Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: The End of Science Fiction by Sam Smith

I got The End of Science Fiction for free during the Read an Ebook Week promotion; it's now $6.99 and in my opinion that's a little much. But if this book were available under a 'pay what you want' system like some of the other books I got during Read an Ebook Week, I might have sent the author $5. The novel is based on an intriguing premise: the world is going to end in six days and there is nothing to be done about it. What happens?

We learn what happens by following the character of Herbie Watkins, a police inspector who has chosen to spend his last few days solving his final case. As he interviews various citizens in connection with the murder of one Katherine Helen Soames, he finds people coping with the impending end of days in a myriad of ways. And he draws closer to solving the mystery of how one girl met her untimely end mere days before the rest of them...

I liked the central premise of the novel, and found the mystery reasonably interesting. But there were three things which bogged down this novel a little for me. The opening chapter is written in an unnecessarily gimmicky format which turned me off, and itwas only at the urging of others (and reassurance that the rest of the novel was written in the usual way) that I continued. Additionally, there were lengthy quotes at the beginning of each chapter that I began skipping fairly early on. They did turn out to have a minor relevance to the plot, but they were tedious and uninteresting and not particularly necessary. Finally, I felt that the novel, by virtue of its premise, grew a bit repetitive. Herbie would go to question someone, and the first words out of the person's mouth would be 'but the world is ending in X days, so what's the point?' I, the reader, understood what the 'point' was as far as this character was concerned, of course. But I grew tired of hearing him explain it umpteen times, over and over again, to everyone he met.

I appreciate that this novel came from a by all accounts reputable e-publisher; I have come to grow weary of 100% publisher-free self-published stuff which makes me feel like I am vetting the world's biggest slush-pile. This was a decent story, well-written and definitely worthy of reading. However, I am not sure it's worth the fairly high (for an indie book) price that's on the table now that the promotion under which I obtained it has ended. Comparable e-only publishers tend to offer their stories for less. $3.99 and I would heartily recommend this. At mass market paperback price, I would say sample it first and then decide.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review: Fear of Fighting by Stacy May Fowles and Marlena Zuber

I got Fear of Fighting as a freebie on Kobo, and I was not quite sure what to expect from it. The description: "Combining Stacey May Fowles’s sharp prose with Marlena Zuber’s whimsical illustrations, Fear of Fighting revolves around Marnie, a broken-hearted young woman fighting for something more in Toronto’s lonely, urban landscape."

Illustrations in an ebook can be an iffy thing sometimes, but given the price (free) and the setting (I am always interested in books which take place in my hometown) I figured why not? So I downloaded away and finished this short little volume in a day.

And...meh. Sorry! But here is the thing, the illustrations don't really add that much and the prose is a little bit flowery and overdone. There is a frame narrative with a minor character that never really goes anywhere, and the main character is not especially likable. The plot revolves around her breakup with a boy called Ben, and at one point she wonders what he saw in her. I kind of wonder too.

If you are looking for a good post-breakup story, you're better off with this one, which is also free, and DRM-free (in multiple formats) to boot.

It's Read an Ebook Week!

March 7-13 is Read an Ebook Week. There are tons of freebies listed on their website. My plan is to download everything from Smashwords that looks even remotely interesting, then go back and tip the authors later if the book is any good. BeWrite Books has about 25 titles available under a 'pay what you want' promotion, and there are other Smashwords goodies---free, and heavily discounted---at their Read an Ebook Week home. Enjoy!