Jeff Somers – The Electric Church

So I haven’t actually read many cyberpunk novels yet, which is actually quite sad considering that my own writing (the older draft of Light probably more than the newer one) tends to touch the borderline of cyberpunk rather frequently. I guess it’s mainly due to my experiences with some German cyberpunk like Wolfgang Hohlbein’s “Das Netz” which plainly sucked, that put me off the genre for a while, but then again there were sooooo many other books to read on my list, so cyberpunk was -really unintentionally and to my regret- pushed into the background. But now, The Electric Church got me back on track and it truly lived up to the expectations 🙂

“Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer for the right price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He’s up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag: Conversion means death.”

So far what the dustjacket tells us about Jeff Somers’ debut novel, that got me hooked by using a couple of standard cyberpunk elements like the apocalyptic world scenario, the gritty, first person narrative (I don’t really get why so many people dislike first person narratives so much…) and the fact that you get sucked right in the middle of the story. No doubt, this book reads like an action thriller and you can read it in one go, just like I did on a trip to Idaho for Thanksgiving.

Cates’ himself is more of an anti-hero than anything and actually you really shouldn’t like him, for he is a bad guy. There’s only one problem: you won’t be able to not like him, for even though he rather frequently is an ass, self-centered and cold, he had some moral values that keep him from becoming as dark, cold and ruthless as the rest of his world, which is basically split into two parts: the poor who rarely make it past the age of twenty, living in the slums and killing their guts with booze made from paint thinner or whatever else comes in handy. And the rich, who can afford genetic augmentation as well as the few resources that remain in a world post Unification, ruled by the Joint Council, a world where nations don’t exist and politics as well as the omnipresent SSF (System Security Force) are corrupt and working for naught, but their own gain of power.

Then of course there are the Monks, creepy cyborgs who are but mere shadows of their human identity that they shed with their mortal bodies when being Converted. They’re out for your braaaaaaiiiiinz and Cates soon finds himself in deeper trouble with the Electric Church and the SSF when he’s contracted to kill the founder of the Electric Church Dennis Squalor himself. I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, but just be aware: nothing is what it seems to be.

Jeff Somers’ impressive debut won’t disappoint you if you’re tired of the same old and it surely won’t let you put it down until you’re done. With 353 pages it’s rather short and filled with action and rather nifty ideas like psionics, witty dialogues and worldbuilding that is so scarily realistic, it’ll suck you right in.

For more information, apart from the awesome appendix included in the book itself, that gives a lot more insight into the credo of the Electric Church, check out http://www.the-electric-church.com and http://www.jeffreysomers.com for a hilarious blog.
I’m looking forward to the next book of this series that will be starring Avery Cates. The Digital Plague is supposed to come out in 2009 so we hopefully won’t have to wait too long.

Final verdict: 9/10

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Newest addiction!


So Fior, Claire and Candice got me hooked on Heroes and I’ve been watching episodes en masse for the last two days. It’s amazing! Check it out everyone! I even got Stephen hooked on it (he stayed up till 3am last night to watch the first 4 episodes in a row, haha)so that’s something of an accomplishment.

It’s distracting me really badly from writing of course, but that’s ok because I think I needed a break after a while and it’s nice to do a bit less and kick back a little more. I’m a TV show person and always love to get hooked on new really good ones and this is awesome and everyone loves it (even my boss hahaha). Yay for Download Communities like the one on LJ too 😀

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind

I know I’m a little late with this review but all in all I had a lot to catch up with this year, most of it probably due to “switching countries” but now I’m finally having some time to get caught up with my rather vast reading list.

In a nutshell, the Name of the Wind is the coming of age-story of Kvothe who is destined to eventually become the greatest Arcanist the world has ever seen. It begins with his childhood among a troup of artists and musicians and his time as a beggar/thief in the streets of Tarbean where he has to make his living by any means left to him after his troupe is killed by the mysterious Chandrian, fairy tale creatures come to life, until he eventually enters the University to become an Arcanist.

So far  we have a rather “traditional” fantasy outline: we have  a boy of  extraordinary intelligence and cleverness,  we have  a tragedy that  makes him an orphan and fend for himself, we have the Hogwarts-like school of Magic and his destiny to become someone great. Nothing new if you just look at those elements. What, however, makes the story interestingly different is the way it is told: beginning in the past with the innkeeper Kote telling his story to Chronicler. During the book we get back to the present in interludes which make us pose even more questions for all the time we know that there is something mysterious going on and that Kvothe’s life must have gone all wrong at some point, but throughout the book we won’t learn what it was that let it all go downhill. The explanation of this is rather simple for it lies in the order Pat Rothfuss is going to write this series, which will consist of a triology featuring Kvothe’s past while the next three book after that will reveal what happens in his present.

While Kvothe’s past is narrated from his first-person point of view, the present interludes  are in third person, though there are few of those just to warn everyone who has such a profound dislike for first person narratives as some of you who have recently contributed to the first vs. third person narrative discussion at the westeros.org boards. I personally consider Rothfuss’ choice of using first person for Kvothe’s story as a major plus of the book itself for he manages to write the story as if somebody is actually telling it, which makes it more alive and brings you much closer to the character.

Of course there is one major problem in the whole book, one you’ll doubtlessly find in every first person narrative: you won’t like it unless you get to like the narrator, but in my opinion Kvothe is likeable and complex enough to want to know more about him.  The only sightly annoying part about him is his “brilliance” that gets him out of most of the trouble he’s in. It remains rather unexplained, or solely based on his early education under Abenthy, his mentor among the travelling troupe and his stage experience there. I don’t think it’s that great a minus, but at times it just gets a little irritating.

Two other aspects that come rather  short next to Kvothe’s life and development are worldbuilding and secondary characters. While worldbuilding drifts a bit into the background and towns are portrayed rather sketchy and mostly in opposition to the University, it is the latter, the aspect of secondary characters that disappoints more. Everyone around Kvothe is rather superficially portrayed and remains rather flat in comparison to him. We have his friends, his enemies, the Masters of the University, but none of them, with the exception of Denna and Elodin (loved his crazyness) really stick out too much. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of this in the next book 🙂

It might also help the story itself if Rothfuss wouldn’t stretch it out so much for some parts related to the University, but also the bit about the Draccus are just too long and over-written, a shortening would certainly helped to keep suspense and the readers’ attention more focused. At the end we don’t really know where the story is going other than that it must lead to Kvothe’s greatness. The end itself was rather disappointing for it lacks a real climax, which is replaced by hints for what is yet to come in the following books and I can only say that I’m personally not a fan of “But that is a story for another day” endings. It actually rather irritates me, but still I’ll buy the next book, because he definitely got me hooked on the story with book 1 and it’s imaginative and in a way innovative story telling.

As for a final rating: 8/10 

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Critiquing

So I started to crit other people’s writing (thanks to Sira for recommending it to me) and I’m actually having fun with this 😀 The Absolute Write site still intimidates me a little, but I’m really having fun with it so far 🙂 Maybe I’m a bit nitpicky sometimes but I think I’m actually not too bad at giving some qualified feedback that doesn’t just sound completely retarded and useless. I guess this will help me to concentrate on the mistakes I’m making as well, at least it sharpens my focus so it should really help me to avoid some of my more or less standard mistakes. So here’s to success in critiquing and improving my own writing with it! Cheers!

On overdue things

So you see my booklist on this page right? Well, I went through it again on Saturday only to realize how severly I’ve been neglecting catching up with my list in favor of writing. I really should get going and at least finish The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss before Thanksgiving. I’m working on it and reading a bit more besides work and writing so I hope I’ll be caught up soon. The rest of the Dark Tower series has been waiting to be read for ages now and not because I don’t like the books (quite the opposite in fact!), truth is I’m just picking up so many books that after a while they just pile up and I’m where I am now: in great need to catch up.

 As far as writing is going: this weekend was bad. It was riddled with frustration and chaos and I really didn’t have any nerve to write. Finally inspiration kicked in though and what happens: I’m getting into some stupid fight with Stephen and every urge to write *poof* vanishes…Well I really hope today will be a better day…

Protected: Chapter 11

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I’m having a problem…

…and this problem is all around Light, which I’ve started to write in November, getting to the 50,000 words really fast but now I’m facing its horrible uneditedness and I could cry.

I talked to a couple of people today and I guess I’ll end up not posting any of my writing on any critique boards for now but rather focus on getting the first draft done and then start editing it, severely editing it. I’ll give myself some more time to do that and actually reread what I’ve written and go over it, after all this isn’t Nano anymore and I’m past the 50,000 so no rush required, right? I’ll try not to over-edit it, but still fix some of those elements that I really disliked. I know there’s a lot that’s bugging me from the Prologue through to Chapter Eleven which is the point where I’m right now.

I’d be glad if someone could help me out, but I have the feeling that if I post what I’ve written so far on here, it’ll only be a wast of everyone’s time, so I guess I’ll wait and see what comes out of it. Of course a few tips here and there will be welcome.

For this reason I’ll post my writing here so those who actually care about helping me can give me some tips here and there.

So if you care about and love me and want to help me out there, just drop me an email at stephanie.floch@gmail.com and I’ll get you the password as long as I know who you are :p

Thanks