Conrad Wong


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Smashwords book reviews by Conrad Wong

  • Second on Nov. 04, 2010

    A little rough in places, but once it gets going, it's a good ride into uncomfortable country - what do you do when things aren't perfect, when you're not facing just the perils of the environment but difficulties from the very person who should be leading you through them? There are no easy solutions, no smarts-make-right or force-makes-right deus ex machina here - in this story, the characters must live with their choices. A good introduction to two of the major characters of the Stardancer stories.
  • Freedom, Spiced and Drunk on Nov. 04, 2010

    If you only read one Jokka story, this one will cover the core of their issues, but it's more like a taste of chocolate than the whole parfait. This is less of a review than a note that if you liked this, you will probably more enjoy her longer Jokka book, Worth of a Shell!
  • The Perfect Totem on April 01, 2011
    (no rating)
    An amusing short story, but a bit of a shaggy dog - pun intended. ;) I always enjoy the 'magic store' type of stories, where "caveat emptor" takes on new meanings.
  • His Name In Lights on April 01, 2011
    (no rating)
    I've always enjoyed stories about human near-space colonization, so it comes as a breath of fresh air to have a new author writing in this setting! That said, I do wish the story were a bit longer, with more details on the setting. It's hard to imagine Daniel and his brother Oscar since there's little to no introductory description. I can piece it together from the narrative, but I hope that the author will give her stories more room to breath in the e-publication framework where there are no page constraints as there would be with magazines.
  • The Far Horizon on April 01, 2011

    A great coming-of-age story! There's not nearly enough hopeful forward-looking human-meets-aliens science fiction out there, so I was glad to see this on the store shelves (as it were). Some parts seem a little sketchy, and it seems implausible that terrorists would use publicly available videogames as instruction manuals - far more likely that they'd serve as indoctrination - but on the whole, I look forward to seeing more in this universe.
  • Bitter Apples on April 01, 2011

    Short and bittersweet, a fairy tale for Drow!
  • The Legend of the Morning Star on May 24, 2011
    (no rating)
    A fairy tale with a twist. I look forward to reading the universe in which the stories are told.
  • Snow in Summer, Flowers in Fall on May 31, 2011

    This is beautiful! A first contact, marred by human misunderstanding and human judgment... Presented in the form of an Asian-themed play, it's a lovely marriage of poetry and written images.
  • Songs From a Conch Shell Whistle on May 31, 2011
    (no rating)
    Alien biology and mores! If you enjoyed the Jokka stories, you should enjoy this as well, as a different species contends with its own problems of reproduction and survival.
  • Stone Moon, Silk Scarves on May 31, 2011
    (no rating)
    A worthy follow-up to Worth of a Shell. I do so enjoy MCA Hogarth's Jokka stories, but I prefer the meatier ones, like this one.
  • Anadi Dolls on July 12, 2011

    A treasure for fans of the Jokka, I loved the attention to details of the world and culture, how everything Jekun knows about the world is turned upside down, and how she is forced to adapt. 'Til now, the life of the female anadi, kept as the precious resources of their Houses, has been very little explored. 'Til now!
  • A Touch of Night on Sep. 01, 2011

    A fun read, though one should expect things to be rather over the top as is common in Regencies. There is at least one were who transforms in public, yet no one seems to notice, so rigid are they in their expectations. Ah, Regency England, so blind and yet so amusing! It is somewhat irksome that the book hews so close to the original Pride and Prejudice, to the point of keeping the same names; I'd have liked to see the plot derail sooner and the characters take more stake in rebuilding things, but I enjoyed the read nevertheless! I'll be looking forward to more in the same vein!
  • The Naming of Kinzel on Nov. 09, 2011

    A delightful collection of stories! Kinzel is the 'Wise Fool' sort of character; commonly met with scorn and dismissal at first, he turns out to have been speaking more correctly than many at the end. Sadly the stories are a little too brief, otherwise they could build up more momentum.
  • For Want of a Nail on Nov. 09, 2011

    I'll have to look for more of the author's work, I enjoyed the depiction of the AI and her 'wrangler' but I felt the story was a little frustratingly brief so we didn't get to explore much of the universe! As a story, it works well, setting up a dilemma that seems simple at the outset, then grows more complex.
  • Cold Comfort on Nov. 14, 2011

    A little short but rich in details, the setting feels lived-in.
  • The Power of Preserving Pictures on Nov. 14, 2011

    A little too sparse, the premise is intriguing but the story doesn't really follow through. I would have liked to see more 'sensawunda'.
  • Quiet Magic on Nov. 14, 2011

    Delightful stories, these definitely do justice to their subjects, being of satisfactory length and concluding their individual plots, excepting that the second story, Master of the Winds, was a bit short.
  • Slow Honey on Nov. 14, 2011

    An interesting premise, a decent story, I would rate it as an appetizer rather than a full-course meal or even a substantial sandwich.
  • Obsessions on Nov. 14, 2011

    A good solid near-future story, this one has some meat to it!
  • The Smell of Intelligence on Nov. 15, 2011

    This is not the first book one should read if one hasn't read the Jokka stories, but for those who are familiar, this is a pungent piece-- I can't classify it as sweet or spicy-- that will haunt the reader for a while. I'm with E. McCoy on that this could be a turning point of the Jokka timeline!
  • The Dutiful Daughter on Nov. 15, 2011

    A flavorful, spooky story well worth the purchase!
  • Hell By Any Other Name on Dec. 07, 2011

    A very enjoyable detective story, enough meat to chew on and a setting that'd be worth revisiting.
  • Herb-Witch on March 22, 2012

    Less straight fantasy and more Regency, but you won't find vapid nobles exchanging empty witticisms here; the Lord Alchemist and the Herb-Witch of the title are both intelligent characters who value their independence and separate responsibilities and will not lightly abandon their loyalties. Beyond that, this story brings out its alchemy with vivid descriptions of taste and smell and consequences. It feels like an alternate world Renaissance science, not like an airy magic that perfectly serves the convenience of its purveyors, but a science that is still fringed with 'Here there be dragons'. The writing is crisp, and... hang on, I'll leave you with my favorite line of the book: "Analyzing the geometries of herb-witchery ingredients was like washing a cat. It looked simple, but sprouted extra legs when you weren't looking, and /wiggled/."
  • Herb-Wife on March 24, 2012

    This is a darker, more sensual book than the first book, Herb-Witch, so be forewarned! That said, it delivers excellently on all the promises of the first book. It isn't much of a spoiler to observe that the marriage between Iathor and Kessa does come into being, and it is not going to be your typical fairy-tale happily-ever-after marriage... In fact, Iathor's confusions are just beginning. There is prejudice against the 'barbarians', of which Kessa is a half-breed; there is hatred from a source Iathor would not have expected but Kessa knows too well; there is Kessa's own upbringing casting pebbles beneath her steps as they explore the murky waters of what it means to be married to one another, Lord Alchemist and herb-witch just one foot out of the gutters. These combine to keep the tension high, and me reading pages late into the night. Elizabeth McCoy's world-building shines again as she explores more consequences of a world where alchemy is the mainstay technology and its practitioners are groping through its dark mysteries. We see more about how immunity to mind-affecting potions can be a dual-edged sword, and how loyalty-creating potions can shape their civilization. Alchemy is never treated as a deus ex machina; it is a source of problems and tools that, used wisely, can help solve these problems... But wisdom must come from its users, so we are naturally introduced to malevolent users as well as benevolent. While this book forms a complete duology with the previous book, I do hope that there will be more Lord Alchemist and Kessa stories coming soon!
  • Even the Wingless on March 27, 2012

    An impressive but dark, so very dark novel. It's like bittersweet chocolate. I must caution, this book is not for the squeamish, though the prurient should look elsewhere. How to describe the book? Imagine a draconic version of Genghis Khan and the Mongolian empire at its peak. Imagine that he never fell, that instead his descendants went on to conquer worlds, crushing countless races beneath their heels, ruling with deadly talons and the ability to shift into the forms of their most feared enemies... Their agents may be insidious, but their rulers are cruel and decadent, sadistic, and they rule by fear and martial prowess. Now put them alongside the Alliance, a Star Fleet-like utopian civilization that believes in shared goodwill between all. Imagine what happened to the first twelve ambassadors sent to address the Chatcavaans' slavetaking and military provocations, all possessed of the belief that good intentions and diplomacy will avail them, when poison and martial challenges are the rule of the day. Right. Now that you've cleaned the blood and gore off your imagination's floor, how would you deal with the situation? I've always preferred sly and cunning heroes; others might put forward rough and ready heroes who can take out entire squads single-handedly. But in this situation... Trickery will not sway a vast warlike emperor. War will consume many lives. Instead, the author brings forth a sacrifice by one man, someone who goes in to change the very fabric of Chatcavaan society from the inside. This is a powerful story, full of darkness... But also hope and determination.
  • Family on March 28, 2012

    A rare look at the homeworld of the elven Eldritch, and in some ways, a cautionary story. Being from a race similar to Tolkein's high elves may seem like a great deal-- long life, wealth and status, and a beautiful world full of intricately detailed manses and estates. But it's very easy to mistake simply being long-lived for true wisdom, and a society that forgets how to build and change is one that will eventually fade into obscurity as newer, more vibrant societies take the stage. That said, the story did leave me wanting a bit more. I would have liked to see Jahir and Vashith'h exercising more of their special talents, especially toward the end of the story. Maybe if M. C. A. Hogarth ever turns this into a novel!
  • Wahnt on April 19, 2012

    An adventure to remind one of Cherryh's Pride of Chanur books! The narrator of the story is the titular 'Wahn', or leader, of Kintara Station, the port of call for the world that the cat-centaurs, call home. Kintarans are given to clannish rivalry; without one person wielding responsibility, they'll soon descend into chaos and bitter arguments over landing rights and station defense, especially given their racial tendencies to prefer "unique" solutions and shun "baby-sameness", or copying of others. Without a Wahn, they're sure to wind up fighting each other constantly! Of course it's never that simple, so enter Wahn Bentclaw, intent on seizing power. And his ally is Kaa-Sida, the deadliest pirate hunter around with a ship keen and powerful. Against such odds, how will our hero prevail? I love stories like this, set in the star-spanning future, a whirlwind of station politics and captains vying for control. Can intellect beat brawn and greed? Find out in this story!
  • Queen of Roses on April 21, 2012

    A marvelous page-turner of a story, set in a far-flung spacefaring future of which I'd definitely like to see more. Sarafina, an AI in indenture until she can pay off her creation-debt, is purchased by the owner of a luxury liner. Almost immediately her troubles start, from adjusting to a system ten times the size of her original, to managing the myriad problems a full load of humans can cause on a liner, each one demanding her personal attention... And as if that weren't enough, there are Strange Things going on, both from the passengers and the crew. Fortunately she has a little help... If she can sort out who's trustworthy from who's not. But ultimately this very intelligent, yet very mannered AI whose bearing will remind you of a stern librarian, must rely on her cleverness to survive, yet alone solve these riddles! Often funny, this novel is a 'comedy of manners' set aboard a star liner, focused largely on the interactions of people, not 'teching the tech', but there are plenty of serious moments as well, and the story winds up to a tense denouement where it seems as if Sarafina is doomed no matter which way she turns. Thrilling!
  • Snips and Snails on May 08, 2012

    A great peek into the lifecycle of aliens. E. McCoy's writing is as entertaining and lively as always, as she outlines how Mmsar biology affects their society, with parallels and tangents to our own. (this is a race of which the phrase 'rugrats' might be quite appropriate for their young, with all its negative connotations of feral behavior) I look forward to reading more of E. McCoy's stories involving Mmsars, now that we have a fresh perspective on them.