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Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR Is Out — And It Is Good…

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Folks, this is the review I just tried to post on Amazon for Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR, and couldn’t manage to get it there. (With my luck, though, it’ll post after I put this up here at my blog.)

Mind, I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at the Elfyverse. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start there…ahem.

(Thus ends today’s try at self-promotion. I’d rather promote someone else anyway!)

So, without further ado, I figured I’d post it here, and I do hope you’ll go read Jason’s newest as soon as you can if you like YA, S/F, or any stories having to do with near-future virtual reality simulations. (Or if you just like Jason’s writing. I mean, really…what’s not to like?)

It’s great to see Tori back in action again in Jason Cordova’s newest novel, DEVASTATOR. She’s a tough customer, albeit a tough customer who’s only seventeen…she’s already had to fight her way out of an insane situation in her favorite virtual reality game known as The Warp in CORRUPTOR (book one of this series), and now been asked to re-enter The Warp to keep an eye on some anomalies no one can quite figure out.

See, things are happening in The Warp that make less sense than usual. For a fully programmed environment to do things that no one understands is just plain wrong; it’s even worse than the previous contretemps Tori defused in CORRUPTOR, as at least there once highly paid programmers were made aware of the issues, they were able to fix them. (What Tori had to do before was to defeat the bad guys wherever possible, evading the rest until she could be rescued and brought out of V/R.) And Tori is possibly the foremost expert on how The Warp actually acts, as opposed to how The Warp is supposed to act, so of course she’s asked to lend her expertise to the problem.

(Lending her expertise sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s code words for “murder and mayhem are about to break out here,” really…though I digress.)

Anyway, Tori gathers a bunch of others who are known to her as solid individuals (or at least solid players of The Warp) and all are made referees, more or less glorified Moderators. There’s a tourney going on that will cloak their actions, as the folks who make The Warp absolutely, positively do not want to cause trouble for themselves. And as no one can understand, much less explain, the anomalies that have been observed, discretion is of the essence…thus this subterfuge.

So, they go in there. They have a whole lot of problems. (No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You need to read DEVASTATOR for yourself, preferably sooner rather than later.) And Tori, her boyfriend Dylan, and many others who’ve risked so much up until now will find their world spun on end, as there are a few plot twists here that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

Great things about DEVASTATOR include an age-appropriate romance (Tori’s a badass, but she’s a more or less innocent badass, which is a refreshing change), a lot of Kaiju-inspired fight scenes, an interesting V/R take on Ragnarok, and much, much more.

Tori’s a fun character, and I rooted for her the whole way. I can’t wait to read the next novel, OBLITERATOR — write quickly, Jason!

———- (Review ends here)

And then, I gave the novel five stars, said it was highly recommended, and tried to point out I’d received it as an ARC, downloaded it right away via KU and read it again, and will be making a point to buy it to put it in my permanent collection, too, down the line. (What else can I do to point out I enjoyed this book?)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

Beating Sequel-itis…DEVASTATOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE

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How many times, as a reader, have you come across sequels that are better, deeper, and richer than the original novels?

You probably can count them on one hand, can’t you?

In fact, there’s a term for the second book in a series that’s rather derogatory, and much worse than what I called “sequel-itis” in my title above. (No, I’m not going to name it. This is a family blog, after all.) And there’s a reason for that. Most books in this position are halfway between the old story and whatever the culminating story is going to be in the next book.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read two books, DEVASTATOR by Jason Cordova, and BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen, that beat this problem. Both take their original characters (Tori and Pietas, respectively) and give them new and more difficult problems to solve that follow from the previous novel, but could possibly be read alone and still be understood. (You’d want to go back and read Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origins of Pietas anyway, though. They’re extremely good.)

It’s hard to come up with new and more challenging things for characters when they’ve been put through the wringer in the first book of a series. Tori, for example, was brutally raped while trapped in a virtual reality simulation of her favorite video game, and had to fight her own way out to survive, finding a truly good person to care for in young Dylan despite it all. (Is there more to that, plot-wise? Yes. But that’s all I’m giving you.) And Pietas literally was killed day after day after day before being marooned on a distant planet — being a genetically engineered immortal, he could not permanently die. And had to accept help from the most unlikely source imaginable, a human being marooned along with him called Six. And Six is so worried about what Pietas can still do, Six refuses to let Pietas know what Six’s real name actually is…but becomes friends with him anyway.

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Both, in short, are bildungsromans. (Can you put an -s on the end of bildungroman? Well, I just did.) And both show characters in flux, searching for meaning even though their lives have come to crashing ruins around them. Jason tells his story one way; Kayelle tells it hers. But they both have a lot of good points that show how strong people can be when the chips are down, and how being reduced to your bare-bones essence and being forced to be vulnerable can be an asset as well as a festering liability.

And as good as Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s first book about Pietas were, their respective sequels are even better. Tori’s story gets twisted in new ways, as she’s forced to confront a brand-new evil that’s found a way to infest its tendrils into her favorite game despite the safeguards and upgrades put into place due to the last mess she was in. And while her boyfriend is still there to support her and remains a very good guy, he may not be able to help much as she does her best to defuse this evil and win through to another day. (In this case, I can’t give you much more than that, as Jason threw in a major plot-twist I didn’t see coming.) And Pietas is reunited with some of his old friends — and enemies — finding out that he and Six were not marooned alone. Having to deal with his father and mother, not to mention his obnoxious (slightly) younger sister, is not easy. But being reunited with his old lover, Joss, while forcing the other immortals to show Six courtesy (as they’re all into blaming the humans for their species being exiled and marooned), is incredibly tough. Pietas must build a new society out of basically nothing but his will and his wits, and he needs Six, Joss, and his sister’s help, while he needs his parents to stay out of the way. (There is another big issue for Pietas, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll stop there.)

These stories both touched me in different ways. Mind, both main characters are survivors, and I admire that. Tori is a lot easier to relate to, being a teenager and a kind-hearted soul, than Pietas, an immortal whose word was once law (and will be again, knowing him, just you wait), but both are at heart strong, yet flawed characters who are dealing with coming-of-age issues and moral ambiguities that defy description sometimes, yet remain very real nonetheless.

Of the two stories, Jason’s has more foreshadowing, while Kayelle’s has more romance. Both have good dollops of science (different types, but still, science), great characterization, fine scene setting, interesting plots, and are stories you will not forget once you’ve read them.

Jason’s DEVASTATOR won’t be out until next week, but I urge you to get it as soon as it’s out. Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire is out now and is just $2.99 as an e-book, and again, I urge you to get it right now. (And yes, do read the previous books, CORRUPTOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas, too. You’ll enjoy them. And they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, so what do you have to lose?)

Edited to add: Yes, I was Kayelle’s editor, and am happy she trusts me with her work. I’ve also been Jason’s friend for many years — not even sure how many at this point — and proofread CORRUPTOR back in its first iteration. I’m happy to stand behind what I’ve said, as these are wonderful books and I want you to read ’em — if you like SF&F, you owe it to yourselves to give these books a try. (Like, now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Good News for a Friend…

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Sometimes, it’s fun to be an author. And to have friends.

(And an author with friends…priceless? But I digress…let’s get to the good stuff.)

I’m very happy to let you know that my friend, Jason Cordova, and his co-writer Eric S. Brown have sold their entire Kaiju Apocalypse trilogy to Takeshobo, a major Japanese publisher. They are both incredibly excited about this.

Plus, as Eric Brown said on Facebook, “Personally, I think it’s awesome that we sold KAIJU to the birthplace of kaiju.” (And he put four smiley faces after it. which gives you an idea of how jazzed he is about this.)

Jason’s comment on Facebook was this: “This is a big deal. We’re talking print run that makes people notice. This is huge for Eric and I, and we’ve been forced to sit on the news for months.”

So, I’m very pleased to let you know that Jason and Eric are expanding their world domination to Japan. (And I’m not even being sarcastic.)

But if you want to read their Kaiju series now, you should take a look at this following link to the three-book set of e-books from Amazon, and go get them for yourself:

So, there you have it! (Go forth and multiply, or something.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Jason Cordova’s “Wraithkin” — and Music?

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Folks, it seems to be my week for stories, so let me tell you another one.

Years ago — I’m not sure how many, now — my late husband Michael told me, “Barb, I swear, you think in music, not words.” It was Michael’s contention that every time I wrote something, I was automatically translating it from the music I heard in my head.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, mind. But it was a poetic conceit he enjoyed, and as such, I appreciated it.

For some reason, that came to mind when I recently read an advance reader copy of Jason Cordova’s WRAITHKIN. Something about this book reminds me of a musical suite, and as I’m both a musician and a writer, I thought I’d use that to my advantage to try to explain why I like this book so much.

As I’m having no luck today uploading the cover, here’s the blurb instead:

How far would a man go to protect those he loved? For Gabriel Espinoza, the answer was simple: to the ends of the universe.

When a failed genetic test ruins his life, Gabriel and his fiancée prepare to run to a world where the laws aren’t as strict. There they could remain, in peace, for the remainder of their days, their love unspoiled by the strict regime which controls the Dominion of Man.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

Torn from the only woman he had ever loved, Gabriel is prepared to burn the galaxy to get her back.

How far would a man go to protect the empire he was sworn to uphold? For Andrew Espinoza, the answer was a bit more complicated.

Torn between family loyalty and his duty to his country, Andrew must infiltrate a rich and powerful clan to determine if they are plotting against the Dominion of Man, but while undercover he discovers something far darker and more dangerous is lurking in the shadows, and he is the only man who can stop it.

But Fate is a cruel, fickle mistress.

How far will Andrew go to ensure the success of his mission?

One brother must save himself; the other must save the universe. But can either survive long enough to achieve their goal?

Now, here are my musically-related thoughts:

To my mind, WRAITHKIN is like a symphony in four parts. First, we have a slower, quieter, more intense first movement, where all the major themes are laid out. We meet Gabe and Sophie, see their love for one another, see it dashed after Gabe fails a genetic test (technically, he’s supposed to be sterilized right away, but his family is wealthy and powerful and keeps that from happening), and then they attempt to run away.

But Sophie has to pretend to be angry, and leaves her world in feigned grief and despair, meaning she goes out to a lightly defended colony world all but undefended. And when Gabe finds out that world has been attacked, and Sophie is missing, he vows revenge.

Then we have the second movement, which is more about Gabe’s brother, Andrew. Andrew is a spy, pure and simple, or if you’d rather, he’s a chameleon/mole. He has been trained to do what he does, but because of that, he submerges himself in other people’s roles — or, as this is my blog, the music of other people’s thoughts. So while the second movement moves faster, and hints at much, it uses similar themes as the first, but reversed and in retrograde…as befits a symphony, where many things must come together to make a greater whole.

The third movement is about how Gabe meets up with a bunch of guys in his position — they all have failed genetic tests, so are considered expendables, the lowest of the low. But they all want to serve…something. Or at least blow up stuff. So there’s training involved, and a bunch of gadgetry to use, and all the military SF trappings that are required are there for the use…almost as if there’s a template for the third movement.

Still, there are touches of humor. Pathos. Genuine characterization. Friendship, all unlooked for, and camaraderie, too…proving, as if there was any doubt whatsoever, that new music can be reminiscent of older music, but still pack a walloping punch.

Then comes the fourth movement. Andrew and Gabe must somehow complete their joint missions. Will they manage to do this, or won’t they? And what will be the consequences either way?

This fourth movement ties up all the themes of the book nicely, and lays hints for books to come…kind of like how if you’ve heard one symphony by Haydn or Brahms or Mozart, you want to go hear another one if you’re smart. They all have things in common, sure, but they’re all a little different and they all have much to teach you, much for you to appreciate, and much to savor, time after time…

Anyway, I liked Jason’s book quite a bit, in case you couldn’t tell. I think it has a little bit of everything. Slam-bang action. Romance. Family. Friendship. A big canvas, with a dystopian government to be alternately fought and defended…Jason’s writing keeps getting better and better, and this is a story to immerse yourself in fully.

That’s why I compared it to music, and I hope you’ll understand why, once you read it.

(And do go read it, will you? If you like milSF, you will love this book. And even if you don’t, but like big novels full of life and vigor, you will still love this book…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 16, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Two New Books from Friends to Share…

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Folks, it’s Saturday. Time turns to reading, at least for me…sometimes to book reviewing, too (though I’m way behind on that, I do intend to get back to it sooner or later).

Today, I have two great books to share with you, especially if you enjoy military science fiction/adventure stories.

ConfederatedStarSystems_medFirst, my friend Loren K. Jones’s second e-book from Twilight Times Books is out; it’s a short story collection called STORIES OF THE CONFEDERATED STAR SYSTEMS. I edited this book, and it’s a fun, fast read with a lot of great stories…right now, it’s only ninety-nine cents, too! (That won’t last long.) I grabbed my e-book copy right away, and hope you will, too.

Edited to add: If you want a copy from OmniLit, go here; if you want a copy from Barnes and Noble.com, go here. I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress…

“But Barb,” you protest. “I want to know what I’m getting into, before I buy this book, even for ninety-nine cents.”

Ah. Well, I have you covered…there is a free sample of Loren’s newest up right now at the Twilight Times Books website.

“So, who’s your other friend, Barb, that you’re ‘pimping’ today?”

Hmmm. I’d not use that word, quite…it’s more of an informative thing, really.

“Spit it out, Barb.”

OK, OK. My friends Jason Cordova and Chris Smith recently released KRAKEN MARE as an e-book. It’s about a disillusioned former Marine, who stumbles onto a mystery after taking a job on Titan’s moon. But it’s not a benign mystery; oh, no. (That would be too easy.) Instead, it’s a mystery that will “shock the foundations of the universe…something out of a nightmare,” as the book description says.

I don’t have a picture to add to this one…but I can tell you I’ve read several chapters already, and am enjoying it quite a bit. (No one does military SF/horror hybrids quite like Jason Cordova. And Chris Smith’s influence is felt in myriad ways…this book will not disappoint.)

Hope you enjoy them!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

Friendship, and the SF Controversy “du jour”

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Folks, I continue to be consumed by my edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, which is the main reason I haven’t been online to blog in the past week-plus.

But there are other reasons.

One of them caused me to ponder what the meaning of the word “friendship” is all about. For when someone knows you for a long time, there is a presumption that if there’s a disagreement — regardless of what the disagreement is about — the other person will listen to you.

He or she may not agree with what you’ve said. But the other person will at least listen, and try to understand.

During this past week, I’ve seen more distress coming out of the community of science fiction and fantasy writers than I’ve ever seen before. I can’t really summarize this for people who don’t understand it, and it seems like “inside baseball” unless you’ve been caught in the crosshairs of this particular bit of internecine strife.

But the upshot of it is this: Writers are fighting other writers, mostly using words — something writers are very good at using, by definition. And rather than trying to find any common ground with one another, writers are continuing to duke it out with our words instead.

How does this have anything to do with friendship, you ask?

It’s simple. I have a friend, Jason Cordova, who got nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in SF&F — the John W. Campbell Award. He got nominated due to the auspices of a group that many other long-term SF&F writers do not like (this group being called the “Sad Puppies”). Jason was not the only writer to be nominated by the “Sad Puppies,” mind you, but he’s the one I know the best.

He is my friend. (You may have gathered this, yes?)

So when some long-term writers started saying that all the people who’d been nominated by the “Sad Puppies” were racists, or homophobic bigots, or the like, I protested. (Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that I am not shy about such things.)

Jason is Hispanic. He has a sister who’s married to another woman. He is far from wealthy. He is an honored and honorable veteran of the military. And he’s written some lovely short stories along with his solo novel, CORRUPTOR, and several co-written novels with Eric S. Brown, most particularly KAIJU APOCALYPSE and MURDER WORLD.

I don’t think Jason in a million years thought that he’d ever be considered for the John W. Campbell Award, whether the “Sad Puppies” nominated him or not. But he was.

And, being a friend, I congratulated him. And then defended him, even though he probably did not need my defense, because that is what friends do.

To make things a bit more complex, one of the people who was upset was also my friend. This person saw my defense and became irate.

Instead of asking me what I was about, this person walked away. At this point, I don’t know if this person will ever return, either.

Now, there’s a whole lot I’m leaving out, partly by design. (As I said, it’s “inside baseball” for those who aren’t following it — lucky you.)

But the important thing is this: If you are my friend, I know we’re not always going to agree on everything.

(How boring would the world be if we did? But I digress.)

What I would hope we’d agree on is the fact that our friendship deserves at least a little care. A little understanding. A little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, common ground can be re-established.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten upset with my friends, including Jason at times. I’m sure he’s gotten upset with me, too. We don’t agree in our political philosophy, we don’t always agree on other issues…but we are friends, and we work things out — sometimes by agreeing to disagree, sometimes by trying to meet each other halfway.

This is what friends do.

I wish that the SF&F community could try to do that now. Because SF&F writers have far more in common with each other than we do with anyone else…and it’s sad that instead of using our immense energy and creativity to create new worlds with, we’re instead savaging each other.

And as for my other friend? I will care about this person until the day I die. I owe this person a great deal, and I haven’t forgotten this.

But like Lillian Hellman, I will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.

******
Note: I thought long and hard before writing this. I am willing to discuss the issues of friendship and whether or not SF&F writers can somehow try to find common ground with one another again. Anything else will probably raise my blood pressure unduly; besides, there are many other places discussing these issues in far greater depth than I am.

I’ve taken a general course mostly because I wanted those who are just finding out about this issue to understand just how messy this nonsense is. I’ve already lost one friend over this because I chose to defend another friend I felt was being unjustly attacked.

I neither like nor dislike the “Sad Puppies.” I do respect many of them, most particularly Brad Torgersen and Amanda S. Green. (Before anyone asks, we’re not going to discuss the merits of the “Rabid Puppies” group right now. Or the lack thereof.) I feel they have a right to be heard, and under the rules, they did nothing objectionable. But to some, me saying that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

And I neither like nor dislike the vast majority of writers on the other side of this mess.

One thing I do know, though: No one should be threatening anyone else over this. Ever.

Anyway, the floor is open. I welcome comments, providing they are civil. Any that aren’t will be deleted. (You have been warned.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 13, 2015 at 6:31 am

#MFRWAuthor RT Day is Tomorrow…and Other Stuff

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Folks, tomorrow is Marketing for Romance Writers’ monthly ReTweet event. As I’m a member of MarketingforRomanceWriters.org (which you can find on Twitter as @MFRW_ORG), I’ve signed up to take part in something called a “Thunderclap,” which causes many Tweets and Facebook messages to go out at once as I understand it. (I’ve never taken part in a Thunderclap before, so that’s all I can tell you regarding this particular promotion.)

MFRW Author's Blog

Mind, I always support #MFRWAuthor RT Day — the hashtag works out to “Marketing for Romance Writers Author” and of course “RT” means ReTweet — because I find the Marketing for Romance Writers group to be quite beneficial. They help you to understand marketing, for one (as I’m sure you’d expect, considering their name and all), as they are fellow writers who’ve all walked — or who are now walking — the same path you are. MarketingforRomanceWriters.org tends to help indie or small press authors the most, as we need the most help because we don’t have major publishers behind us. But it’s a group that will help any writer if he or she is willing to acknowledge what they do in return…do check them out (they have both a website and a blog as well as a Yahoo Group), as they are an invaluable resource.

Aside from that, I’ve been editing, doing a spot of writing, and editing some more, as per usual.

I do have some semi-bad news to report as my newest short story was rejected by the Writers of the Future contest. I call this “semi-bad” only because I am happy I wrote the story; while I’d have appreciated it if WOTF had loved it the way I do, it’s OK that they didn’t. (You wouldn’t believe how many thousands of stories they get during each quarter.)

Aside from that, Jason Cordova has been mentioned as a possible choice for the John W. Campbell Award. I know Jason quite well, as I’ve worked with him over at Shiny Book Review for years (yes, I intend to write a review this week; why did you ask?), and I’ve read most of his output. His first novel, CORRUPTOR, came out in 2010, but didn’t sell enough to be considered a first, qualifying pro story — which means he’s still eligible to win the Campbell Award.

“But Barb,” you say. “Aren’t you eligible, too? AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE came out last April, so you should qualify…right?”

Well, therein lies a tale. I sold my first story, a co-written affair with my late husband Michael, to the BEDLAM’S EDGE anthology back in 2004 (edited by Mercedes Lackey and the inestimable Rosemary Edghill). That was definitely a qualifying pro sale under the rules, albeit a qualifying half-sale (as Michael receives credit for the other half, which made perfect sense to me at the time and still does).

My second pro-qualifying sale, I believe, was made last year after I sold a story to STARS OF DARKOVER (edited by Deborah J. Ross and Elisabeth Waters). (I say “I believe” because I can’t remember when SFWA raised their rates for a pro-qualifying story from .05/word to .06/word. Under the new SFWA guidelines, this story would not count.)

And that’s it as far as pro-qualifying sales go. Everything else I’ve written to date, including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, leaves me eligible for the Writers of the Future Contest, meaning I’m largely unknown. (Something I’ve said all along, mind.) But because of my one, early half-sale, I believe I am ineligible for the John W. Campbell Award.

Even if I were eligible, I’d be astonished if anyone nominated me.

Why? I’m not known. (Neither is my late husband Michael, despite my efforts to the contrary — and his while he was still here.)

Anyway, Jason’s much better-known than I am. He also has more short stories and novels (some co-written with Eric S. Brown) to his credit than I do, and has more on the way. He definitely deserves to be considered for the Campbell Award as he remains eligible, and I’d love to see him win it.

EDITED TO ADD: My friend Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novel SPIRAL PATH is eligible for the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Nebula, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and even the Newbery Medal. I reviewed SPIRAL PATH at SBR last September; I’d anxiously awaited it for over a year, and I was not disappointed. So please, do not forget about her and her excellent work…you could not ask for a better writer. (Or a better person, though awards do not measure that, usually.)

Back to my original post, already in progress…

Aside from that, to answer a few questions — Yes, my hand is better. (Thank goodness.) And yes, I’m definitely looking forward to Spring Training. (Go, Brewers, Go!)

If you have any questions for me, go ahead and ask in the comments…I’ll do my best to answer, as always.