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Saturday, November 21, 2015

GR3T3L-1 by V.M. Sawh - Uniquely amazing! 4.75/5 stars!

Today, I am reviewing the Science-Fiction story GR3T3L-1 by V.M. Sawh. The book opens with two robots, interestingly named H4NS3L and GR3T3L, crash-landing on a strange planet with no clear mission. GR3T3L quickly shows herself to have mental abilities far beyond the combat drone H4NS3L, including asking questions about feelings and emotions, and using reasoning to solve their problems.

This is an excellent book, filled with character development, interesting scenarios and environment, and intriguing plot. I give it a 4.75/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. I really enjoyed both the main and supporting characters of this story. Both robots played their parts well, and watching their interactions and their development over the course of the book made me happy and made me care about them. The supporting human characters, met chiefly through flashback and recorded programming input, felt realistic and understandable, viewed as they were through the lenses of robotic understanding.

 Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Engaging from start to finish. Sawh drops us in the middle of the action and pulls off the slow reveal with aplomb. Like the breadcrumbs from the titular characters’ original story, I was hooked from the beginning, wondering where we were going from here. I won’t spoil the ending, but I was reading it to work, and it made me tear up. It was good.

Flow: 4.75/5. Every reveal is timed well, keeping the reader interested the whole time. The language used is clean and effective, telling the story and maintaining the sense of immersion. My only stuttering point was at the beginning, when Sawh used the word “metal” like ten times. In the first page or two. It just made me shake my head and laugh a little.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were some typos in this book. Overall very good, but I did note a few missing words and misspellings.

 Overall: 4.75/5. I knew going in that this was a solid piece of work, but as it went on it pulled me deeper and deeper. It’s not long, but it’s amazing and unique. I’ve never seen a book take on this perspective before, and not since R. Daneel Olivaw have I been as interested in what is going on in a robotic mind. Well done!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spider Mafia by Ville Merilainen - unique, very cool, and a lot of fun. 3.75/5.

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Spider Mafia by Ville Merilainen. A thrilling, pseudo-horror story set in a world populated by sentient, anthropomorphic cats, Spider Mafia follows Trucillo Brown, agent for the FBI (Feline Badass Institution) as he picks up the trail of an ancient evil that’s kidnapping kittens and plotting to overthrow society as we know it. Despite its use of animal characters, the book definitely has plenty of adult themes, including the murder and enslavement of children, cursing, and family. 

I give this book a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. I feel like I could have known so much more about the characters than I do. Each one is interesting and unique – I didn’t feel burdened by generic, stock roles or archetypes, and the ideas of destined bloodlines brought out in the book hit the right notes with me. Still, I wish I knew more about Trucillo’s life before the story, about his romantic relationships (or lack thereof) and more detail about what happened with his niece. There are some awesome bits hanging out there, waiting for more development.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. Spider Mafia does a very good job of blending the hard-boiled detective shtick with the magical elements of urban fantasy, and adds a healthy amount of tongue-in-cheek humor to boot. The plot hit the right beats and maintained its verisimilitude all the way through. I really enjoyed the storyline (despite the sneaky nature of some of the reveals) and felt for the characters.
One thing, though: a life bar? Really? 

Flow: 3.5/5. Throughout most of the story, the writing flowed very well. Spider Mafia isn’t a long book, but it went very quickly, even so. I maintained interest throughout the work, digesting it quickly and enjoying it along the way.
So why the 3.5?
Because, at the very end, there is a moment where the character looks at the author. The writing explicitly states that he breaks the fourth wall. It was completely jarring, unnecessary, and didn’t work for me at all. I know the author’s trying to be funny and/or cute here, but it just annoyed me.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. Fairly solid. I noticed a couple of mistakes, but nothing worth writing home about or protesting outside the author’s home. A good, well-done editing job all around.

Overall: 3.75/5. This book is very unique and a great take on the genre. The characters are cool and you’ll find yourself smiling, if not laughing aloud, more than once. If you’re looking for deadly serious, dark-and-gritty work, stay away, but if you like a touch of humor in your urban fantasy, then check out Spider Mafia.