When the world is devastated by GMO plants over-running the land and destroying cropland, humanity splits into multiple factions. There’s the people who firmly believe in transforming people so that they can photosynthesize food from the sun–and have green skin. There’s the cannibals, who have returned to a hunter/gatherer way and eat humans when necessary. Unbeknownst to the green folk, there’s a holdout of Old Order Amish. They’ve changed from how they were in the past but still hold onto many of their ways. In particular, they have decided that taking green skin is the Mark of the Beast, and will not go for it.
Tula is a scientist among the green folk who is tasked with assisting cannibal children who are kidnapped and converted. Levi is an Amish who leaves the compound against orders, seeking yet another group of scientists who are supposed to live in a mountain and may have the cure to his dying son’s Cystic Fibrosis. When Levi is swept up in a green raid of cannibal land, his and Tula’s worlds collide with unimaginable consequences.
I picked this up because the cover of a green-skinned woman in a desert appealed to me, and then the description seemed like an interesting post-apocalyptic future. This is certainly and interesting and unique read for any fans of post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature.
The future is imaginative with many different groups and reactions to the botanicaust (the destruction of plant matter that is considered this world’s apocalypse). As someone who has studied the Amish, I appreciated how the author imagined how the Old Order would handle such a crisis and address it for the future. Allowing people into the compound if they are willing to convert seems logical, and showing that the Old Order did accept some technological innovation also makes sense. Similarly, the green scientists who seek to photosynthesize everyone and don’t seem to care too much if the cannibals want to be photosynthesized or not make logical sense. The scientists believe this is the solution in a world without enough food, and hey haven’t bothered to do any cross-cultural studying to see if there is any rhyme or reason or value to the cannibal lifestyle. This again is a logical position for a group of scientists to hold. The other group of scientists who live in the mountain and have managed to find the solution to not aging are a great contrast to the groups of greens. Whereas the greens do sometimes do evil but don’t intend to, they only intend to be helping (with the exception of one bad guy character), the mountain dwellers have been turned inhumane by their abnormally long lives. These three groups set up a nice contrast of pros and cons of scientific solutions and advancement. At what point do we stop being human and at what point are we being too stubborn in resisting scientific advancement? How do we maintain ethics among all of this? The exploration of these groups and these questions was my favorite part of the book.
The plot is complex and fast-paced, visiting many areas of the land and groups of people. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the romance, but I can see where others would find that it adds to the book. I just wasn’t particularly a fan of the pairing that was established, but for no reason other than it seemed a bit illogical to me. Then again, romance is not always logical.
The one thing that really bothered me in the book was the representation of Down Syndrome and the language used to refer to it and those who have it. The mountain scientists have children, but as a result of tampering with their own genetics, all of their children have Down Syndrome. First, I don’t like that this makes it appear as if Down Syndrome is a punishment to the evil scientists who went too far with science. Down Syndrome is a condition some people are born with. It is not a condition as the result of anything a parent did, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Second, all of the characters with Down Syndrome are presented as large, bumbling oafs with hearts of gold. There is just as much variety to the personalities and abilities of those with Down Syndrome as there are in those of us without Down Syndrome. Finally, the author persists in referring to these characters as:
a Down’s Syndrome woman (loc 2794)
or of course, “a Down’s Syndrome man.” First, the preferred term for Down Syndrome is Down Syndrome, not Down’s Syndrome. This is a mistake that is easy to make, though (I have made it myself), and I am willing to give the author a pass for that. The more upsetting element in the way she refers to these characters though is that she always lists the condition first and then the person, not the other way around. It is always preferred, in any illness or condition, to list the person first and the illness or condition second. For instance, a woman with cancer, not a cancerous woman. A man with PTSD, not a PTSD man. A child with Down Syndrome, not a Down Syndrome child. I cringed every single time this happened, and it happens a lot in the section of the book that takes place in the mountain. Given that this is an indie book, and it is thus quite easy to make editing changes and fixes, I would hope that the author would go through and fix this simple aspect of language. It would be a show of good faith to the entire community of people who have Down Syndrome, as well as their families. For more on the preferred language when referring to Down Syndrome and people who have Down Syndrome, please check out this excellent guide, written by the National Down Syndrome Society.
It’s a real bummer to me that the language about Down Syndrome and presentation of these characters isn’t better, because if it was, this would have been a five star read for me.
Overall, this is an interesting and unique post-apocalyptic future with an action-packed plot. Those who are sensitive to the language used to refer to Down Syndrome and representation of people with Down Syndrome may wish to avoid it, due to an unfortunate section where characters with Down Syndrome are referred to improperly and written a bit two-dimensionally.
4 out of 5 stars
The author has written a thoughtful and kind comment on this post. You may view it by going below. To sum up, she cannot make edits to those book, due to it also having an audiobook version. However, she has promised to edit for these issues in future books containing characters with Down Syndrome. This genuine and thoughtful response is much more than the community of those with Down Syndrome and their families and loved ones often get, and it is very much appreciated.
Book Review: Preserver by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)
Captain Kirk and his nemesis from the mirror universe, Tiberius Kirk, pair up to hunt down the preservers, orbs left by some more intelligent race. Kirk is teaming up with Tiberius because Tiberius holds the key to saving his wife’s and unborn son’s lives. Their quest will reveal hidden secrets about the universe.
This is the second audiobook my fiancé and I listened to on our road trip to and from Michigan. We listened to the previous book in the series, Dark Victory (review), on the drive out. We listened to this one on the drive back. (Each direction is a 13 hour drive). Whereas the previous book kept us entertained and awake for our road trip, this one left us confused and concerned we might actually be drifting off into sleep periodically, because it made so little sense. (For the record, we were not drifting off into sleep. This book just makes very little sense).
All of the audiobook qualities that were great about the previous book stay great here. Shatner’s narration alternates between hilariously good and hilariously bad but mostly is just hilariously Shatner. The sound effects continue to be stellar and one of my favorite parts of the book. It continues to feel like listening to a Star Trek movie as a radio show, and that it was kept me going through it.
The plot, however, just makes very little sense and seems to fall apart. Whereas in the previous book a continuing plot point is Shatner’s ruined hands, in this one it’s Shatner’s unborn (and then born) son who is all kinds of genetically messed up thanks to the poison in his mother’s system from the cloned children of Tiberius. (Are you confused yet?) This could possibly make for an interesting plot, but it’s dropped frequently to pursue the other plot about the preserver orb things. We read this book and both fiancé and I are still unclear as to precisely what the orbs mean. We’re not even sure if they’re good or bad. This is how confusing the plot is, I can’t even properly sum it up for you folks. In spite of the plot being really confusing, there are still some fun scenes, such as when Kirk meets his son for the first time. It’s a short audiobook, so I’m not unhappy I listened to it, even if I mostly only understood the Kirk’s son plot.
Overall, while this provides very little clear closure to the plot point set up earlier in the trilogy, it does feature the birth of Kirk’s son and all the fun of listening to a radio show version of a Star Trek movie. If you liked the previous books in the trilogy and don’t mind a confusing plot, you’ll enjoy finishing up the trilogy.
3 out of 5 stars
Book Review: Dark Victory by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens, and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by William Shatner)
Our universe has been invaded by the inhabitants of the Mirror Universe–a parallel universe that is a dark, twisted version of our own. Now, Captain Kirk, with the captains and crews of The Next Generation and Voyager must battle evil versions of themselves, led by the evil version of Kirk — Tiberius Kirk. What nightmares does Tiberius have planned for the Federation?
Back in December, my fiancé and I road-tripped to Michigan to visit his family. It’s about a 13 hour drive, and I had Audible credits, so I suggested we pick out a book. We both love Star Trek so we investigated what Star Trek options are available. This one jumped out at us for the obvious reason that it’s narrated by William Shatner himself! Other reviewers complained about sound effects, but that just made us more excited, so we downloaded it, oblivious to the fact that it’s the second book in a series. This book reads like a radio program version of a Star Trek movie featuring a crazy mash-up of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Voyager.
The action starts right away, which was admittedly a bit confusing, since we hadn’t read the first book. It starts with Tiberius and his crew escaping into our own universe, and Kirk and his trying to battle them. Also, Kirk’s hands are mysteriously mangled from something that happened in the first book. Ultimately, we were able to catch up with the plot and follow it somewhat. Kirk is in love with a woman who is pregnant with his baby. Tiberius seems intent on getting to some orbs that the Federation wants to protect. Kirk wants to stop him, but the Federation and some spy branch of theirs are trying to keep him from engaging in the fight anymore. They even go so far as to lie to him and tell him that Tiberius is dead. It’s a complex, twisting plot that makes some sense when listening to it, although summarizing it is nigh on impossible. Suffice to say, that if you enjoy the concept of the mirror universe and the characters from three series all interacting together, you’ll probably enjoy this plot. Plus, there’s also Kirk’s wedding in this book, and that is just not to be missed. (There are horses! And red leather outfits!)
What really made the book for me was the audiobook presentation of it. It is presented like a radio program, complete with amazing sound effects. The communicator actually beeps! There are impact noises from shots at the Enterprise! There are even whinnies from the horses. If you’re a more serious Star Trek fan, you might be irritated by the relative kitsch of this book and its reading, but if you enjoy Star Trek for its periodic utter ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the way this audiobook is presented.
Shatner’s narration is sometimes good but often hilariously bad. His voice for women is unnaturally high and soft, making me giggle each time, and mysteriously, he uses the same voice for Captain Picard as for women. Listening to him narrate anyone who is not Captain Kirk is a bit like watching Captain Kirk “fight” in the Original Series. I enjoyed it for its ridiculousness, not for its quality.
Overall, if you’re a Star Trek fan who doesn’t take the show too seriously, you’ll enjoy this radio program like audiobook with a plot mashing up everything from a mirror universe to somehow placing Captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway on the same ship.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I open up to submissions of review copies in November and December. I predetermine a number I will accept to be reviewed the following year. You can view more about my review process here. You may view the accepted review copies post for 2014 by clicking on the year. For 2015, I decided to accept 6 books.
This year, 37 review requests were submitted. This means I only accepted 16% of the submitted books. Put another way, each book only had a 16% chance of being accepted.
Authors submitting to me were 59% male, 38% female, and 3% preferred not to say. Last year only 26% of the submitting authors were female. I am pleased at the increase for two reasons. I’m a female author myself and like to support other female authors, but also the world is approximately half female, and I’d like for my submissions to reflect that.
14% of authors submitting self-identified as GLBTQA! I am really pleased at this, as I actively sought out authors identifying this way. However, 19% of the books were identified as having significant GLBTQA content. This means that more than just GLBTQA people are featuring GLBTQA characters, and that makes me really happy.
The above graph depicts the genres submitted to me. I only accept the genres listed in the graph. You can easily see that scifi was by far the most submitted genre, with 35% of the books. This is followed by thriller and horror with 24% and 16%, respectively. Nonfiction was clearly the least submitted, with only 6% of the books being any type of nonfiction at all. Next year, I would like to see more variety in my submissions as far as genres go. More cozies, paranormal or western romance, and nonfiction.
When I was doing my initial pass through of the books submitted to me, I created a document of blinded book summaries. This means I only saw the summaries of the books, no other data, not even the title. They were also randomized so I had no idea which were submitted when. Using this technique, I eliminated half of the books. In the final pass through, things like gender of the author, genre, and GLTBQA content were taken into consideration to give me a more diverse reading list for the year. I also took into consideration whether or not the author was willing to participate in a giveaway, as well as the format of the book being offered, particularly when doing a tie-breaker. For instance, all other things equal, if one book was willing for me to host a giveaway and another wasn’t, the one with the giveaway won.
I provide these stats for two reasons. First to give everyone an idea of the competition the accepted books were up against. It’s an accomplishment to be accepted for review here! Second, I want those considering submitting to me this November and December to look at these stats and take them into consideration when submitting. Consider the fact that I don’t want to read only scifi all year. If you have a nonfiction or a cozy waiting to be reviewed, it has a higher chance of being accepted. But enough stats! It’s time to get to the accepted review copies!
The review copies are listed below in alphabetical order by title. The authors of the accepted review copies are half female and half male. One of the authors identifies as GLBTQA, and one of the books has GLBTQA content. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2015, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.
The Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin
By: Rasheedah Prioleau
After another incident of sleepwalking, Aiyana Gamelle wakes up lying under the stars on the Beach of Sa’Fyre Island, an island off the cost of South Carolina with a rich Gullah and Native American history.
Knowing these incidents of sleepwalking have something to do with her long awaited transition into queen of the island, Aiyana shrugs them off as little more than a nuisance to be expected since her lineage leads to a mysterious African goddess.
Aiyana moves forward with plans to host a week long festival that will end with her succession to the island throne, but the murder of an important guest and the passing of her grandmother threaten to bring the festivities to a screeching halt. Then Aiyana learns that the transition involves an unwanted possession and the revelation of a dark family curse.
Mark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden
By: Chris R. McCarthy
Stranded from Earth for five-thousand-years with no hope of rescue, a deep space colonization ship named Eden becomes the new home for humanity. Half its population lives a life of luxury, while the other live in destitution. When a man wakes aboard the ship without memories, he must uncover the clues of not only his identity but his origin.
With the help of a female rebel he becomes embroiled in the plot to overthrow an oppressive regime, and forced to decide if doing so could cause the extinction of the human race.
The Mediator Pattern
By: J.D. Lee
Some people wait an entire lifetime for purpose. Some don’t find it at all. Some spend an eternity searching for paradise… for a Utopia. But sometimes purpose and paradise come at a cost.
BelisCo-San Jose boasts all the latest breakthrough technology: the fax machine, the electric typewriter, the tri-ox system transport vehicle and the newest technological breakthrough, the porta-fax. With innovations galore, BelisCo-San Jose is a modern-day Utopia—perfectly designed, complete with adult-only zones, smoking and non-smoking zones, cannabis, cigarettes, food, work, income, and reliable, clean transportation—all provided by BelisCo.
But things are not entirely as they seem in San Jose. It is here that jaded, chain-smoking Marcus Metiline’s world is turned upside down. After taking a mediation job with the ubiquitous BelisCo and meeting a peculiar doctor beyond the city’s zoned limits, Marcus’s world quickly unravels. It all starts with flashes of déjà vu and memories that have gone astray. As Marcus searches for answers to the increasingly strange events around him, it’s not long before he discovers that the fate of the world rests in him.
He’s been told exactly what he needs to do… But is something bigger moving him along?
Porcelain: A Novelette
By: William Hage
Out near the Pine Barrens in New Jersey sits the Whateley Bed & Breakfast, home of a wide collection of knick-knacks and antiques for its guests to view, including a beautifully ornate porcelain doll. However, after the Whateley’s latest guest purchases the doll as a gift, a horrifying series of nightmarish events begins to unfold.
By: D.S. Kenn
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Terric Blythe is a hybrid demon and wolf shifter whose life has largely been spent in anonymous cities, moving among people while keeping them at arm’s length. The list of those who matter to him is short, but when he cares, he does completely. He has allowed himself to love the one person who truly knows him.
Jordyn Kinsley is an achingly beautiful vampire, haunted by her past. Choices and chance brought her into a world filled with evil, tragedy, and loss. At her lowest point, she encountered Terric. She learned to trust him, her demon with the heart of a wolf.
Their anonymous life in New York made it easy for Jordyn to isolate herself. Realizing she needed a change, Terric found their new home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The tip of Cape Cod, where paranormal beings live easily among humans, is filled with closely guarded secrets. As Jordyn begins to heal and discover her strength, it’s clear she will one day be ready to stand on her own. The wolf must decide if he will return to existing in solitude or if he will follow her lead and explore what life has to offer.
Set Adrift is a story of love and loss, of deeply abiding friendship, and of sacrifice. The Immortal Isle series will grab ahold of your heart and have you falling in love with the inhabitants of this small coastal town.
By: A.R. Meyering
Sarah Wilkes is desperate enough to do anything, even make a deal with the devil—or in her case, a familiar spirit.
After her twin Lea is murdered, Sarah finds college life impossible and longs to escape. Everything changes when Sarah realizes a familiar spirit is stalking her and offers to transport her to the terrifying and fantastical realm of Unreal City. The payment for admission? A taste of her blood. Unable to resist, Sarah is drawn into an alternate reality that is a dream come true…at first.
The deeper she explores Unreal City, the more Sarah’s reality becomes warped. Death surrounds her as people are murdered in the same fashion as her sister. She has no choice but to continue her visits to Unreal City, which grows darker by the day.
Is finding out the truth worth becoming part of Unreal City forever?
It’s the final giveaway of 2014 here at Opinions of a Wolf. Woohoo!! I was so happy to be able to offer so many giveaways this year! Thanks to the indie authors and indie publishing houses that made it possible.
How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post stating what your first single would be if you could introduce any Earth song to an alien planet.
Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL
Contest Ends: January 7th. One week from today!
Disclaimer: The winners will have their ebook sent to them by the author. The blogger is not responsible for sending the book. Void where prohibited by law.
When Australian astronaut, Jack, crashlands on a planet during a mission and is the only survivor, he fears the worst. What he finds is a planet surprisingly similar to Earth–even speaking English–only with a culture of peace and non-violence. Seeking to survive as a homeless person, he starts busking with a guitar he finds, playing Earth songs. Before he knows it, he’s discovered and becomes a rock star, introducing the planet to Earth’s greatest rock songs, while claiming to have written them himself. But rock star is an awfully high profile for someone who is technically an alien.
This was my final accepted ARC from 2014, and I think it’s a fitting review for the last day of 2014 here on Opinions of a Wolf. This was an interesting read that kept me moderately entertained, although it wasn’t the rollicking good time I was initially expecting.
The book jumps right in to Jack as already a rock star on Heaven (the alien planet) and tells of his arrival and how he became famous through a series of flashbacks. This nonlinear storytelling works well with the plot. Starting with semi-familiar rock star territory, the book slowly reveals what is different about this planet, as well as about Jack.
It is evident that this was originally a three part series, as the plot consists of three distinct parts that, while connected, keep the book from having an overarching gradual build-up of suspense. Jack has three distinct episodes of action, and that lends the book and up and down quality that feels a bit odd in one novel. I actually think I might have enjoyed the book more if it was kept as a trilogy with each part’s plot fleshed out a bit and the overarching conflict made more evident. An overarching conflict does exist, but it is so subtle that the opportunity to build suspense is mostly missed.
Personally, Jack didn’t work for me as a main character. While I don’t mind viewing the world through a bad guy’s eyes, I usually enjoy that most when I get a lot of depth and insight into who that person is. Jack holds everyone, including the reader, at arm’s length, so I both saw the world through his objectifying eyes and couldn’t really get to know him at all. That said, I can definitely see some readers enjoying Jack and his viewpoint. He lends the unique ability to let people see the world both through a rock star’s eyes and through an astronaut’s. A reader who is into both famous people’s biographies/autobiographies and scifi would probably really enjoy him.
Similarly, the humor in the book just didn’t strike my funny bone. I could recognize when it’s supposed to be humorous, but I wasn’t actually amused. I know other people would find it funny, though. Readers expecting a Douglas Adams style humor would be disappointed. Those who enjoy something like Knocked Up would most likely appreciate and enjoy the humor.
There are certain passages that sometimes struck me as a sour note among the rest of the writing. Perhaps these are passages that would be humorous to other readers, but to me just felt odd and out of place in the rest of the writing. Most of the writing at the sentence level worked for me. It was just the right tone for the story it was telling. But periodically there are passages such as the one below that made me gnash my teeth:
Natalie is a rare beauty. A creature of potent sexuality. Someone you would step over your dying mother to penetrate. (loc 8803)
I take a seat in McCarthy’s desk chair. It’s comfortable. Luxurious in the way a set of stainless steel steak knives might feel to a psychopath. It’s beautiful and firm and smells nice, but in the wrong hands this chair could be used for evil. (loc 6821)
Again, perhaps this is humor that just didn’t work for me. I’m not certain. If you like the concept of the rest of the book, there are only a few of these passages that are easy to pass over. If you enjoy them and find them humorous, then you will most likely enjoy the book as a whole as well.
Overall, this is a piece of scifi with the interesting idea of turning an Earth astronaut into a rock star on another parallel planet. Potential readers should be aware that the book was originally told in three parts, and that is evident in the book. They should also be aware that the main character is both a self-centered rock star and a self-centered astronaut, while this viewpoint may work for some, it will not work for others. Recommended to those who enjoy both celebrity autobiographies/biographies and scifi who can overlook some bizarro coincidences.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review