Book Review: Ender’s Game

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars – I highly recommend this book!

Overview: Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel written by Orson Scott Card in 1985. It’s the first book in a 5 part series.

Spoiler Free Plot: Ender Wiggin is a young boy genius and is recruited into an intense military tactical training school in preparation for the 3rd invasion against the buggers – an alien race.

Review: I grew to love Ender Wiggin. His character was very likable and instantly drew me in. I was always intrigued by his trials and tribulations throughout his tactical training school. Even more so, I was enthralled by his genius. Orson Scott Card brought his character to life.

The first 3 chapters used terms before the reader knew what they meant. I’m sure it was a tactic to draw the reader in, but I was a little put off by it. None the less, once I fully understood the meaning behind the terms, I was already drawn in by the story. Near the end of the conflict, I had caught on to the ending before it was revealed, though I don’t think that ruined the novel at all. The chapter after the end of the conflict that was supposed to bring closure to all the loose ends was a bit strange. It rubbed me the wrong way, just as the first 3 chapters did – but regardless, the book was wildly entertaining!

I am a dedicated fantasy fan. As long as there is a fantasy book I haven’t read, I would rather read that before I switch genres. But, with Ender’s Game being a sci-fi novel, I thought I should give it a shot because of the movie that has come out – and I was blown away. This made me want to check out other sci-fi books, and that’s saying something.

San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Book Promo Ideas

Comic Con is a 4-day event filled with booths, attractions, and more for every sci-fi and fantasy entertainment medium for all ages. Some say it is a celebration of the popular arts, but the industry uses this event as the mecca for promoting all nerd-related activities.

During my visit on Saturday (July 20th), I saw streets filled with people. I passed by screenwriters working on their WIP in a coffee shop, I saw celebrities, I saw numerous people dressed as their favorite characters, and I saw bloggers & reports capturing their experiences in photos and words. To get an idea of how huge this event is, in 2010 they filled the San Diego Convention Center to capacity (130,000) and ever since, they have been expanding the booths and attractions out into the public, taking over streets, occupying vacant business buildings, and taking over and converting restaurants and hotels. It’s a massive event, and when I was approached by 5 girls – all wearing red clothing and red wigs – they handed me the promotional bookmark and button for Pierce Brown’s next science fiction novel: Red Rising (published by Del Rey Books). The back side of the bookmark says it is the most anticipated novel in 2014, and contains a bunch of great reviews. This is a brilliant promotional strategy.

First, everyone at Comic Con is wearing a lanyard; whether it’s a unique one from the booth, or the standard one issued that holds your ticket, the lanyard becomes the location for everyone to show off their “flare”. It gets filled with buttons and pins. Secondly, giving everyone a functional promotional item – like a bookmark – is FAR better than a flier. It stands a much greater chance of actually being used, which creates longevity in the life of the promotion. I was really impressed at the thought that was put behind this simple marketing strategy, but it lacked one critical component…

Someone in a picture-worthy costume to pass out the fliers. Giving out a flier is one thing, but making it into a bunch of people’s photo albums is one of the greatest ways to inject yourself into their memory of their experience at Comic Con. Mark my words, as soon as I have a release date for The Soul Smith, I will hand-build an epic cosplay of Erador (the character on my cover) and walk around while passing out bookmarks and buttons at Comic Con.

Book Review: Dragon Champion

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars. My favorite book of all time!

Overview: This is a fantasy novel by E. E. Knight written entirely from a dragon’s perspective. It is book 1 out of 6 in The Age of Fire series.

Spoiler Free Plot: The book begins with Auron hatching out of his egg. The reader is quickly engrossed in the life and culture of a dragon and his family, learning the stages of their development (breathing fire, sprouting wings, etc). In addition, Auron is a grey dragon, which means he doesn’t have scales like the other colors, but he became the champion of his clutch (hence the title of the novel). Once Auron is out on his own, he encounters a wide variety of unique allies throughout his adventures as he tries to find his place as a dragon in a world where they are becoming increasingly rare.

Review: This instantly became my favorite book ever! Viewing the world from a dragon’s eyes made everything seem foreign and new.  The amount of thought put behind the culture of dragons (how they communicate, the way their name changes as they reach a certain stage of their life, how they get new scales, the unique names for their front and back limbs, etc) was part of why this book captured me as a reader. There was a balance of humor, action, adventure, suspense, and wonder throughout this whole book. It was gripping.

I’d also like to give props to E. E. Knight for not using a single curse word throughout the novel. In addition, I felt that the relationships the Auron formed were real. The vast assortment of characters really come to life; this book was a pleasure to read and is easily my #1 recommended book from here on out. I can’t wait to finish reading the rest of the series.

Apple Guilty of Price Fixing Ebooks

On 7/10/2013, Apple was found guilty of being the ring leader of a price fixing scandal on ebooks. They colluded with these major publishing groups, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, which all quickly gave in to the accusation and agreed to settlements – leaving only Apple to be the only company that went to trial. Apple made sure that the main publishers all agreed to sell their ebook at the $14.99 price, which would make Amazon eventually raise their ebooks from the $9.99 price point up to $14.99 too.

You can read the full article here.

Related to this price fixing scandal were the previous concerns that many consumers had of why some ebooks are priced higher than hardcovers. Understanding the context of how the prices of books are decided will paint the picture for why Steve Jobs’ “Agency Model” was a scheme to fix the prices. While you can read the full article here, I will provide a short synopsis to explain what is going on behind the scenes with book prices.

If a printed book is listed for $25, half of that goes back to the publisher (which then gets divided among author, agent, and publisher), and the other half goes toward the retail chain. This allows a profit buffer for the retailer to discount the book and still make money (because the publisher will still make half of the original list price no matter what the book gets discounted to). Then Amazon came onto the market and started selling ebooks for $9.99 on the kindle… they were actually selling the books at a loss. The consequences of this is that they were changing consumer’s expectations of the value of what a book should be.

So when Apple launched the iPad, they changed the way ebooks were sold. Publishers got to set the price, they get 70% and Apple gets 30%. They raised the price of ebooks to $14.99 because at that price, even with keeping 70%, publishers were still making less per book sale than selling a hardcover.

If Amazon were to adopt this model, dubbed the Agency model, then they would no longer be losing money per book sold. In addition, since Publishers choose the price in this scenario, the prices would all be set at $14.99, and that’s how Apple led a price fixing scandal.

Book Review: Eragon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Overview: This is a young adult fantasy novel. It was written by Christopher Paolini at the age of 15, but was first published when he was ~18 (in 2001). It is the first in a four-book series entitled Inheritence. In 2006, Fox made the movie adaptation of Eragon in theaters around the world (but the book is way better, in addition to it being very unique from the film).

Plot: The story follows a 16 year old farmboy named Eragon. One day while hunting, an egg magically appears before him, a dragon egg. Once it hatched, his life was forever changed. He instantly became part of a prestigious group known as Dragon Riders, though not many of them still lived. As rumors spread of his whereabouts, danger ensues, and Eragon finds his uncle murdered. Eragon goes on a quest for vengeance, bringing Brom along to train him in swordsmanship and magic. During his adventures, Eragon becomes increasingly interjected into the politics and grudges between evil King Galbatorix and the Varden and Eragon realizes that he must choose a side.

Review: Eragon was a fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The characters and their interactions, especially between Eragon and Saphira the dragon, were excellent and life like! Being that Eragon is a farmboy, turning from 15 to 16 during the events of the book, he had a lot of maturing to do in the way of combat and spell casting. As a consequence, I felt the book was on the heavy side with training. There was even a whole chapter about him learning how to read.

In addition, throughout the whole novel, Eragon almost never stopped moving. He was either chasing his uncle’s murderers (which he never did get his revenge), or he was fleeing. Last, but not least, Eragon never confronted evil, evil always confronted him. Even when he was located in a secret city that King Galbatorix didn’t know the location of, somehow an army of Urgals and Kull knew where to assault. Not that these complaints of mine are necessarily bad, but they are what prevented me from giving it 4 stars.

During my review, I always like to point out what I perceive as flaws mostly because it helps me learn as an author, so don’t let it deter you from reading this book. It was highly entertaining, a quick read, and it kept me engaged all the way to the end (and made me want to jump into the sequel!).

Book Review: Orcs – Bodyguard of Lightning

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Overview: The book depicted on the left is really 3 books in a single volume, containing Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, and Warriors of the Tempest. ORCS is an adult fantasy novel written by Stan Nicholls.

Plot: An orc named Stryke leads a band of orcs known as the Wolverines. He has been commanded by a sorceress named Jennesta to return a cylinder to her. What should have been an easy task for a unit of their skill, quickly spirals out of control.

Review: This book is supposed to revolutionary by telling a story from the point of view of the orcs, adding culture and character to an otherwise mindless tyrannical evil race that, in other books, would destroy things just for the sake of destruction. But not in ORCS, no. The Wolverines were far too civilized and human-like for my taste. They cared for one another (and others), and they often voted on making a decision. I expected in-fighting and animosity, but that only occured between Jup (a dwarf) and Haskeer. . . that’s right, they have a dwarf in their unit and he’s the 3rd highest ranking person!

This book is like a classic action movie. Big on the combat scenes (which I enjoyed), but weak on the plot. The plot spun out of control pretty rapidly. Once the cylinder was stolen from the orcs, the plot became: Let’s go get it back, let’s keep it for ourselves even though we don’t know what it is, let’s conveniently learn about it from an old gremlin guy, let’s go searching for more of these and become renegades. Meanwhile, Jennesta sits back in her castle and sends unit after unit after unit of people to go hunt down the Wolverines. I felt like the author’s story wasn’t planned. The characters continually debated what they should be doing, and most of the time it was hard to agree with their logic (meaning, I found lots of holes in this story).

While the action scenes were memorable, and even though it ended on a major cliffhanger, I was not impressed enough to read the rest of the volume… not when I have other books to choose from, at least.

Book Review: A Clash of Kings

RATING: 5/5 Stars

OVERVIEW: A Clash of Kings is book 2 of the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. It’s a fantasy novel that is targeted toward an adult audience. Each chapter is in the perspective of a different character and follows multiple story lines.

PLOT: After the death of the king in book one, now everyone is claiming a right to the throne. There are five self proclaimed kings that fight for the throne of Westeros, all the while the Stark family is torn apart and separated, struggling to regroup if only just to see each other once more. During the chaos of war, Daenerys (the Mother of Dragons) continues to struggle to find ships and an army to carry her across the sea to retake the iron throne.

REVIEW: First, I must commend George R. R. Martin for his vast, extensive detailing of characters and their histories. To have written this novel would have required a mountain of preparation to do it as well as he does. Furthermore, the scale of character detail for an entire continent is immense and impressive.

Second, GRRM’s writing is top tier. He has done so much research into the medieval era that he has brought that historical knowledge to life in his writing.

As far as entertainment value is concerned, I was extremely pleased throughout reading this novel. There was more magic and fantasy elements in this book compared to the first. (It wasn’t abundant, but GRRM knows how to tastefully pepper it in). I found that the chapters for certain characters excited me more than others (such as Jon, Bran, and Arya). The Tyrion and Daenerys chapters were always interesting to me, but the others didn’t catch my fancy so much (ex. Sansa, Caitlin, Davos, and Theon). My only real gripe is that this book really lacked an ending. I had thought the same for book one (Game of Thrones), but this one was worse. There wasn’t a true ending to the story; the story was still alive and open with no closure to really bring it home. But considering this is just book 2 out of 7, it isn’t really an issue.

This is a novel that I would highly recommend to any reader, even those that are not fans of the fantasy genre. As this could technically be considered “low fantasy” (meaning there is not a lot of fantasy elements mixed in compared to traditional swords & sorcery books), any person looking for a good read would appreciate this series of books. Even if you get lost with the world or in the large cast of characters, GRRM provides a map and appendixes at the back of the book for reference. As far as what one would expect from a 5 star rated book, this book (and his series) sets the bar for excellence. You won’t be disappointed.