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Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days is unashamedly and firmly in the category of Christian Fiction.  

The book begins with the sudden, unexplainable disappearance of hundreds of thousands of seemingly random people across the globe.  People disappear from their beds, from their cars (moving or otherwise), from planes flying at 40,000 feet.  They leave behind only their clothes.

Everyone has a theory.  Space aliens, technological problems, nuclear accident, sun spots.  As time goes by it becomes clear that the correct answer, though most refuse to accept it, is the Rapture.  God has come and taken his people away, and everyone else has been Left Behind.

Since all of the “proper” Christians have been taken, the characters are all atheist, agnostic, or “Sunday” Christians.  During the course of the book they move through various stages of their spiritual journey – some end up accepting God into their lives and some don’t.  I won’t tell you which are which.  I felt that the non-Christian portions of their personalities could have been developed a little more.

The book is, if you can read past the blatant attempts to convert people, an entertaining read.  The Antichrist makes an appearance and the stage is set for many disasters on the world stage.

However, it is very obvious that it was written as the first in a series, rather than the series coming later when the first book was successful.  The story ends quite abruptly, leaving me with a vague sense of disquiet and a lot of loose ends.

Despite the unfinished nature of the tale, I don’t feel any great rush to read the next one.

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I went to see the film adaptation of The Host, by Stephanie Meyer, at the weekend.

All in all, it was a remarkably accurate adaptation, considering what the film industry normally do to books.  I did spot a few places where the action was subtly different to the way it was described in the book, but the main plot items were all there, and all in the right order.  There were no characters missing, or extra characters, as sometimes happens.

For those who don’t know, the Earth has been invaded by body-snatching alien “Souls”, who have turned it into a paradise with no war, hunger, disease, or rude people.  The down side, of course, is that you lose control of your body, causing most people to just give up and fade away.  Melanie, one of a small group of human survivors, is captured and infested, but she resists, causing her alien companion no end of problems.  And, incidentally, being involved in a complex love-polygon in which the Soul and the Host are in love with different people.

It must be tricky to make a film adaptation of something where a large portion of the action occurs inside someone’s head, but they did very well.  The person in control of Melanie’s body always speaks out loud, with the passenger doing voice over, so you can tell who is speaking.  Their arguments are some of the best things about the film.

The characterisation worked well in both book and film, although in the film the relationship between some of the humans was not as clear as it could have been, and you don’t get to know some of the supporting characters as well.  There’s only so much you can do within a sensible film time-limit, I suppose.

I enjoyed the book more than the film; whether this is because of how the action translated to the screen or because I already knew what was going to happen when I watched the film I don’t know.  However, while I would happily read the book again (in a few years time), I’m not sure that I would bother watching the film again.

 

Think you know fairy tales?  Think again.

Marissa Meyer is back with book 2 of the Lunar Chronicles, the story of Scarlet Benoit.  Scarlet is on a mission to find her grandmother, kidnapped from their farm several weeks ago.  The police have given up, convinced she left on her own, but Scarlet’s not alone – a street fighter nicknamed “Wolf” is helping her.  Those with any recollection of childhood stories will be a little suspicious of his motives, but Meyer manages to keep you guessing for a long time.

And then there’s the little matter of why Grandma was kidnapped.  Scarlet’s grandma was in the military, but that was decades ago.  Surely she couldn’t know anything worth kidnapping her over?

Meanwhile, a dangerous fugitive has broken out of prison.  Cinder, the cyborg from book 1 who lost her foot while running away from the ball, is on the loose!   All she wants is to be left alone, but she knows that’s not an option.  So she’s determined to find out more about her past.  Why does she have no memories before the age of 11?  Is there anyone who knows her story?

And, as the two women strive to find out the truth, the Lunar Queen makes her preparations for an invasion of Earth.

I loved this book.  The characterisation is impressive, the plot moves along at a pace that had me glued to the sofa, and there were enough little twists that knowing your fairy tales doesn’t help you predict what’s going to happen in anything more than a general sense.

In fact, only one thing annoys me – we’re expected to wait until 2014 for book 3!

On Silver Wings is a fairly traditional space adventure story.  There are colonists on a far flung world, alien invaders, and a rescue attempt from Earth’s space fleet.

The problem, of course, is the aliens have some pretty impressive technology.  Impressive enough that they manage to destroy all but one of the special operations unit sent in to assess the situation before they reach the ground, despite being heavily stealthed.

Enter Sergeant Sorilla Aida, sole survivor, well equipped, well trained and willing to stop at almost nothing to protect the remaining colonists and chase the aliens off the planet.  She’s got battle armour and military rifles, she’s got local help to show her around, she’s even got some AI-augmented battle robots courtesy of the Solari Fleet Task Force.

What she doesn’t have is any aliens to fight.

Since the day the colony was all but obliterated and the colonists sent running to the jungle to hide, there have been no sightings of the aliens.  How do you fight an enemy you can’t find?

I enjoyed this book immensely.  Evan Currie started life as a (very very prolific) fanfiction author, and when he made the transition to original works I immediately added his work to my to read list.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The action is fast paced, the balance between the action on the ground and the maneuvers of the space fleet was well maintained.  The science was believable (though physics is not my strong suit, so I have no idea whether it was right or not).  The only thing that bothered me was that I didn’t really care about whether the military spacecraft lived or died, except in a roundabout way because of their impact on Sorilla and her band of plucky colonists.  I cared about them quite a lot.

All in all, a good read for those who enjoy adventure stories, space stories, or both.

The threads of five seemingly unrelated lives are woven together to create a story which hangs together in the end. I found my enjoyment increased once I reached the point where I could start to see some of the connections between the different people.

A university professor, making ends meet by singing backing music for resonance advertising and the occassional high-class soiree; an honest senator trying to get re-elected and run his district well; the crooked head of a multinational family-run corporation; a police detective investigating a series of suicides (or are they murders?); and a researcher working for a news corporation looking for the next big story.

Each of the characters percieves beauty in a different way, from the traditional music/art to the beauty inherent in politics, police work, and data analysis.  That explains the “beauty” in the title, although I had to look up “archform” to find out what it meant.  This is what Wikipedia says:

In music, arch form is a sectional structure for a piece of music based on repetition, in reverse order, of all or most musical sections such that the overall form is symmetric, most often around a central movement. The sections need not be repeated verbatim but must at least share thematic material.

This does describe the book quite well, in fact.  One theme in several sections, all revolving around a central mystery.

At various points in the book it is pointed out that what is technically beautiful might not appeal to everyone – and this is the case here.  The book was quite slow to get started. I found the constant jumping from one character to the next to be irritating, as it took much longer to find out anything about the characters. However, overall it was a good read.

Authors are often (well, sometimes) praised, ridiculed, or loathed for the morals inherent in their books.

As I mentioned, I’ve been reading about Sookie Stackhouse.  In the series, there are many types of were-animals, and they have an interesting genetic problem.

Only the firstborn child of any pure-bred were couple is a were.

So, if all of the weres were monogamous, the population would very quickly decline to the point of extinction.  To get around this, the weres, especially packmasters, consider it their duty to procreate with as many different purebloods as possible.

Sookie, having been brought up as a Good Girl (and a Methodist), has a slight problem with this, but she comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t have the right to judge them.  Charlaine Harris has had her heroine consider the matter, so it’s clear that she’s thought about it.  No matter what conclusion Sookie came to, the fact that she’s thought about it is no doubt a good thing.

I’m also thinking about aliens.  Aliens, coming from different social structures, often have different morals to humans.  But usually, at least in the books that capture my attention, they have morals of some sort.  They may not be recognisable at first glance, but once you learn how they think they make sense.

People worry about violence on television causing children to become more prone to violence, and occasionally the same is said about a book (“Harry Potter lies and cheats, and defies his teachers!”, for example, although, really, he’s a teenager, what do you expect?).

All of this rambling is leading up to this question: how much do the type of morals pictured in a book matter, versus the fact that the morals exist at all?

I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse books, by Charlaine Harris.  A friend leant me the first nine as a box set, so I had plenty of reading to be going on with.

For those who don’t know, Sookie is a human barmaid living in Louisiana.  She has been blessed (cursed?) with the gift of telepathy, and finds it hard to get along with people when she knows what they’re thinking.  A few years ago, after the invention of a synthetic blood called TrueBlood, vampires came “out of the coffin” and announced their existence to the world.  When Sookie meets one, she is delighted to find that she can’t read his mind, and thus begins her adventures in the world of the supernatural.

The books are a fun romp, for the most part – chick lit with vampires as it were.  No heavy thinking required.  Each one is a self-contained adventure, unlike some other series I’ve come across, so it’s possible to stop any time you want.

And yet, there is always some nagging question at the end, something to make you wonder if the explanation will be forthcoming in the next book.  And in the next book, your question is answered, but you’re left with another question.  It’s a brilliant example of teasing the reader just enough to keep them reading.

Having said that, it’s getting a bit frustrating now.  I want closure.  I want to be able to put the series away and say “that was really good, and now I’ll read something completely different for a while”.

So my question is this:  when is enough enough?  When should an author give up on a series?  Is it when they run out of fresh ideas for problems their characters can have?  Is it when the readers get bored and stop buying the books?  Is it when they run out of sensible titles with the word “dead” in them?

What do you think?

Like many others, I have recently discovered that it is December.  Which means it’s no longer November.

Here, in no particular order, are some things which I learnt (or had re-affirmed) during this past month.

  • Practice helps.  My writing, I feel, was distinctly better at the end of the month than at the beginning.
  • If you’re behind on your word-count, and you actually have a deadline, somehow blogging doesn’t seem quite as important any more.
  • Even when typing fast I still can’t leave spelling mistakes uncorrected.
  • If you know vaguely where the story is going it’s easier to write it.
  • With my life, 1667 words every single day is pushing it slightly.  But I can write 6000 words in one day if I don’t have anything else to do. (I know this because on Friday evening I was at 33,175; 5,166 behind par.  By Saturday evening I was only 825 behind par.  And also exhausted.)
  • The more I write, the more I want to write.  Up to a point.
  • Having someone else in the house who is also writing a lot helps.  But if that other person spends less time at work than you do, you shouldn’t even try to keep up.
  • Scrivener counts words in a very similar way to the NaNoWriMo validator.  I gained only 34 words during the transition.  Mr H, using another program, gained several thousand.
  • The prize is lots of words on a page, not this:

NaNoWinner-180x180

 

Of course, 50,000 words is not enough for a proper novel these days, so my story is not yet complete.  Some of the characters haven’t even met each other yet (though to be fair, they aren’t scheduled to until very near the end).  Without the pressure of deadlines, will I be able to keep up a reasonable pace?  Only time will tell.

Apparently I have been tagged in a thing.  How exciting!

Here’s how it works:

1.  Give credit to the person who tagged you.

That would be Matt Williams, whose blog contains vast quantities of posts about science fiction, advances in technology, books, and movies.  Not to mention his own fiction, which is an exciting read.

2. Explain the rules.

Ok, so I’ve done two of them now.  You should keep reading to find the rest.   There are four.

3. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP.

I would point out at this point that in the post I was tagged from there were only nine questions…  Also, “Work In Progress” may be too strong a phrase.  “Work Only Just Commenced” would be a closer description.

  1. What is the working title of your book?
    The Three
  2. What genre does the book fall under?
    Fantasy Adventure
  3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?
    Hum.  Well, the three main characters are identical, so it would have to be someone with a good repertoire.  Perhaps Kyle Schmid – clean-shaven and looking young.
  4. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    Three young men, physically identical but otherwise wildly different, must find each other and unite to save the kingdom.
  5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    In an ideal world, represented.  We’ll see.
  6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    Come back in a few years and I might be able to tell you the answer to that.  Alternatively, if you can provide me with a time machine and a few days to experiment, I’ll be sure to let you know.
  7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    I would like to compare it to anything by David Eddings, but I think that might be insulting to Mr Eddings.
  8. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
    Weirdly, Harry Potter.  I’m not quite sure how that happened.  They really have very little in common.
  9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
    The book is about balance – good and evil, male and female, magic and science.

4. Tag five other people and link to their blogs so we can hop over and meet them.

Ok, five people…  Hmmm.

Rosie Oliver (because I want to know if there are any more sequels to CAT coming)

David Higgins (yes we are related)

Sieni Madison

Miriam Joy

Kari Fay

So there we are.  I hope you’ve all had fun.

Or not.

Amazon have announced that they now sell more books on Kindle than in physical formats.  No doubt this will be seen as a sign of the impending book-opalypse by many, but there are several good points made in this article which those who only read headlines will miss.

Firstly, Amazon are the only way to get kindle editions, whereas you can buy physical books loads of places.  Of course they’re going to sell more kindle editions.

Secondly, Amazon also said that their physical book sales continue to increase.  Yes, they’re selling more kindle books, but they’re also selling more normal books.

Looks like the world isn’t doomed after all.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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