Book Review: Dark Space

Dark Space: Humanity is Defeated is the first book of six in the Dark Space series by Jasper T. Scott. There are also three books in an accompanying series Dark Space Universe. When I signed up for Jasper’s newsletter, I received a copy for free and reached out to him. I was not disappointed.

Once Ethan started down a road, he never looked back. It was looking forward he sometimes had trouble with—whether that meant moving on from his wife, Destra, or simply looking to the future with something more than abject pessimism.

Humanity is defeated.

As the human race began to spread across the universe, building portals to cross large distances, they did not go unnoticed. When the Sythians attacked, people fought back. However, the Sythian’s superior numbers and ability to cloak their ships from sight soon gave them the advantage and humans became the latest casualty in their galaxy-wide reign of terror. The last survivors use the gates to reach Dark Space, a corner of the universe generally inhospitable and once used as a penal colony. They live their lives under the rule of the Imperium, the only form of law left. The ISS is responsible for guarding the gate from Sythian attack. While their backs are turned, crime runs rampant in Dark Space at the end of the human race.

A vast backdrop of stars sparkled all around Ethan’s head, just on the other side of the nova interceptor’s thin transpiranium cockpit canopy. The stars seemed so close he could touch them, but Ethan couldn’t allow himself to be distracted by the view. He targeted the nearest enemy fighter and brought the red brackets under his crosshairs.

Ethan Ortane is no stranger to crime. An ex-con who was already exiled to Dark Space when the Sythian’s attacked, Ethan is a smuggler on the run from Alec Brondi. Brondi runs the crime syndicate in Dark Space and Ethan owes him money for fixing his ship. When Brondi finally catches up with him, he takes Ethan’s ship and co-pilot captive and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. All Ethan has to do is one little job and he will be free and clear. He just has to destroy the Imperium.

With no plan and no backup, Ethan assumes the identity of an ISS soldier and boards the Valiant, their fleet carrier. He soon realizes that the ISS is involved in much more than merely guarding the gate to Dark Space and that Brondi was less than truthful with him about his role on the Valiant. Fighting for his life and faced with shocking revelations, Ethan must make a choice that will change the fate of the human race forever.

“Whenever I see that ship, I see the ISS. I see 10,000 years of accumulated civilization. I see the endless beaches and crystal blue waters of Hanlay; the urban utopias of Advistine, Gorvin, and Clementa, but most of all I see the soaring snow-covered mountains of Roka IV, the skies purpling just before a storm; I see the canyon cities and the glarier parks…” Ethan turned from the transpiranium to find the overlord standing beside him, looking at him curiously. Ethan shook his head sadly. “And then I try to imagine it all gone, but I can’t.”

Great Characters and Stellar Writing

This book was remarkably well written and edited. I found no typos in the book as I was reading and the writing style was fast-paced and engaging. The plot flows beautifully, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing without being overdone. The characters are flawed and disreputable and wonderfully human.

Personally, I adore science fiction but I find it a challenge to find truly well written books that manage to walk the delicate balance between suspension of disbelief and enough explanation of the science fiction elements to make sense of the world. Scott is an expert world-builder, drawing me into the universe of Dark Space with its nova fighters and beam cannons and space gates. There are no lengthy explanations of mechanics or political treatises. Instead, the important information is seamlessly woven into the story in a way that allows readers to understand without taking them out of the plot.

Five Stars

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Dark Space is a magnificent blend of Firefly, Stargate, and Ender’s Game, keeping readers of any of these franchises hooked from the very first page. The book is ranked #9 in Amazon’s Kindle Store under Prime Reading Science Fiction and #11 on Amazon in the category Cyberpunk Science Fiction. It is the best space based science fiction novel that I have read in years and I can’t wait to dive into the rest of this intriguing series as soon as I get the chance.

 

 

Author Interview with Jasper T. Scott

I’m currently reading Dark Space: Humanity is Defeated by Jasper T. Scott. Scott is a USA Today bestselling author of 14 science fiction novels. Humanity is Defeated is the first book in the 6 book saga Dark Space and I am enthralled so far. Scott was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and let us know a little more about his writing process and what he is working on now.

Dark Space

What inspired you the most while writing this book?
My personal situation was great inspiration for some of it. A down on his luck freelancer with a lot of debt–that was me!

Which character in your book do you relate to the most? Why?
Ethan Ortane. He’s basically me, but older, with a more complicated personal life.

What is the most important thing that you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope they come away from having read it enthralled with the universe I created and anxious to read more! In a word, I hope they come away feeling thoroughly entertained.

Inspiration

Which other authors have inspired or influenced you the most?
Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Dean R. Koontz, Wilbur Smith

Writing Process

Can you share a little bit about your writing process?
I sit down and write, every day except for Sundays, for at least six to ten hours a day. I let my mind wander after hours and at every moment in-between writing, and as the ideas come to me, I write them down. It’s a plan-as-you-go method that saves a lot of time over outlining everything in advance and trying to force the ideas to flow. Sometimes I’ll outline the next five to ten chapters, and I’ll usually have a good idea about how I want to end the book by the time I’m a third to halfway through. Oh, and I always read and edit the previous day’s work first thing the next day. That helps me keep track of what I’ve written and where I’m going next.

Tell us about your next book.
In 2048, a wealthy man is in hospital with his 12-yr-old daughter, waiting for her test results. He finds out her cancer is back, and she only has a few months to live. Rather than bow to the inevitable, he decides to hit pause on that clock through cryo-freezing. He bribes the doctor to falsify medical records so he can bend the rules (terminal patients only) and then join his daughter in cryo.

They wake up an unspecified amount of time later, in the dark. The air outside their cryo pods is freezing, and they soon find out that there’s no gravity. They assume that mean’s they’re on a space station in orbit, but they can’t figure out why terminal cryo patients would be transferred to space. Then emergency lights come on and some other people wake up. They leave their pods to find people dead all over the station.

In the process of exploring they find out that they’re on a spaceship, not a space station, and they’re orbiting an alien planet, not Earth.

What follows is an unfolding mystery in an epic new sci-fi universe.

Good Advice

What is the best piece of writing advice that you have ever received?
Self-publish. Back then it wasn’t the best advice, but a couple years later it became the new wave in publishing, and that doesn’t look like it’s about to change. Self-published indie authors are the new professionals, and we’re far better at doing what publishers do than what they ever were. So many people I know who’ve been traditionally published (even previously successful indie authors) ended up languishing in obscurity because their publishers simply weren’t motived to market and sell their books. They do as little as possible and hope your book succeeds all by itself. Then if it does, they step in and take credit for that success–along with the majority of the profits. I far prefer to control the process myself, because unlike a publisher, I am motivated to make each of my books succeed.

 

 

Currently Reading: Dark Space: Humanity is Defeated

Jasper T. Scott’s series Dark Space caught my eye on the Novel Blogs Reading List. A science fiction series about the possible end of the human race, I can’t wait to dive into this first book of the trilogy.

With the Sythians determined to annihilate mankind, the galaxy’s remaining survivors are forced into hiding. Can pilot and ex-con Ethan Ortane save the human race?

Review – Wolf

Wolf

John Legg’s novel Wolf answers a question you have probably never asked yourself. What would happen if a werewolf were to try to navigate America’s Wild West during the age of stage coaches and telegraphs? The answer is as bloody as you might expect.

Alone, he could be what he was, doing what he wanted without having to hide his activities or his…eccentricities. He could howl, he could growl, eat what he wished and how he desired.

wolflwebJohn Schilling is a lot of things. Loner. Bounty Hunter. Werewolf. When he rides his large horse Black Ghost into Lupine, Colorado, all he wants is to collect the bounty on the dead men tied to his saddle, spend a few days in town, and get back to the solitude of the wilderness. Instead, a series of events lands him with a new job as Marshal of Lupine, a new girl, and a new enemy in Mr. Pettigrew, the nefarious rancher who owns most of the town and terrifies the other half. He soon finds himself torn between the two halves of himself, wanting to stay with Meg Travers and settle down and knowing that his wolf self wants only blood and violence. Soon the grisly deaths in Lupine begin to attract attention and the arrival of a werewolf hunter in town soon sends things spiraling to a horrifying conclusion.

Monstrous Themes

Wolf is a very interesting blend of fantasy and western. The sinister horror of the werewolf, depicted as a true uncontrollable monster, shines through every page, while the intrigue of keeping order among dangerous men as the Marshal keeps the human aspect at the surface.

A recurring theme in Wolf is that of monsters, more often human than not. There is an abusive alcoholic father planning to rape his daughter. There is the rich rancher Pettigrew, who believes that his wealthy and influence allow him any liberty, including rape and murder. There are Pettigrew’s men, following in their boss’s footsteps to create an atmosphere of terror in the small town.  Alongside characters such as these, a bloodthirsty werewolf hardly seems like the worst thing in town.

Almost as bad as these characters are those who sit back and allow the cruelty and violence to escalate due to their own cowardice or skewed priorities. This is an issue for most of the population of Lupine, all of them too afraid of Pettigrew to protest his tyranny, even when people around them are dying. During the brutal final confrontation, there are two men who stand out. The young deputy and the werewolf hunter bear witness to acts of horrific cruelty to innocent women and do nothing to stop them. Neither of them are depicted as especially bad men. The werewolf hunter, despite being the nemesis of the main character, is arguably a good man trying to do the right thing, trying to kill the beast who rips men to shreds each month. In his quest to kill the werewolf, which he converts the timid deputy to believe in, he allows evil things to happen which make him just as culpable as the monster he hunts.

Falling in love was something he had always guarded against. Should the stirrings of such feelings arise, he would always move on, lest he fall into that trap.

Fatal Flaws

I wanted to like Wolf. I wanted to love it. I am so interested in innovation and authors who are not afraid to take risks and try something new. Like Werewolves in the Wild West. However, Wolf had some serious flaws that I found difficult to overlook.

Typos

First of all, Wolf was not particularly well edited. There were several typos right off the bat in the prologue and first chapter, and while there were few found in the rest of the novel, it gave the initial appearance that not much care was given to proof-reading.  Admittedly, this is not entirely Legg’s fault as the novel was published through a publishing house with an editing service that should have caught at least a majority of these errors. This doesn’t completely absolve Legg though, and I was forced to knock off a star from my score as a result.

Rape Culture

A key aspect of westerns, and to an extent any historical fiction, is the darker side of the past. Westerns tend to glorify the Wild West, portraying the era as a time of freedom on the open plains. Unfortunately, that freedom came at the expense of the rights of others, and sexism, racism, and homophobia were rampant. In Wolf, I expected these things. What really irked me while reading was the way in which the rape or threat of rape to female characters was used to further the main male character’s plot-line.

Meg, The Love Interest, her mother, and Schilling’s land lady are the only three female characters in the novel, at least those who exist outside of being threatened with rape by one of The Bad Guys. Rape is often used as a convenient shorthand for showing that characters are Bad Guys. Of the three female characters, Meg is threatened with rape multiple times, from the very first scene she appears in, and her mother is violently gang raped to teach Schilling a lesson. She later chooses to die heroically rather than live with her Shame. Meg doesn’t die literally, but experiences a sort of metaphorical death at the end of the novel. Throughout the story though, women are consistently portrayed as being weak victims in need of saving. John, despite protestations of love, consistently acts in ways which put the women in entirely avoidable danger.

Legg clearly doesn’t believe many women will read his book, and it is true that the primary demographic for Westerns is men, but the trope of the helpless-virgin-in-constant-need of-rescue-who-gives-her-virginity-to-her-rescuer-and-it-destroys-her-life is overdone and stale and borderline sexist in this day and age. I understand that Western writers need to straddle the line between what was acceptable and probable at the time and what is acceptable today, but to me it seemed that Legg went too far to one side. Honestly, this was a large reason why I gave Wolf the score that I did.

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I am giving Wolf three stars. While there were parts of it that I enjoyed, there were also parts that didn’t work for me. Overall, this was an average story. Despite its innovative approach, it followed the Western conventions to a T. It was interesting enough to keep me engaged until the last page, but it didn’t blow my mind. If Westerns are your thing though, check out Wolf or some of Legg’s 50 other Western novels. Not all of them have Werewolves.

 

Author Interview with John Legg

John’s genre bending novel is keeping me riveted at the moment as I finish it and write up the review. In the meantime, enjoy this brief interview that John was kind enough to provide me with.

 

Wolf

What inspired you the most while writing this book?
I’m not that big on reading horror/supernatural, but I enjoy the old horror movies: The original Frankenstein, Wolfman, etc. One day, awhile back, the basic idea just hit me. I’ve written a fair number of Westerns, and I had a flash that perhaps a wolfman in a Western. Not the most startling inspiration, but there it is.

Which character in your book do you relate to the most? Why?
Well, John, of course. 🙂 Who else but the hero would I relate to? 🙂 Seriously, other than the bad guys there are not many other male characters. Of those, I probably identify most with Marshal Clay Bannister. He’s honest (which I think I am), strong (which I’d like to be) and dedicated. A good guy, all in all.

What is the most important thing that you hope readers take away from your book?
A sense of enjoyment at a good, somewhat different story that somehow touches them.

Inspirations

Which other authors have inspired or influenced you the most?
Originally, a woman named Janice Holt Giles had the most influence and inspiration. If I hadn’t read one of her books, I might never have become a writer. Since then, I don’t know. I think I pick up inspiration or influence subconsciously. But hopefully not too much of the latter. I don’t want to emulate others. I have my own voice, I think, though I can certainly be inspired by others. I do read several authors whom I’d like to write as well as.

Can you share a little bit about your writing process?
I’m a seat of the pants writer. I might have a bare-bones synopsis, but that usually changes, and changes a lot. With my Westerns, I’ve been doing them so long and reading related nonfiction so long that I have a good idea of what I’m doing. If I come across something I need but don’t know offhand, I’ll research it. Wolf, on the other hand, took more research. I had the Western part down, of course. It was the wolf part that took a lot of researching.

What’s Next?

Tell us about your next book.
Depends on what you mean by next book. If the next one out, that’s one from my backlist, which should be out soon on Kindle. It’s original title was “Medicine Wagon,” but it will be coming out as “Doc McGill.” If you mean what am I working on, I have two in the works. If I get suck on one, I’ll work on the other for a while. One is a sequel to two of my backlist books that came out recently: “Winter Rage” and “Blackfoot Dawn.” The other is a hybrid of mountain man/traditional. I recently had another paranormal come out: “Dead Man’s Gun.” It’s either a longish short story or a very short novella. Other than that, there are no more paranormals on the way.

Good Advice

What is the best piece of writing advice that you have ever received?
Write, write, write. Basically, just do it, to use the cliche. The more you write (hopefully) the better you get.

Currently Reading: Wolf

I have been in correspondence with prolific Western writer John Legg, who has published over 50 westerns and has recently branched out into Wolf, a western fantasy novel. I always love a good genre mash-up, so when I came across Wolf on the Cheap Kindle Books reading list, I was instantly intrigued.
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Bounty hunter John Schilling carries a dark secret with him as he travels his lonely way across the West. But not only is he a man hunter, he is a man hunted. A curse cast upon his father a century ago is buried deep in him, eating at his soul. Because of it, he keeps to himself, always. Until he meets the beautiful Meg Travers. When Meg is threatened, he can no longer hide his true nature, and gives free rein to his wolf-self. And for those who would harm Meg, hell comes calling.

 

 

Book Review- The Bones of the Earth

The Bones of the Earth by Scott Bury is a part of the Book Club Reading List and is truly an asset to the fantasy bones-cover-final-for-web-683x1024section of the website. Fast paced and detailed, it will keep readers hooked until the last page.

“Civilization is abhorrent to them… Civilized men learn how the world works, which gives them power over darkness and ignorance. The monsters know this and hate it. Their power is based on fear and ignorance… Knowledge banishes ignorance, banishes fear.”

The Bones of the Earth

The Bones of the Earth is a historical fantasy novel set during the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Dark Ages. Javor, a young man from a small village far from the Empire’s borders, thought his life would never change. He would marry his sweetheart, continue to work alongside his father and mother, and be content. When his girlfriend is captured by raiders, Javor and his friend set off with his grandfather’s dagger to rescue her, setting off a chain-reaction which leads to his parent’s deaths, a confrontation with an ogre, and a dragon following him home. The village elders decide to cast Javor out, convinced that the troubles that have beset their home will follow him and leave them in peace. Javor sets off for Constantinople with an old wanderer as his guide, who tells him that he has been chosen to fight monsters and the forces of darkness seeking to destroy the world.

“Of old, a race of immortals arose on the earth and they began a war to rid the earth of the monsters. Some they imprisoned deep under the earth, others they pushed into the depths of the Ocean Sea, and some they simply slew with swords and other weapons. These monster-killers traveled around the world, destroyed many monsters and earned many names for themselves: Zeus, Apollo, Gilgamesh, Herakles, Siegfried. There are many stories, and some of them are simply fabrications. But doubt not, dear boy, that all those stories have some essence of fact, or at least they once did.”

Variations on a Theme

By: johanferreira15

At its heart, The Bones of the Earth has a lot in common with fantasy novels like Eragon and The Sword of Truth saga. It follows the familiar pattern of a young boy who has lead a seemingly normal life suddenly having tragedy and destiny thrust upon him and learning that he is much more than he thought he was. This theme has been played over and over in fantasy, those familiar with Star Wars or The Wheel of Time will recognize it. However, just because it has been done repeatedly, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still work. Bury has done a wonderful job of using this framework to set his story into motion, while keeping it fresh and interesting.

Are monsters sneaking up on us? Javor wondered. I never used to believe in monsters. Now I suppose I have to.

Historical Accuracy

One thing that sets The Bones of the Earth apart from other novels like it is the way it incorporates actual historical places, customs, and ideas into the story. Bury has used the superstition and lore of the Dark Ages to weave a story that maintains a thread of realism and veracity in the face of dragons and demons. The details of village life at the time, the rise of Christianity, and the slow decline of the Roman Empire, all contrast nicely with vampire attacks, secret sects, and dark magic rituals. Bury has clearly done a great deal of research for this novel and it truly sets The Bones of the Earth apart from a novel of pure fantasy set in a mythical land.

Why do gods and dragons, with all their strength and so called wisdom, why do they care if men worship them?

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I am giving The Bones of the Earth 5 stars for its vivid characters and intriguing plot twists. The story continues to evolve and reveal new betrayals until the very end. The ending will leave readers satisfied with the resolution of the plot, while also aware that there is more to come from Javor in the next novel.

Summer Reading List

Once more, I’ve been doing a bit more writing than reading this summer. My novella was accepted by a publisher and I just finished the editor’s suggestions. Once I know more about the release date, I will be posting more info!

  1. Hannibal by Thomas Harris
  2. Carmilla by Joseph Le Fanu
  3. Miss Peregrine’s School For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  4. Crown of Crimson by Rose Reid
  5. Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb
  6. The Bones of the Earth by Scott Bury
  7. Indulgence in Death by J. D. Robb

I finished Harris’s Hannibal series up this summer and checked out the classic Carmilla, which was actually the first vampire novel, predating Dracula by nearly 30 years. Since Carmilla was a female vampire, and also contains suggestions of homosexuality, it has been overshadowed by Dracula, which borrowed heavily from aspects of the earlier novel. I reviewed Crown of Crimson for Online Book Club and you can check out my review there. I loved Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children and I can’t wait to see the upcoming movie. Fantasy and Indulgence in Death crossed off 30 and 31 of my list as I work my way through the series. Stay tuned for my upcoming review of The Bones of the Earth, which will be published soon.

Author Interview with Scott Bury


Author Scott Bury, whose book The Bones of the Earth  I am currently reviewing, agreed to answer a few questions for me.

The Bones of the Earth

What inspired you the most while writing this book?
It was the way so many different historical events and trends seemed to come together in the Dark Age. The impetus for the book was to write a story about dragons for my children. But I wanted to break the model that so many dragon stories seemed to take for a long time: friendly dragons. Instead, I wanted to draw upon the ancient mythology from many different cultures, where dragons represent the deepest, most powerful force on earth. Dragons interests are not those of human civilization, who dragons will not be friendly to people.
Through the writing, I continued to find more inspiration from mythology and history, especially where they intersected. For example, I once heard, somewhere (although I cannot find it now), that someone worked out that King Arthur and Beowulf died in the same year, 535 CE. And that’s the same year that Krakoa erupted in Indonesia, releasing so much ash into the atmosphere that it caused a worldwide “year without summer.” That precipitated the fall of civilizations and nations around the world, including in Mesoamerica, Asia and Europe. It caused the fall of the Juan-Juan confederacy in Asia, and ultimately the invasion of the Avars into Europe, as well as the first appearance of the Black Plague in the Roman Empire.

Which character in your book do you relate to the most? Why?
The main character, Javor, is based on my two sons, so in many ways, I relate to him. But I also relate to some of the father figures, such as Austinus, the head of the Gnostic order; and Valgus, the wounded Roman Legate.
One of my friends told me I reminded him of Photius, the wandering warrior/magician/healer. That disappointed me, because to me, Photius is a bit of a blowhard who does not know as much as he pretends to.

What is the most important thing that you hope readers take away from your book?
That people who are different from their society’s expectations deserve respect, because they can do things that most people cannot. Also, that when human civilization divorces the needs of the natural environment, ultimately it’s humans that will suffer most.

Scott’s Writing Process

Which other authors have inspired or influenced you the most?
Tolkien, obviously, as well as the author of Beowulf; the many authors of the Arthur stories.
Stylistically, I like writers with a clear, simple expository style, like John Updike and John Irving; authors who are not afraid to expose their own vulnerabilities, like William Styron; and independent authors like Toby Neal, Elise Stokes, Bruce Blake, Gary Henry and Benjamin Wretlind.

Can you share a little bit about your writing process?
I believe strongly in outlines. I need to develop a story, a direction. I have to know where the hero is going before I start writing. Often, the characters will surprise me, and the outline changes as I write, or gets more complicated. But I have the overall story arc worked out before I start writing the first chapter.

Tell us about your next book.
The sequel to The Bones of the Earth will be The Triumph of the Sky. It picks up the story of Javor a few years after the end of The Bones of the Earth. He has his own house in Constantinople, and has married the daughter of a wealthy merchant. He has also become the main warrior for the secret Gnostic order, of which Malleus is now the head.
Bones was based on the number 3: 3 parts, three villains, three quests. Triumph will be based on the number 7: 7 parts, 7 missions, 7 children.
And you can expect several major twists. One is that this period historically featured the deliberate suppression of Gnostic philosophy by the Christian church.

Good Advice

What is the best piece of writing advice that you have ever received?
Write every day.

Currently Reading: The Bones of the Earth

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In the darkest time of the Dark Age, as barbarians raid across the broken Roman Empire at will and the earth itself turns on human civilization, a young man comes of age when his parents are murdered. Javor’s search for revenge brings him an ancient heirloom of great power: a blade that can cut through dragon hide.
Rejected by his people, Javor heads for the center of civilization: Constantinople. On the way, he rescues a beautiful young woman and cannot help falling in love. But Danisa has her own agenda.

 

 

 

Author Scott Bury is a member of Book Club Reading List.