Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Owner's Tale is full of surprises

I've already waxed lyrical about Holly Lisle's Tales from the Longview series and her two prequels, the Cadence Drake novels Hunting the Corrigan's Blood and Warpaint. Holly has just released the sixth and last novella in the Longview series, The Owner's Tale.

Here's the blub

When the truth comes out, who is left standing?

In this final episode of the series. the Longview reveals its secrets, Herog finds the path to protecting the City of Furies, and Melie discovers the truth about the ship she captains and the owner she serves.

I've read all the books in the series twice, so I obviously loved them. You can read my previous review here.

The final book delivered. The series is very well constructed, with each novella raising the stakes a little higher until the final battle in Viper's Nest, where Bailey's Irish Space Station (love the name) becomes the Longview's last ally against the combined might of the powerful Pact Worlds fleets. If that's not bad enough, the enemy's superhuman agents have infiltrated the space station itself. But against all odds the Longview and Bailey's prevail – at least for now.

The Owner's Tale is that final chapter of any good novel, where the loose ends are tied and the explanations are given. We're told the history of the Longview's owner and what the ancient ship, repurposed as a Death Circus which helps despotic planetary governments to get rid of free-thinkers, is really doing. 

The whole series is fascinating. The author has created a dystopian universe where powerful corporations and despotic governments control most of settled space. Added to that is the threat posed by the Legends, people with superhuman capabilities attained at a terrible cost. In many cases the Legends control the governments and corporations of the Pact Worlds. These formidable entities are opposed by individuals who ultimately must band together if they are to succeed.

One aspect of this future society that kept cropping up was the issue of sexuality. In this universe Humanity has accepted that 'male' and 'female' is a gross oversimplification. Same sex pairings are par for the course, no more unusual than heterosexual couples. Here's a short excerpt explaining what I mean. This is from The Philosopher's Gambit.

Laure was glancing at stats. “In her bio, she lists herself as Gender Three — female/female. She’s about the only one right now, isn’t she?”
“I’m G-5, not G-3, but close enough. She is the only female/female on the ship right now besides me. The fact that she’s uni and I’m poly, which would be a disaster, but fortunately it’s not going to be an issue.
“Confession here, though. When I hit rank clearance and got access to your rank-locked bio, I checked you out. I hoped…” Melie smiled. “Pretty and talented as you are, I’m sure everyone who hits rank equivalency hopes you might be available. Broke my heart when I saw you’re G-6.”
“I’m flattered that you looked,” Laure said. Then the other bio appeared, and Melie watched Laure look appreciatively at his holo. “Oooh, you’re so right about him. I can see that bit of dark you were talking about — he has fierce eyes. I love that in a man.”

Despite the fact that Tales from the Longview is dark and often brutal and confronting, the light of romance shines through much of the narrative. If you're a reader of SF with a romance arc, give it a try. 

Buy it at Amazon

This is my last post for 2018. I want to wish all of you a safe and peaceful Christmas and a great New Year. Here's a couple of my lorikeet friends saying it from the heart.

Looking forward to seeing you all in 2019.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Tees Have It: Final Edition (Star Wars!)

I expect this will be my final blog of the year, as Spacefreighters Lounge traditionally goes dark for the last couple of weeks in December so we can all focus on the holidays. Those of us who aren't already on break will post the last of our 2018 blogs later this week.

In case you missed my two prior t-shirt installments, here they are again:

The Tees Have It: Wearable Statements of Sci-Fi Fandom

The Tees Have It: Take Two (including Star Trek!)

I did a pop surprise t-shirt award on each of the last two blogs, and my winners of the "I'm Running Away to See the Universe" t-shirts were Donna and Lea, as the only commenters on each of those blogs. Congrats, guys!

(Apologies, but I won't be offering a prize this time. Sorry if you missed out.)

Here's the final edition (for now) of my sci-fi t-shirt collection, featuring the rest of my Star Wars tees.

The first is my stealth Star Wars tee. Anyone seeing it may not even realize it's a product of the franchise, unless they take the time to actually read the words in fancy bold font, namely "Mos Eisley Cantina" and in smaller letters below, a variation of the line made famous by Luke's Uglies Unlimited attackers:

"Where our friends don't like you
& we don't like you either"

After all, what Star Wars collection would be complete without a tee of the iconic space port populated by "a wretched hive of scum and villainy," according to Obi Wan Kenobi.

And he should know. Tattoine has been his home for at least a couple of decades.

It's my tribute to Luke Skywalker's roots, and the alliance between Luke and Ben Kenobi that started the whole crazy sequence of events that led to Luke becoming a Jedi master. Besides, Mos Eisley Cantina is undoubtedly the most famous dusty little watering hole in sci-fi lore.

Tee two is one I get a lot of comments on, because what starship is more beloved than the Millenium Falcon? (Well, other than possibly, the Enterpirse, as per my commentary on last week's blog.)

This tshirt was produced before we actually learned the details of the infamous Kessel run, which the Falcon completed in under fourteen parsecs. (Insert Han's disgruntled correction here: "Twelve!")

Since it makes reference to the 35th anniversary, my guess is this design was probably created around 2012 or thereabouts, so before the debut of The Force Awakens by about three years.

The Star Wars franchise prequel Solo depicted the actual Kessel run (and I'm sorry to say that, for this fan anyway, it didn't really live up to the prior three decades of legendary hype).

All that aside, this is still one of my fave--and probably most worn--t-shirts because I love the image of the Falcon so much. The most beloved hunk of junk in the galaxy, indeed!

Tee #3 is one of my absolute faves.

I don't wear it often--would rather frame it, to be honest--but our last joint outing was for a baseball game to watch our local pro ball team, the Isotopes (yes, named for the team in The Simpsons)(and sadly, they lost) for their annual Star Wars Night. I felt right at home among the local Star Wars lookalikes of Luke, Leia, Han, stormtroopers, Jedi masters and such.

I love me the colors and design on this one, and how if you just glance at it, might think it's just another college jersey.

I actually had an internal debate between wearing this one and my final tee (below) to Star Wars Night, but decided to tote the Jedi University instead of broadcasting how many long yearrrrrrrs I'd been a fan.

Here is the other referenced tee and my most recent addition.

It uses the Star Wars style box to deliver the message:

"Still in love
After all these years"

And the content:

"May 25th 1977
May 25th 2017"

Yep. True.

I was in attendance at the original Star Wars movie that took the whole world by storm. In fact, I was there on opening weekend. Star Wars was a summer sleeper and nobody saw its tremendous success coming--not even George Lucas or the now mega-famous cast.

No one, that is, except the sci-fi fans.

Although the film had a tiny advertising budget, all it took was a few glimpses of a blaster battles, ominous white-clad stormtroopers and starships zooming around in space to dazzle us and send us dashing off to buy tickets.

Those commercials were actually completely cheesy by today's standards...but we'd never seen anything like them before. Want a look back? Here's a fan video of a collection of some of those original spots (even a few that touted a "romance" between Luke and Leia. *cough, cough*)

And the rest, as we now know, is history. More than four decades of it.

I'm very proud of the fact I was a Star Wars fan from the beginning. Even before the beginning, since the commercials themselves completely hooked me. I gobbled up the original trilogy, even driving 40 miles to see The Empire Strikes Back in Flint, Michigan when all of the local theaters made the monumental mistake of not offering it on opening weekend.

I saw all the prequels, too, though I was much less impressed. I was a youngster then. I had to wait until just a few months before my retirement to see the first of what would finally be the last trilogy. Something that George Lucas had originally intended to wrap before the year 2000. Before things went astray...

The debut of The Force Awakens captured a bit of the same magic of the original, and this time, I was in line on opening night to catch the return of my lifelong love.

I think this tee sums this all up in just a few words.

I won't say Star Wars was the reason I became a SFR author but it certainly clicked on the hyperdrive of my imagination. Even so, it would be 38 years after viewing the original Star Wars (and yes, it was simply called "Star Wars" back then; it didn't gain the episode title "A New Hope" for many years) before I published my first space opera novel, in 2015.

And here we are in December 2018, and now I'm looking forward with great expectation to the final film of the last trilogy of Star Wars. What a tall order of expectations this next one is going to have to deliver!

I'll do an update blog later this winter with a few new additions to my tee collection that I'm in the process of acquiring. (Seems writing these blogs got me inspired again, and I've found a few more way cool tee designs.)

So, signing off 'til January. I wish you a wonderful holiday season with lots of fun, laughter, surprises, feasts and festivities. May all your holiday dreams come true.

And may the force be with you, always.

Have a great few weeks!

Friday, December 7, 2018

I read a charming, uplifting story by author Stephen King recently. But I wasn’t happy.

It wasn’t the writer’s fault. I love King, and his skills were in full play in Elevation, a low-key tale of a man who looks the same as always and feels even better, but for reasons unknown is inexorably losing weight. Not size, mind you. Just weight—by the pound, every day, week after week, with no explanation and no remedy.

This was not one of King’s screamers, with horrific images that cling to your mind years afterward. It was more like the character studies you find in his stories that led to unforgettable movies, like The Green Mile, “Stand by Me,” or “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” Like The Green Mile, Elevation has supernatural elements, but that’s not really the point. The weird premise just provides a framework for the character relationships. And King is an under-rated genius at character building.

You can probably tell I wasn’t unhappy at the work itself, either. I enjoyed the story—recommend it even and perhaps especially at this holiday time of year.

No, my problem is with King’s publisher and marketing team, who tagged this work of some 160 pages a novel. That’s right, look it up and you’ll see it, right there on the cover: Elevation. A Novel. Even when I was writing TREK fan fiction we would call something of that length a novella, not a novel. And those of us who are Stephen King fans are used to works with some heft—1000 pages or more. In years past, Elevation would have been packaged in a collection of his short fiction, which is nothing to dismiss—did you see the titles in paragraph three above?

But this is the age of the dying dinosaurs of traditional publishing, and the old thunder lizards must squeeze every penny from their showcase artists. King reliably puts out a big novel every year or so, but that’s clearly not enough for his graspy publisher (Scribner). So the Powers That Be have apparently deemed that anything King produces will be published forthwith, at novel prices and with novel packaging. 

But, wait a minute, you protest. Lots of digital authors write short novels. Short is the wave of the future, especially in digital format. Readers want shorter, cheaper reads! 

Possibly, but, again, readers of this particular author are used to longer reads. And Elevation isn't cheap. The slim file costs $9.99 on Kindle. (Yeah.)

But who can blame that marketing team? I fell for their little trick, and so did many others. Elevation was named an Amazon Best Book for 2018, and is doing very well in some limited rankings. Not the general rankings such as Paid in Kindle or Horror, though. Those fans, like me, are not happy. 

But as I read through the reviews, the uproar is not only over the price bait-and-switch.I was surprised to see a number of very unkind reviews from readers who expected to see lots of blood and gore and didn’t like the character-driven nature of Elevation. They missed the point entirely, of course, and can go console themselves with a slasher film, in my opinion.

Artistically, King’s latest work is a high point. From a marketing standpoint, however, Elevation is sure to let you down.

Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.