OpenBytes book of 2014

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images2014 has seen some great releases.  It’s impossible to read every great work and the fact that I only managed to read 25 titles in 2014 means that I’ve not even come close to scratching the surface.

For those who have not seen the book of the year award on OpenBytes, I’ll make a few things clear.  The books that are considered for the award are the ones I selected to read during the course of the year.  They are not necessarily new releases.

Laurel A Rockefeller’s works had to be removed from consideration.  This is due to a friendship myself and my family have formed with this talented author and I feel that any award article (and her works certainly rank in the shortlist) would not be looked at as impartial.  With that in mind though, please do check her work out.  Her attention to detail, her passion for her subjects and her engaging writing style are all reasons why you should make 2015 the year you experience her work.

The 22 books up for consideration are as follows:

The Unremembered Empire – Abnett, Dan

Eternal Knight – Heppe, Matt

Gods of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Vulkan Lives – Kyme, Nick

The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Rothfuss, Patrick

Mark of Calth – Goulding, Laurie

Lords of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Priests of Mars – McNeill, Graham

Moth – Arenson, Daniel

The Wise Man’s Fear – Rothfuss, Patrick

The Name of the Wind – Rothfuss, Patrick

Wand of the Witch – Arenson, Daniel

Coffin Dodgers – Marshall, Gary

Eye of the Wizard – Arenson, Daniel

Omnilingual – Piper, H. Beam

The Forge of Mars – Balfour, Bruce

At the Gates of Darkness – Feist, Raymond E.

The Voyage of the Space Beagle – Vogt, A.E. van

Ship of Fools – Russo, Richard Paul

Dark Matter – Ahmed, S.W.

Naughty – Chester, Mark

Betrayer – Aaron Dembski-Bowden


So what title failed to impress last year?  I think top of the list has to be “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” and at the time as I wrote in a review, this easily rates as the weakest title I read in 2014.

There were some great discoveries over 2014 – Wand of the Witch is a quirky, fun and entertaining fantasy piece which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This led me onto other titles from Daniel Arenson, (Moth) which again impressed.

The Magician series still poses a struggle.  I’m trying to finish the series but for me, there is no better example of a series stretched well beyond its “sell by” date.

The Horus Heresy series still continues too.  It’s around 30 titles and with no end of the series in sight, it’s getting a little silly.  I can’t see 2015 having many Warhammer 40,000 titles in my reading list.  If it keeps going the way it is, it will be the year 40,000 before the series completes.

So who gets the award?

It’s ironic that the author who produced (for me) the weakest title of 2014 (Patrick Rothfuss) also produced the one that wins the title.  “The Name of the Wind”  with its mix of 1st/3rd person, it’s attention to detail and it’s ability to create characters which the reader can really care about has it as a worthy winner.  It was a slim win though, as I was very close to giving the award to Daniel Arenson’s “Wand of the Witch”.

REVIEW: The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss

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Source: Patrick Rothfuss blog.
Source: Patrick Rothfuss blog.

I think any book that starts and ends with an apology (of sorts) doesn’t bode well.  I will save people time here too.  If the “disclaimer” Mr Rothfuss puts in the beginning of the novella isn’t enough, then let me say – if you have not read his previous works in the series then you will be left confused by this story – providing you can even finish it.

I was confused by this story, but for vastly different reasons to someone who has not read Mr Rothfuss’s previous work.  I was confused as to the point of what it was trying to achieve, but I’ll explain that view shortly.

I know what the author says about this work, but I couldn’t help but feel this book on Auri seemed more something that was originally a couple of chapters in “A wise mans fear” and cut out from the final release as it did nothing to progress the novel.

And it does nothing to progress the Auri story either. I think readers of “A wise mans fear” would have already got the fact Auri suffered with a form of OCD. I think readers already worked out she had a soft spot for Kvothe. We didn’t (in my opinion) need a “week in the life of Auri” to tell us these things.

The very least this story could have done (and I knew from the outset it would not further the main storyline) would have been to explain why Auri ended up living in the Underthing, instead of that we are subjected to a few hundred (well written) words reinforcing that which we had already guessed.

If you want a definition of “fan boy” or “fan girl” look to the people who jump upon those critical of this work. Whilst “early reviewers” and people unfortunate enough to have waited a long time for more material might sing the praises of this, I cannot.  This brings me to another point, how impartial are early reviews?  I’d hope in the case of many they are completely, but I can’t help feeling, if you are a big fan of the author you’ve received the early review title for, the resulting opinion is not going to be as “honest” as someone who has gone out on release date and bought the title.  When you look at the almost hero worship some have of Mr Rothfuss, you are left wondering whether what you have read is indeed an opinion or a homage to their literary deity.

As much as I loved the other two books (and don’t mind the long wait for the third) I cannot love this. I cannot love this because it isn’t a story in my view, its a reinforcement of a character which we had already worked out, its a sequence of happenings leading up to a planned meeting with Kvothe which only serve to spend a few hundred pages describing to us that which I would have thought most readers had already concluded.

There’s so much scope for a standalone Auri novel, this to me is I’m afraid, “The Wise Mans fear – the lost chapters”

Review: Dark Eden – Chris Beckett

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Today’s book review looks at a world with no sun, where human colonists fight to survive against a hostile environment and the challenges of a very limited gene pool.  It makes for a departure on the traditional sci-fi theme.

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett was recently nominated for the Arthur C Clarke award and has now taken that award on a very competitive short-list.

You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, beneath the light and warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of a startlingly alien, sunless world. After 163 years and six generations of incestuous inbreeding, the Family is riddled with deformity and feeblemindedness. Your culture is a infantile stew of half-remembered fact and devolved ritual that stifles innovation and punishes independent thought. You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. You will be the first to abandon hope, the first to abandon the old ways, the first to kill another, the first to venture in to the Dark, and the first to discover the truth about Eden.

Source: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Eden-Chris-Beckett/dp/1848874642

Dark Eden pushes many uncomfortable buttons and pushes them very hard.  It’s an exploration of human society on its simplest level and I couldn’t help but be put in mind of “Lord of the Flies” which Dark Eden has some similarity to.  The slow and inevitable breakdown of society was written very well, with the utopian ideals being eroded not by the environment (although its quite hostile) but the human condition.

With a wink to Lord of the Rings, a similarity to Lord of the Flies, its of no surprise this title won the Arthur C Clarke  award.
With a wink to Lord of the Rings, a similarity to Lord of the Flies, its of no surprise this title won the Arthur C Clarke award.

John Redlantern, one of the main characters is the central point of the book and Chris writes it in the first person, from the position of John and a few other members of “the family”.  I found myself fluctuating between liking and disliking him, which was I believe intentional by the author as John explores not only Eden but also the human condition.

There can be no doubt there are religious undertones here.  The almost “Adam & Eve” origins of the colony and with stories from Earth being passed down in a increasingly inaccurate format, one cannot help but wonder if Chris Beckett is making a statement about religion in the real world.

It is very easy to see why Chris Beckett won the Arthur C Clarke award.  Without the fantastic future technology, he has managed to create an intelligent, thought provoking piece of science fiction which whilst complete in terms of story, there’s certainly room for a sequel if desired.

There’s also a massive thumbs up to Lord of the Rings in this book, to which I’d love to know if this was intentional by Mr Beckett.

Dark Eden will appeal to fans of science fiction and those that are not, it’s one of the reasons why this book is so special and I think whatever your favourite genre, you’ll be missing out if you pass over this title.

A great read, thoroughly recommended.


EMAIL: bytes4free@googlemail.com

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Ebook Review: Stone Cold Countenance by Konstantine Paradias

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Continuing the (new) trend of visiting independantly/indi published litrature comes a review of Stone Cold Countenance by Konstantine Paradias.  Since I am being sent more review copies by authors, it seemed fitting that I devoted a section to them on OpenBytes.


It’s been ten years since the Vas’Iiri invasion. Since their dehydration bombs drained the Great Lakes dry and their unspeakable magic made the heavens rain salt. Ten years since everything the Old Guard had fought to preserve fell apart around them, centuries of order torn down by betrayal. Now, the killing is done. The usurpers sit on the pilfered thrones that once belonged to their betters, thinking themselves above any sort of retribution. They are wrong. A man comes from the Rift, riding a pitch-black steed. He rides for revenge; not for the sake of duty, but for hate. He kills in the name of ten thousand dead men. He is hunted by the Expungers, the Government’s elite force of bounty hunters. He is sought after by the last surviving Gunsmith and the Black Woman, his sorceress consort. He is stalked by the Yellow Dog, a spirit beast made flesh. And he is accompanied by Cwen, a woman who sees in him the man she had loved and lost at war. Stone Cold Countenance is a fantasy novel, based on the Old West.

Stone Cold Countenance is a western, taking place in a war-torn land recovering from a battle to remove a previous Empire.  Technology is present, but its old and barely understood.  There’s a passing similarity to the world of Warhammer 40k and thats no bad thing since the story not only explores a “lost knowledge” life but also a spiritual one.  It’s often difficult to review a book without giving too much of the story away, but I found this book an interesting, exciting (and times) sad.   Mr Paradias sets up his world very well, I am assuming English is not his first language (since he is from Greece) but his gruesome depictions of some of scene’s had me wincing.

It’s a story about a world of loss, both personal and intellectual and its available on bibliocracy for the excellent price of $1.00.  There can be no better way to spend your time.  At 180 pages its certainly not a marathon read and I will look forward to more work by Mr Paradias in the future.

You can get yourself a copy in the popular formats here:


I hope you support a new and emerging author.

Tim (Goblin)

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com

Skype: tim.openbytes

Ebook Review: The Void by Brett J. Talley

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Brett J. Talley will captivate you with his latest title!

The first eBook review for OpenBytes and since the format has swelled in popularity over the last year, it seems only fitting that now, when titles of interest are discovered that I cover them on OpenBytes.

You can read this review safe in the knowledge that there are no spoilers which will ruin your enjoyment of the title.

The Story (taken from the official description):

In the deepest reaches of space, on a ship that no longer exists, six travelers stare into the abyss . . . and the abyss stares back.

Man has finally mastered the art of space travel and in a few hours passengers can travel light years across the galaxy.  But, there’s a catch—the traveler must be asleep for the journey, and with sleep come the dreams.  Only the sleeper can know what his dream entails, for each is tailored to his own mind, built from his fears, his secrets, his past . . . and sometimes his future.

That the dreams occasionally drive men mad is but the price of technological advance.   But when a transport on a routine mission comes upon an abandoned ship, missing for more than a decade, six travelers—each with something to hide—discover that perhaps the dreams are more than just figments of their imagination.  Indeed, they may be a window to a reality beyond their own where shadow has substance and the darkness is a thing unto itself, truly worthy of fear.

The JournalStone site (the distributor for this title) offers many titles which are not the mainstream titles you would be instantly drawn to on Amazon.  That’s a good thing since the works on offer here are some of the most original (and indi released) titles around.

In the Void the benefit of spaceflight is offset slightly by mans requirement to be in stasis during the journey and the horror’s envisioned by them during the journey.  If I was to suggest titles of similarity then I would be immediately drawn to Event Horizon where its the mind of mankind proving to be the instigator of the horrors visited upon the crew.

Brett J. Talley leads you though the novel with a skill that manages to captivate you on every page, suggesting the possibility that the threat of the human imagination is a far greater adversary than anything to be found in the dark reaches of space.  Theres a very subtle religious undertone to this book too, however its been written in such a way as to be open to interpretation rather than a direct implication.  I wonder if there was not a sly “literary wink” to The Shining in one of the dream sequences at a bar too!

If you are a fan of Event Horizon type sci-fi horror, then you cannot go wrong with The Void, its a great title.  You can find this (and other great works) over at the JournalStone where its available DRM free in a multitude of formats for every ebook reader!

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com
Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on freenode.net.