Review – The Circuit : Executor Rising

Full Disclosure : I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I do not know the author personally, except for our brief interactions by email.

The Circuit : Executor Rising is a fast-paced and enjoyable science fiction yarn that takes place in a most interesting setting. It’s our own solar system, either during a time before interstellar travel becomes possible, or perhaps in a universe where the laws of physics never become more than what we know now. Regardless, Mr. Bruno does a great job showing us how our own tiny, insignificant star system can feel like a vast and wondrous place.

The story follows several principal characters : Sage is a young, deadly assassin known as an Executor ; a hard-working miner named Talon ; and perhaps most intriguingly, a disaffected scientist and former member of the system’s ruling council, Cassius Vale. Vale, and by extension, his AI creation known as ADIM, are definitely the antagonists in this story… Villains, even. And yet they are, by far, the most fascinating and sympathetic characters in the book. It takes a lot of storytelling talent to make a monomaniacal mad scientist feel like a real person, justified in his horrific actions to the point where you root for him, instead of those trying to stop him.

By and large, the plot is not something which will surprise a veteran science fiction reader, but rather serves as a showcase for Mr. Bruno’s adept worldbuilding and strong characterization. He gives us things to be genuinely interested by and characters we can believe in within the space of a few hundred pages, making for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

With no major editorial issues to speak of and pages that kept me coming back for more, The Circuit : Executor Rising earns 4.5 out of 5 stars. As is my standard policy, I will round this up to 5 stars on the appropriate websites.

Review: The Cabal of Thotash by J. Zachary Pike

thotashAmazon US

The Cabal of Thotash is an urban fantasy… Sort of.

Let’s start at the beginning. A mysterious cult devoted to an evil Lovecraftian deity meets in an unventilated basement once a week, and everything is going well enough. Honoring the Contract, doing evil deeds, making sacrifices of innocents upon the altar of Thotash, until one day they bring a young woman into their midst as an intended sacrifice… And everything changes.

Only 9,000 words or so long, that is all this story needed to tell a whimsical and downright hilarious tale of a Lovecraftian cult (sorry, cabal) which just can’t seem to get things right. If you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, and love to revel in the absurdity of situations normal and supernatural, you should not hesitate to pick this up. Genre-savvy readers will instantly recognize both the familiar and the unfamiliar, and you can’t help but laugh as you watch this thoroughly respectable cabal become something infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.

For a first entry into the market by a new author, this short story/novella/novelette/whatever we’re calling short fiction these days is well worth the time and small investment. The formatting is invisible, and while I might wish for fewer ‘was’s in the first paragraph, it did not detract from my thorough enjoyment of the story, nor did it reduce the number of laugh-out-loud moments in this brief yarn.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

Amazon US

Review: PRIEST by Matthew Colville

PRIEST is perhaps one of the more perplexing books I’ve read this year.

Let’s start with the good, as I am oft wont to do. Contained within the covers of PRIEST is a compelling central narrative, structured around a priest and former “campaigner” (which appears to be this world’s word for “adventurer”) named Heden. When we first meet Heden, he is acting somewhat the knight errant, helping a poor girl who’s been imprisoned for being possessed… But Heden knows that she’s merely ill, and comes to her aid.

Heden, from what we are told, seems to be suffering from something much akin to (if it is not) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is withdrawn and suffers from paralyzing flashbacks to his campaigner days. He is also a priest–thus the title–and once his character is established we get to the heart of the matter. The north is threatened by invaders, and those who might protect the helpless–the Knights of the Green, mysterious forest paladins that no one knows much about–have been reduced from nine members to eight. Permanently.

Our hero is tasked with discovering what happened to the Knights and absolving them, meting out justice so that their ranks might be restored and they can protect the people.

That’s just the beginning of the story, and it unfurls from there into quite the enthralling yarn. The world-building is an intriguing and original take on many common fantasy tropes, building upon the ideas that every fantasy reader knows to create something more. The core of the plot is mysterious and continually commands the reader’s interest.

But. There’s a but here, and I would be remiss if I did not point it out.

I read the Kindle edition, offered free on Amazon a few weeks ago when the author published the second installment. The Kindle edition’s formatting is… lacking, as you can see in the attached screenshot from my iPad’s Kindle app. No paragraph indents is the first offense, and it’s a glaring one. The same problem occurred in Kindle Cloud Reader, so I know it’s not just my device. Overall, the formatting feels amateur at best, and could use a significant rework.


My second issue is the use of language. It’s made clear that Heden has an informal speech style, but even so, using constructions like “ok” and “alright” grate on me as a reader, because they seem more like mistakes than characterization. There is also a significant scene later in the book where the word “reigns” is substituted for “reins” (the horsy kind) 5-10 times in rapid succession.

Ebooks these days are often seen as works-in-progress, which is fine, but I really feel like these are problems which should have been fixed long before the author published the second book.

The important takeaway here, however, is that none of these issues prevented me from reading (and enjoying) the book, all the way to the conclusion. In fact, I’d say it’s quite probable that I will pick up the second installment in the future, because I genuinely want to know what happens to Heden. Given that formatting issues and use of language will often cause me to drop a book before Chapter 2, the author must be commended very highly for creating a story that allowed me to see past these issues to the gem of a tale beneath.

PRIEST gets four stars from me. With polished language and a formatting fix, it would easily be four and a half, and possibly even a full five. This really is an enticing, riveting story, and if you can bring yourself to see past the rough spots, you won’t regret the time you spend reading it. Recommended.

Chris Kellen’s #RoadToWorldCon2014: The Countdown


According to the countdown widget on my HTC One, 111 days remain before the start of WorldCon 2014/LonCon3.

The picture above is the London ExCeL Centre, the venue for this upcoming gathering of authors, fans and media personalities from around the world.

In 111 days, I will be there.

I’ve never traveled overseas before. That’s not to say that I’ve never done any traveling at all–I’ve been on a longer plane ride, even, than the one which will carry me to London. (12 hours on a plane is nothing to sneeze at, but Oahu was totally worth it.) Even then, though, the culture was nowhere near as different as it will be when I leave this summer.

Culturally speaking, the farthest I’ve ever been from home was a trip I took sponsored by my high school to Québec City, way back more than ten years ago. The memories I have from Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Notre Dame de Québec, a boat on the waterfront, a small café where I had a giant croissant and a bowl of hot chocolate for breakfast are some of my most treasured ones. Ten years on, those images are more like still-life paintings than the photos or videos that they used to be, but I will never forget them.

All my life I’ve had a travel bug, but rarely the means to swat it. My mother grew up a military brat, and she was born in Honolulu, lived in Germany at Rammstein Air Force Base, in the Philippines, and she talked about these places from the earliest days of my memory, filling my head with wondrous images of Neuschwanstein Castle, the pink hospital in Honolulu where she was born (which I actually saw when I went there… it’s still there, sitting on the hillside, you can see it from the highway), the veritable fortress surrounded by walls topped with razor wire and broken glass that they lived in when in the Philippines–because at the time Americans weren’t exactly welcome–where one day it rained on one side of the house, snowed on another, while the sun shone merrily out a third window.

These are the pictures I grew up with.

As I got older, and began to truly understand who I am, I knew the kinds of journeys I wanted to take. Many people going to London would be excited by the nightlife, the glitz and glamour, the high-powered shipping… but not me. For me, history is where the wonder is. It’s one of the most frustrating things about living in America for a mind like mine–Americans think that a hundred-year-old building is full of history. I think the great Eddie Izzard put it most succinctly when he sarcastically quipped, in a tone full of false wonder:

We’ve restored this building to how it looked over fifty years ago…

Bah. No sense of time, my fellow Americans.

I’d be most at home in the countryside, as far away from the lights and sound of the city as I could get. My wonder, my joy lies in dreaming of seeing how people live day to day surrounded by so much depth of history. That’s not going to happen this time, but I found a few ways to get a little bit closer.

While researching this trip, I found that most of the best fares to get from Boston to London flew Aer Lingus, with stopovers in Dublin on the way there and the way back. Thanks to a happy confluence of events, I suddenly had the means to pay some extra for a direct flight, but then I had a brainstorm.


The question occurred to me like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky, if you’ll pardon the cliché. Why spend extra on a direct flight and skip a second destination?

Why not use that same money, instead, to make the trip longer?

I could stay a couple of extra days in London, but remember what I said above? When you get down to it, a city’s a city, no matter what. If I’m going through Dublin anyway, why not fulfill a second dream while I’m at it, and spend a couple of days in Ireland?

Okay, but Dublin’s still a city. (I have a friend who’s from Ireland, and she says this all the time.) The only thing different from Boston to Dublin is that the Irish accent’s a little stronger. (I kid.) So how do I get out of the city and see the real Ireland?

So, now my itinerary looks like this:

  • Fly overnight from Boston into Dublin, Ireland.
  • Catch a train from Dublin to Kilkenny (this is where my Irish friend is from)
  • Stay two nights in Kilkenny, soak in as much as possible
  • back to Dublin
  • Fly to London Heathrow
  • Stay 5 nights in London, attending #LonCon3 and seeking the history in the ancient city whenever I have a spare moment
  • Somewhere in here I plan to take a Stonehenge/Bath tour. I mean, come on. How could I not?
  • Take a train south to Crawley, UK
  • Stay two nights in Crawley
  • (Hopefully) Catch a show in Crawley at the Hawth Theatre
  • Fly out of London Gatwick
  • Stopover in Dublin
  • Home at last

Wow. Looking at that is a little daunting, actually. Am I crazy? Maybe.

I’m no travel blogger, but I follow a couple, and I’m using some of their tips and tricks to make this trip a reality. I’ve got a travel credit card whose reward points are instrumental in bringing this journey to life. (It’s a Barclaycard Arrival, for anyone who’s wondering. Great terms, a friendly website, and 40000 bonus points [that’s $400] just for using it reasonably in the first couple of months. I heard about it from NerdWallet.) I’m not staying AT the ExCeL Centre, because that would be crazy and I’m not made of money. Instead, I found a very reasonable hotel just on the south side of the Thames from the ExCeL, which happens to be right near a ferry that hops across, and it’s less than half the price per night. Sure that makes for a little commute to the convention, but IT’S LONDON. It’s not like I’m stuck traveling through someplace boring, right?

With these little tricks, and being willing to compromise only slightly on my proximity to key locations, I’m making real what has literally been a lifelong dream for me.

I’m going to London. And Ireland. I’m going to forge new memories to keep and treasure for the rest of my life.

111 days until #LonCon3 begins. 107 days until I set out on what I hope will quite seriously be the experience of a lifetime.

Are you going to #LonCon3? If you (or someone you know) will be there, drop me a line at eisengoth (at) gmail (dot) com and maybe we can put together a posse!

The Science Fiction of Cyberpunk Has Become Science Fact

Two years ago, when I sat down to start writing on my first novel, THE CESTUS CONCERN, I had it in my head that I was going to be writing a futuristic cyberpunk novel loaded with science fiction. After all, the book was populated with high tech bionic men with abilities far beyond the norm, cybernetic rewiring of brains, and computer controlled minds.

Doing research over the past few months for my second novel, The Cestus Contract, I realized that most of what I had assumed was science fiction had become science fact. Now that book two is out, I’m not quite as sure how far off the science really is…and the realization has blown me away.

The lead character in my Weir Codex series is one Malcolm Weir. A former US Army Ranger, Mal wakes up to find his arms replaced with cybernetic weapons and his mind sharing space with a computer implanted into the base of his skull. Other characters are similarly enhanced — cyborgs with no hearts, men merged into giant robotic suits, and men and women being controlled remotely by computers.

Surely, none of these things are possible in today’s world? Right? That’s what I thought…and boy was I wrong. Let’s take a look at some of what is taking place in the real world of cyberpunk that now exists just outside your window.

Craig Lewis, a 55 year old man, had a continuous flow pump surgically implanted into his body to replace a damaged heart. The device allowed blood to flow through his system without a pulse.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a an artificial “smart” skin that allows machines to mimic the sense of touch. The level of sensitivity of the skin is similar to that of a human’s fingertip. Not only is the skin a huge leap forward for robotics and human-robotic interfacing, but also for prosthetic limbs.

Right now, the US Army is testing what they can an antropomorphic exoskeleton, the HULC, that will enable its wearer to move faster than normal and increase their strength.

The field of bionics and robotic prosthetics has exploded over the past few years. There are now powered bionic appendages that are controlled by thought. Mind controlled bionic legs that possess a full range of motion, bionic hands that feel, and bionic eyes that restore partial sight to the blind.

Robotics is coming along just as fast, with the military testing humanoid robots, robotic “mules” developed to carry equipment and supplies into difficult areas for troops, gun-wielding telepresence battledroids, bird drones, and even a flying robotic “transformer” that will potentially replace manned choppers for troop transportation and resupply missions.

Beyond robots are things like the Kuratas , a Japanese-built mecha prototype. That’s right, I said the Japanese have built a working mech. The thing is about 13 feet tall, is controlled by a pilot who rides in its chest, and can be mounted with weapons. Even more insane is that fact that the Kuratas can be ordered online…

Finally, in the scariest piece of news, a researcher at the University of Washington has performed what is believed to be the first non-invasive human-to-human brain interface. The researcher was able to hook-up and crontrol his subject’s hand via the Internet. Telepresence via robots is one thing, but being able to control a human’s actions remotely is mind-blowing. The thought of what could be done with this particular technology is both terrifying and, now that I have children who must constantly be reminded to do their chores, intriguing.

With each passing day, Cyberpunk becomes less about the world of “what might be” and more about the world outside our windows.

To read more about the exciting cyberpunk adventures of Malcolm Weir, check out the first two novels in the Weir Codex: The Cestus Concern and The Cestus ContractAvailable NOW on Amazon.

Mat Nastos is a TV, Film, comic book, science fiction, fantasy & cyberpunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. His work has been published by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Warp Graphics, Playboy and Highlights for Kids, and has been seen everywhere from the SyFy Channel to Cinemax to the Disney Channel. He is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling Science Fiction Action novel, The Cestus Concern.

You can stay up to date with his latest work by going to his website at

#FlashFictionFriday – Two Pickpockets by M. Todd Gallowglas

What do you want this time?  Didn’t I tell you not to bother me again tonight?  I’ve tucked you in, kissed you, and even brought you a glass of juice.  What else could there be?  You want a story?  Why do you think I should tell you a story?  Well, your mother isn’t here, and she and I do things differently.  Now to bed with you.

A what?  Under where?  How did you get an idea like that?  Your mother told you. I should have known!  Look, boy, there are no goblins, pooka, or boggarts under your bed.  Now that we’ve settled that argument, you can go to sleep.  They wouldn’t be under your bed because it’s too small for them.  Besides, why would they bother with a skinny little boy like you?

Very well, if I tell you a story, will you promise to go to sleep?  Promise me. That’s very good.  Now promise again, and let me see your fingers.  Good, now if you go back on your word I’ll never believe you after.

Many years ago…

What do you mean I’m not doing it right?  I told you:  I do things differently than your mother.  Fine!  I’ll do it the right way.

Once upon a time… Is that better?  Good…  there was a young man who made his profession as a pickpocket.  Yes, right here in Dublin.  Yes, he knew what would happen if they caught him.  I’m getting to that.

He was so great a pickpocket, he’d never been caught in all his days.  The skill with which he worked his hands was so grand, that when he walked down the street money seemed to leap out of people’s pockets and into his.  He was so rich, he did not live on the street or in a shack like most thieves.  No, he lived in a great manor house, and never wanted for anything.

If you keep interrupting me, I’m going to stop telling this story and leave.  Yes, I know the goblins are still under there.  Yes, I know exactly what they’ll do to you.  No, your mother won’t miss you.  I’ll get a street urchin and dress him just like you. She’ll never know the difference.  Yes, I’m serious.  Now quiet, or I won’t finish.

One day the pickpocket, never you mind what his name was, was walking down the street when he noticed his belt felt a bit lighter than it had a moment before.  He looked down, and to his amazement, his purse was gone.  Yes, gone. Just like that!

He looked around and saw a gypsy girl counting the coins out of a purse that looked very much like his own.  That’s because it was his purse.  You’re a bright boy.  You don’t need me to explain everything to you.

Well, the pickpocket circled around and got in front of this gypsy girl and stopped her.  No, I don’t know what her name was either.  Why do you think I know these people?  It’s only a story, which I won’t finish if you keep pestering me with silly questions.

The pickpocket said to the gypsy, “That’s my purse you hold.”  When she tried to run, he stopped her and continued.  “I don’t want to take you to the constable or throw you in the stocks.  I can see that you’re at least as good a pick pocket as I.”  At that he held up his purse, which he had taken from her, unaware.  “I propose that we form a partnership between us, sweep through this city, and pick it clean.”

Being a gypsy, she saw the chance for wealth.  And, as well we know, gypsies are known for their love of any task that earns easy coin.  Her deep brown eyes sparkled with greedy delight and she accepted.  No.  Your mother’s eyes are green.  More like your grandmother’s.

Over the next few years they swept through Dublin.  Not a single man nor woman escaped the two thieves on their quest.  Soon they no longer lived in his manor house, but in a grand palace that was the envy of many kings and queens.  I believe that it still stands to this day.  No we can’t go see it tomorrow, maybe some day when you’re older.  I don’t know when that will be.  Now let me finish.

One night as they feasted on a great supper, the Gypsy girl looked up.  “We should marry,” she said to the pickpocket.  “If you and I were to wed, we might sire a whole race of pickpockets.  Our children will sweep through all lands, and know the riches of the world.”

Since the pickpocket was a stout young man, and she was a pretty young lady, he agreed.  Soon after, they were married.  About a year later she gave birth to a handsome baby boy.

What?  Where do babies come from?  Boy, that is another story for another day.  A day when you are much older.  I’ll tell you that the next time you mother goes to visit her sister, which won’t be for a very long time if I have any say in the matter.  Are you going to let me finish?  Good!

When the mid wife handed the child over, the happy couple looked at their new son.  Upon first glance, they saw the grandest child ever born in Ireland.  Then they saw a problem with the boy.  His right arm was paralyzed up against his chest.  They didn’t know why, and neither did the midwife.  All they knew was, his right hand was balled into a fist, and his arm could not be pried from his body.

What do you think they did about it?  They were rich.  What do most rich people do when they get injured or sick?  That’s right.  They seek out a healer, and that’s what the pickpocket and the gypsy did.  The two of them gathered their massive fortune and traveled all throughout the lands seeking a healer or surgeon to aid their child.  Yes, they loved him so much they were willing to pay a thousand surgeon’s prices.

I do love you that much.  Unfortunately, we haven’t got that much money.  Quiet now, or I’ll spend some money to find a healer to cure you of your voice.

For a year they traveled, but to no avail.  Not one of these men of medicine could tell them of a way to aid their son.  Finally, with little hope they returned to Dublin.  There was only one man they had not seen: Magnus Maxwell, Surgeon and healer unparalleled.  Yes, the same Magnus Maxwell that comes for supper every so often.

After many tests Magnus, like all the others, could not tell what ailed the boy.  He did, however; notice that the child watched his every move with keen eyes.  Magnus then brought forth his gold pocket-watch, and waved it before the child’s eyes.  Yes, like the watch I have.

As the watch waved, a bit of sunlight caught it, and the boy smiled a great, beaming smile as only an innocent babe can.

Then a miracle happened.  The boy’s arm started to reach toward the pocket watch.  His arm moved slowly, ever so slowly.  Because he’d never used the arm before, the muscles strained.  A moment later, the child could almost just barely touch the watch.  As the boy opened his fingers to take it, the midwife’s gold ring fell from his grasp.

Where did the ring come from?  You’re a bright boy.  I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.  No I won’t just tell you.  Now, you’ve been tucked in, kissed good night, had your juice, and heard a story.  I don’t want to hear any more about the goblins or boggarts.  Good night to you, boy.

Good night.

#FlashFictionFriday — Mr. FIXIT by Christopher Kellen

“Excuse me. My designation is FIXIT-4. I am unable to complete a routine maintenance task without human input. Would you kindly assist me?”

The human ignored it. They always did.

Its task was simple enough, but FIXIT-4’s programming did not include the proper configuration for the system’s central processor. Without the proper input, the system would not function correctly, and so it was unable to bring it back online.

Clearly its task was a low priority, but FIXIT-4 was required to continue speaking with every human that it encountered until someone granted it the assistance that it needed in order to complete it.

As it shuffled through the corridors, it paid special attention to each of the maintenance tasks that it came across. It re-routed the flow from the engine core while it repaired a conduit which had stopped transmitting power. It re-soldered the connections between one of the computer terminals and its input device, ensuring that the terminal would continue to function un-interrupted. No one noticed or acknowledged its careful work.

It was some hours later before it came upon another human.

“Excuse me,” FIXIT-4 began again, as it had so many times before. “My designation is FIXIT-4. I am unable to complete a routine maintenance task without human input. Would you kindly assist me?”

Once again, as always, the human ignored it.

FIXIT-4 moved on again. There was no reason to ask twice. If its request was not acknowledged on the first try, he was under no obligation to make his request to the same human a second time, though the possibility of an exemption did exist. Eventually, its programming assured him, someone would respond and allow it to bring the system back online.

It was not permitted to stop all other functions in order to seek an answer to its query. It activated backups and repaired crucial ductwork in corridor 7A. The cargo lift on deck nine had been acting up, and it recalibrated the sensors so that they would provide the correct amount of antigravity when activated. Its tasks continued to roll in, transmitted to him by the central maintenance system, and it performed them, one by one, without complaint.

Normally, the tasks would have been ordered by importance via input from the central computer, but it had been some time since FIXIT-4 had received a prioritization order. It checked its internal chronometer. Thirty-one million, five hundred and sixty eight thousand, four hundred and twenty nine seconds had passed since its last prioritization order. Before that, they had come in average intervals of five-point-seven-nine seconds.

FIXIT-4 did not think that there was anything strange about the lapse in time. The order would arrive when it was transmitted from the central computer. Prioritization orders required human input, and as such, were beyond the scope of its duties.

After some time, there was only one task remaining on FIXIT-4’s list.

It crossed the entire ship from aft to bow. There was a human outside the Atmospheric Control station, but FIXIT-4 had already requested his assistance previously, and had been ignored.

It queried the maintenance computer. Request query exemption, one-time basis.

After thirty-three milliseconds, the response came back. Granted.

“Excuse me. My designation is FIXIT-4. I am unable to complete a routine maintenance task without human input. Would you kindly assist me?”

Still no answer. The human stared at FIXIT-4 with unblinking eyes.

FIXIT-4 waited patiently until the maintenance computer assigned it a new task, and moved on.

Don’t Tweet Me Bad

Over the weekend, it came out that New York ComicCon actually hijacked the Twitter accounts of its patrons to post enthusiastic self-promoting tweets.

This was not an accident. It was not some technological FUBAR, and it was not an innocent mistake. As Ben Silverman at Yahoo!Games says: “…it was by design. By nefarious, promotional, fine-print design.

See, NYCC was using RFID (that’s radio frequency identification, for those who aren’t as tech-savvy) tags in their badges as a security measure. This way it ties the badge to the person, to prevent people from passing off their badges to someone else. That’s fine (I guess, but my rant on that would take up another post entirely) well and good, except that the con promoters encouraged the badge-holders to link up their social media accounts. When they did, their social media passwords (Facebook, Twitter and probably more) were passed via the RFID tag to the con promoters, who had set up an automated system that blasted tweets that didn’t belong to their owners.

This. Is. Just. Wrong.

I realize that we’re living in an ever-more-connected world. Privacy is nearly a thing of the past (again, another rant for another time) and it seems like we’re handing out our personal information to anyone who’s got a website. An adage repeated more and more on the web is: if the site is free, you’re not a user; you’re the productWe are what’s being sold, and we’re mostly oblivious to it.

Until it gets obvious.

Just attending a con does not give the showrunners permission to post their awkward poetry to my social media stream. (Here’s the picture to illustrate my point.) My opinions are mine, and that’s why my social media account is password-protected. I don’t mind signing in to an app if a con I’m going to wants to produce one, but they’d better be treating my data (especially my damn passwords!) like any reputable company. Using my passwords to login to my social media accounts to post self-promotional drivel makes me look bad. What if I don’t agree? What if I don’t “love” NYCC? What if I’m annoyed by the crowds and a staff member just treated me like crap? That’s hardly the perfect time to be blowing your own horn.

NYCC has since apologized for the “perceived overstep” (nice weasel words there) and called it an “opt-in” service. It might technically be opt-in if you’ve buried the language in your TOS, but unless it comes up with a bright-colored pop-up window that says “WARNING: YOU’RE ABOUT TO GIVE US UNFETTERED ACCESS TO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS TO POST STUFF ON YOUR BEHALF” I’m going to call it what it is.


Since they got caught, I’m sure it won’t happen again. Still, many genre fans (including myself) are regular convention-goers. We’re not the ones who put these events on, but we’re the ones that makes them mean something by showing our support with our dollars and our time, which is why this news is so important for us. I have to say, if something like this had happened to me, it would make me seriously think twice about attending any convention a second time.

Review: In Siege of Daylight by Gregory S. Close

siegeofdaylight-smIn Siege of Daylight is the fantasy debut of author Gregory S. Close.

This book is the epic-est of epic fantasy. Full stop. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a door-stopper like this one, and even longer since I’ve enjoyed one half as much.

Some books work on the strength of their world-building. Others falter when it comes to the world, but pull you through on the strength of the characters alone. Others may have a stirring plot that carries from beginning to end, with a masterful weaving of threads throughout. I am glad to say that Greg Close succeeds on all three accounts, something much easier to say than to do. His characterization is strong, his world-building simply staggering, and the story itself is brilliant. Though at times, due to its immense length, I found myself wondering whether a certain point-of-view was entirely necessary, the end pulled them all together and left me with an understanding that yes, indeed, they are all necessary.

In the past few decades, many fantasy writers seem to be plying their trade with a certain sense of secret shame and/or irony. Perhaps the most famous work in fantasy right now is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (thanks in large part to its HBO adaptation), which is a thorough deconstruction of the fantasy tropes introduced by Tolkien and carried like buckets of water by the following generations, slowly slopping their meaning and wonder over the sides as they labor beneath the weight of the grandfather of fantasy.

Greg Close takes precisely the opposite tack. His story runs directly into the face of the fantasy tropes that we’ve been reading for years, and instead of shrinking from them, he embraces them without irony, incorporating them into his world. Instead of being shackled to the norms of fantasy, he bends them to his own purposes, allowing things to feel simultaneously familiar and new. This story contains many of the things we all expect to see in the most cliche fantasy: a young prince with a destiny, a star-struck backwoods boy, knights and kings, mysterious elves, dwarves beneath the mountains, and more–and yet there is enough new imagination here to make these creaking and aged tropes feel young again.

This is a lofty comparison indeed, but In Siege of Daylight works for many of the same reasons that Star Wars: A New Hope does. At their core they are both the Hero’s Journey, but they each contain enough real wonder, enough heart and strength in storytelling that, as a fantasy fan, it may feel like you’re reading about things that you know like the back of your hand for the very first time.

~Reviewed by Christopher Kellen   ChristopherKellen