Tag Archives: indie-author

Who Knows the History of Traditional Publishing?? — Plaisted Publishing House

Not many. Especially readers. Well, guess what it’s only been around for approx 120 – 150 years at most. Writers used to go out an find a printer who would print copies of their manuscripts, pay them and then the writer would sell their books to the public. Oh, wait! Isn’t this what we do […]

via Who Knows the History of Traditional Publishing?? — Plaisted Publishing House

I seriously did not know that Mark Twain was an Indie! Click the link to read the whole article. It’ll make Indie authors smile, and it might make readers give us a chance the next time they buy a book. 🙂

Half Way Home – a review

half way homeFor days now, I’ve been feeling the need to write another review, but none of the books I’ve read recently has had that little something extra that makes writing a review a joy instead of a chore. Many were interesting, and provided an enjoyable read, but if I were into rankings, they’d be a 4 out of 5.

Today I’m pleased to announce that Hugh Howey’s science fiction novel, ‘Half Way Home’, finally woke the delighted child in my head. You know the one, it’s that little voice that jumps up and down, pumps the air and shrieks ‘Yes!’ without any thought to dignity. Well, my inner child is bubbling with happiness at the moment, and like it or not, I’m going to tell you why.

‘Half Way Home’ begins with a rather dark soliloquy, some would call it a prologue, and right there I knew this novel would be brave.

In classical fiction, writers were allowed to  introduce place, time and characters gently. Modern style pundits however, are adamant that stories must jump straight into the action, hooking the reader in the very first paragraph.

Why? Because readers are supposed to have the attention span of a gnat. If you don’t hook them early, you will lose them.

Hugh Howey ignored that commandment, and that is why I say he is brave. The soliloquy/prologue is more than interesting in its own right, and I loved it, but I can see how it might not appeal to readers who just want to get stuck into the action.

The story unfolds in the first person, and we learn that the protagonist, Porter, is a colonist who was born when he was fifteen – fifteen years too early. Bear with me here.

Along with the other 499 fertilized eggs sent out from Earth, Porter’s development was suspended until the AI controlling the colony ship learned their destination was a viable planet. After that the eggs were allowed to develop, and the new colonists  spent fifteen years in vats, living digital lives while they learned the professions that would be needed by the new colony.

The technology and logic behind this vision of future colonization is spot on. When just reaching the nearest star system will take multiple generations, the most logical and cost effective way of reaching the stars is to send eggs rather than fully grown humans.

Unfortunately, the corporations sending out these colony ships are seeking to maximize their profits, so if the AI controlling a colony ship discovers its assigned planet is unviable, it aborts the mission. In this context abort means destroy. The ship, the eggs, and the AI itself are nuked to ensure no rival corporation can learn any patented secrets.

But sometimes things don’t go to plan.

The action part of the story begins when Porter and the others are decanted from their vats. They take their first real breaths in a world of nightmare. The vat module is on fire, and of the original 500 colonists stored in the vats, only 50 odd manage to find the exit in time. The rest die in the aborted abort. Apparently the AI began the abort sequence but changed its mind.

Why? And what will happen to Porter and the other survivors now? With all their supplies gone, they are naked and starving on a world that is very different to Earth.

Before I continue with the plot, I have to say a word or two about the world the author created. Imagine a forest where the trees are as big as skyscrapers, and the canopy is two kilometres high. Now imagine the size of the ‘bombfruit’ that falls from those trees, and the pony-sized caterpillars that chew on them. This is science fiction at its most inventive!

The rest of the story follows the lives of Porter, and the other survivors as they unravel the mystery of their birth. The plot is strong, and I did not notice any niggling inconsistencies that can ruin an otherwise good story. Nonetheless,  it is the characters who make it come alive.

As the survivors begin forming friendships, and relationships, we discover that Porter is gay, and like most fifteen year olds, he is bewildered by his feelings. He loves Tarsi, the girl who was born in the vat next to his, but he is attracted to Kelvin, a boy destined to be a farmer.

On the face of it, this eternal triangle should be trite, but the author never lets the relationships between the characters overshadow the rest of the story. This is not a romance thinly disguised as science fiction!

Porter’s secret feelings remain a side-note to the far more immediate needs of survival. In a very real sense they don’t matter. Who Porter is as a person, is far more important than his sexual orientation.

The whole issue of Porter’s sexual orientation was handled so well, I assumed the author must be gay. Wrong. If you read the acknowledgements at the end of the novel you will discover that Hugh Howey is a straight, married man with gay friends.

I’m female and straight, so I can’t attest to how accurately Howey portrays the thoughts and feelings of a young gay man, but I have gay friends too, and I think he does it well. More importantly, I believe Howey is a humanist who relates to people as people rather than as males, females or gays, and this comes through in his writing.

I’ve spoken at length about the gay element in ‘Half Way Home’ because it is one of the major themes of the novel, but it is not the only one. Uncaring corporate greed is another, and Howey pulls no punches in condemning it. I agree with him wholeheartedly, but… I think he could have been a tiny bit more subtle with the ending. It is a very uplifting ending, and I wouldn’t call it preachy, but I suspect ‘less’ would have been just as effective as ‘more’.

‘Half Way Home’ is not the novel that catapulted Hugh Howey to fame as an indie author, ‘Wool’ is the book which did that. Nonetheless I loved ‘Half Way Home’ because, for me, it had everything I look for in any novel – strong plot, strong prose, strong characters. But best of all, it had strong cultural and philosophical themes that made me think.

One of the reasons I love science fiction is because it allows authors to explore controversial themes in extreme settings that bring out the best and worst in all of us. We all believe we would be honourable and altruistic if push came to shove, but we are rarely put to the test. When we read good science fiction, it allows us to experience such extremes, at least vicariously. And it can make us question many of the attitudes we take for granted.

Having read ‘Half Way Home’, I intend to read everything Hugh Howey has written. Nonetheless, I am very glad I read this novel first. It has given me an insight into the thinking of the author, and demonstrated the calibre of his writing. I would recommend it to all fans of quality science fiction.


Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet – a review

We all know what it means to see life through ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ but no-one ever talks about the bruise-coloured glasses that cover our eyes when love goes wrong. I imagine that a simple ‘growing apart’ would result in purple specs but what kind of glasses would you wear if you discovered your fiance in bed with another woman… just two weeks before your wedding? Is there a filter deeper than black?

In ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’, Willie is that woman betrayed but we don’t know that at the start. Her story begins in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar the dog wanting to go for his morning walk. The apartment in which Willie wakes is not her own. The neighbourhood is not her own and Quincy the dog is not her own either. We learn that Willie is pet-sitting Quincy and Renfield [a talking parrot] for a month while their owner is away on holiday.

Everything seems very normal, even mundane until you begin to see that Willie is not just pet-sitting, she is in hiding from her own life because she can’t face what HE has done to her, HE being the fiance who cheated on her. She can’t face HIM and she can’t face the apartment they shared so she is literally homeless until her new apartment is refurbished. She could have taken her small suitcase and gone to stay with friends or her family but she can’t face them either. And she most certainly can’t face Facebook, not with her wall plastered with wedding news, so it’s just as well that she left her computer behind with everything and everyone else.

Willie believes that pet-sitting in a strange place where no-one knows her is the perfect way to retreat from the world while she licks her wounds but she is not aware of how isolation can distort the dark lens through which she already views the world. She begins to see significance in small things – a cab goes by showing an advertisement for a sexy new vampire movie and we learn that she is attracted to bad boys like her fiance. She says ‘HE wasn’t a vampire – although he certainly sucked the life out of me when I found him in bed with another woman…’ A little later she notices that the “coffin corner” on her floor is empty of decoration ‘as if it were ready for the undertakers.’ [In older buildings coffin corners were built into the bends of the stairwell to allow coffins to be carried down stairs.]

A little further in the story Willie catches the tail end of a news flash on tv, about the sudden increase in violent crimes… in her new temporary neighbourhood. Small things given special significance by a dark lens. I could go on but I think you can see the pattern unfolding.

When I read the Sublet just over a week ago I was too enthralled by the story to give much thought to how it was written but now I can appreciate the cunning way in which Candy Korman has woven these moment of special significance into the mundane world of dog poop, misery and day-time TV. It all feels so real and so normal yet with every page the influence of the dark lens becomes deeper and the impossible starts to feel… plausible.

Where is the dark lens leading Willie? That is the question that kept me turning page after page. By three quarters of the way through I could see where the story was headed yet I still did not want to believe because I’m a normal person and I know vampires aren’t real. Are they?

And that is all I am going to tell you, except perhaps to say that ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is one of the best psychological thriller-cum-literary monster stories I have read in a very long time. The writing is superb, of course, but you won’t notice that until the end because you will be too busy wondering who the real monster truly is.

I knew that Candy Korman was a great indie writer when I read her first novella, ‘The Mary Shelley Game’, but now I know she is a great writer, full-stop because ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is a great book. Great as in one of the classics. Great as in ‘will be remembered’. Great as in ‘would have been published in a bygone era when traditional publishers still cared about merit’.

This is a book you MUST read and I do not say that often. 5/5

[Note : Those of you who have followed my reviews from the beginning may have noticed that they have changed, becoming more and more positive as the months have rolled along. You may have wondered whether my reviews could be trusted. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to explain that I still read books that leave me dissatisfied but I no longer review them. This was a conscious decision on my part because I find negative, or even just so-so reviews very hard to do. They upset me. I put them off. I feel guilty. Then, when I finally force myself to write them I spend far too much time trying to be diplomatic, time I should be spending on my own writing. So I decided that I would only review books that made my greatness antennae go bzzzzzz. You may still disagree with me about what makes a given book great but I promise you that I’m not faking it!]

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