grieving pet owners would love to read this story.
on May 25, 2012
I came into this book with pretty high hopes, and was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong - it's a good book, with an entertaining story and lots of action, but the storytelling was a bit off - it might have worked better as a series of short stories and novellas. Maybe Paul Kater was attempting to write in the style of some of Clarke's books (2001 or Childhood's End) where everything followed the same storyline, but it wasn't one continuous story. Whatever his intent, the story feels a bit choppy. Still, I read through the book quickly, and it has a lot of the qualities that make for enjoyable steampunk (although there could have been more dirigibles 8^)
on June 18, 2012
Another really great book from Paul Weber - it really does work well as a companion book to Transfiguration (in fact, I'll probably compare the two to check and see if it takes place in the same Near Future). Just like with Transfiguration, he creates very interesting characters, paces the book very well, takes the time to explain the science (which could be annoying to some, but I like it. It wouldn't surprise me is he's a science teacher). Weber also works in a fair amount of satire in which he can clearly offer his opinion on government, education, etc. His use of an unrelated parallel prologue and epilogue from prehistoric times (just like with Transfiguration) also is very effective. Great book - highly recommended, and I really hope he continues writing more SF books of this style.
Faster Than Light: Outsider
on July 15, 2012
I discovered Malcolm Pierce's "Faster Than Light" series a few months ago and plowed through the first three novellas in the series in a matter of days. Then I had to patiently wait for the fourth one to come out. I promptly bought it (technically buying two copies since I lamented in my reviews of the other books that I was not able to compensate the author for his work) and even stopped reading a novel halfway through - something I never do - to get started on "Outsider." Once again, Pierce delivers the goods, and even expands on events from a previous book, hinting at a galaxy-wide problem that might be beyond human comprehension. Just another problem on Seth Garland and his crew's plate.
As with the other novellas in this series, a single member of the crew is the focus of the story. In "Outsider," we're given the backstory and viewpoint of Engineeer Leah Wu, as the crew of the Fenghuang encounters some problems when they return to her home planet to re-establish some commmerce lines.
I'm trying to refrain from being hyperbolic and fanboyish, but I really love this series. I'm hoping the next installment comes out soon - I'm really curious to find out the backstory of navigator Lance Reynolds - since there is so much potential story yet to be told.
Trixie & Me
on July 28, 2012
Oh man, this was a good novella. I'm going to try for a spoiler-free review here, so wish me luck. To me, one of the highest compliments a reader can give to an author is that they want to read the book again. As *soon* as I was finished, I went back to the first page so I could start over. Granted, I only re-read the first ten pages or so, but I needed to doublecheck to make sure I didn't miss something. The ending was THAT good. In terms of the plot, the two main characters are trying to thwart an alien threat to their Generation Ship. That's really all I'm going to give you though - pick up the book and find out for yourself. I should also note that Cawdron's style - dark, hard-SF, Space Opera - is very reminiscent of Alastair Reynolds.
on May 29, 2013
Two very entertaining short stories set in a Universe somewhat reminiscent of Brin's Uplift stories (the aliens are especially Brin-like). There's a lot of potential territory to explore here and I hope the author writes more stories in this Universe. Great stuff!
The Tears of Things
on Sep. 23, 2013
A very entertaining and well-thought out book. Yes, it starts out a bit confusing, especially regarding how the characters communicate, but that does get explained later on - and it probably serves to add to the feeling of confusion for the main character of Gabriel. Interesting characters, a convoluted plot that wraps itself together and some very good pacing make for a great read. If I had any gripe (and it's a minor one), some of the character development is a bit clumsy but Blose more than makes up for it by giving his characters some great ambiguity. I can't wait for the follow up!
on May 02, 2016
An excellent book that now has me very eager to read more in this Universe. Ephialtes is set a few hundred years in the future and centers on the colony of Mars declaring their independence. While the people of Mars seem to be the protagonists, the characters are all very well developed and make it difficult to take sides. There also seems to be some interesting commentary on the approach that governments take about wars. I'm definitely eager to read the followup, due out some time in 2017!