Category Archives: Reviews

First post-Campbell review

An interesting one. It was posted April 5th, the day after the Hugos and the Campbell was announced.

Standing Desk Treadmills in space … and other bits of fun.
I picked this up this book because the author, Rolf Nelson, is on this years Hugo Awards ballot for best new author. I read the author’s notes, looked through Appendix 1 at the schematic for the ship, started reading, and all of the sudden it was 4 AM and I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. I am currently 48% of the way through the book (Kindle) and I just realized that I might not be able to finish it today. When I start considering the possibility of taking a day off from work to finish a book, it is time to give that book a 5 star rating.

There is more there, detailing why he likes it. It’s worth reading. It will be interesting to see how many more reviews it picks up after the full membership packet goes out, and people start really looking things over in preparation to cast their vote. Something tells me I’ll be at least a little bit polarizing, between Rabid Puppies, format, and plot points. Time to stock up on popcorn!

Well, what do you know…

It looks like I made the final ballot for the Campbell Award for best new sci-fi writer. With only one published book (and one short story, also in the same universe) I figure I’m a long shot, even if I have a sequel, a prequel, and a children’s historical book scheduled for this year. In any case, even getting to the final ballot short-list is an honor… Well, interesting, anyway. No clue what the competition is like, but it should be fun to watch unfold. I can almost hear some brains exploding from here.

Also on the list: Wesley Chu*, Jason Cordova, Kary English*, Eric S. Raymond (*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.)

Mixed words on making the short list for the Prometheus. But as I hear the competition is strong this year, so I’m a long-shot there, too. But how many people manage to make both a “best new X” list at the same time they make the list for some other category in the field competing against long-time pros?

Just getting nominated for either award is proof the universe has a twisted sense of humor. If I happen to win, I know that my little corner of the cosmos is a very strange one. Not a bad one, mind you, just more than a little bit odd.

Campbell

Some days the universe decides I need to be surprised. Apparently it’s Sci-Fi award season, and now Vox has me on his list of people to vote for in the John W Campbell award for “Best New Writer.”

I asked him if he was sure. I mean, I’m flattered, but really? His reply:
Rolf, there is literally no new writer who better illustrates the importance of story over style than you do. What so many people fail to understand is that while technical skill is nice, it’s a secondary, if not tertiary aspect of good writing.

We don’t still read Asimov due to the beauty of his prose. We read him for the stories. And while technical skill can be developed and improved, you’ve either got stories to tell or you don’t.

Great. Even my publisher thinks my style sucks. 🙂 . On the other hand, if the story is good enough to do well in spite of such a great handicap, maybe it’s something. We will see. Be a bizarre twist of fate if it happened. Looking at the winners of long ago, there are some impressive names there. Looking at more recent years…. not so much.

Prometheus

Cool. Very cool, and very unexpected.

Just got word from Vox Day that The Stars Came Back has been nominated for a Prometheus Award for this year. It’s the award given by the Libertarian Futurist Society.

Past winners include Sarah Hoyt, Harry Turtledove, L. Neil Smith, Vernor Vinge, Terry Pratchett, Ken MacLeod, Poul Anderson, James P. Hogan, J. Neil Schulman, and many more big names. Even if I come in last place, just being nominated to potentially stand amid such a group of names is quite an honor.

ESR

I got an email from Eric S. Raymond, often known as ESR in the open source software movement, asking for a review copy of my book, saying he’d heard it was just exactly the sort of thing he plugs on his blog from time to time.

Uhhhh, yes! What format would you like?

So, at some point in the not-to-distant future, there will hopefully be a plug for the book to his ~22k followers. That would be a heck of a Christmas present…

Reviewing a review – 01

Not all reviews are created equal. While I greatly appreciate the many one- and two-line “‘da book rocks!” five-star reviews, they don’t tell me much about what exactly they did or didn’t like about it.  They also don’t tell prospective readers anything to help make up their mind directly, unless you go through their other reviews to see where some stranger’s reading habits overlap with your own.

One of my favorite reviews was a four-star review by “Russell May.” He was also kind enough to post the same review at GoodReads. While it was only four stars, he said a little bit about how he found it, what his misgivings about it were, what he likes, and a few general thoughts. It’s the sort of review that could really help someone decide if they want to spend their hard-earned money on the book.

Thank you, “Russell May.”

Too long

It’s been too long since my last update. Life proceeds. Earning a paycheck, kids, and ordinary home life take a lot of time.

I’d like to take a moment to respond to reviews of The Stars Came Back that people have posted.  It may be the start of a series.

I’d like to address all the one star Amazon reviews first. There are eight of them at this time. Every one of them mentioned the screenplay-esque format as being a major problem for the reviewer.  I trust it was not a surprise, given the 30 pages+ of free preview. Sorry if it didn’t float your boat, but that’s how it started out. If you are willing to give the story another shot, I’ve finished the normal prose version and handed it off to an editor to work over, and I’m expecting it to be done any day. Castalia House, my publisher, will be releasing a military fiction / essay anthology soon, and because I have a short story that takes place in TSCB’s universe included, I’m assuming they’d like to release both at the same time. Then you can see if you can find out why the five-star folks liked it. I know no story will appeal to everyone *shrug* C’est la vie. Considering this oddly-formatted book has 116 reviews and only 8 are one-star, I’ll live with it, and while I won’t enjoy it, I do value honest feedback. Continue reading Too long