Saturday, March 19, 2011

PUSHING ICE, Alastair Reynolds

Pushing IcePushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Janus, one of Saturn's moons, has started moving on an outbound course for the stars. The comet-mining ship Rockhopper, captained by Bella Lind, is sent to shadow it and find out what's going on. As Rockhopper draws near, things get weird.

Then they get really weird.

I've always enjoyed Alastair Reynold's books, but in all the ones I've read before this, there's usually a point where the story starts to drag and I feel like I have to push through. That didn't happen with PUSHING ICE; the story hooked me early on and kept me turning pages. It's one of those books I found myself picking up in every spare moment, just to see what happened next.

As some other reviewers have observed, character development is not Reynold's forte, but there's enough great story here to make up for the lack, with catastrophes, mutinies, murders, betrayals, friendships lost and found, and some truly alien aliens. This is space opera done right.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Revolution Is Being Downloaded

Mark Coker: The Author Uprising Against Big Publishing

Okay, a couple of observations about that article. First, I think equating the changes in publishing, fast and furious though they may be, with the revolution in Egypt is real eye-rolling material.

Other than that, though, the article definitely pegs some of the problems with Big Publishing for both writers and readers, like shrinking advances and promotional budgets, narrowing selection (with choices made by marketing people trying to predict the future and often failing), etc. I think the rise of electronic self-publishing is a strong push-back against that, and lord knows I'm excited about the prospects of having readers actually make the decisions on what's "commercial" enough and what's not.

All that said...unlike some people I know, I'm not predicting or hoping for the demise of print publishing, or even of the so-called "Big 6." I'm not anxious to see the stranglehold of MacMillan, Harper Collins, et. al, replaced by the stranglehold of Apple, Amazon and B & N. I don't want to see the "Big 6" turn into the "Big 3." I think if that happens, those lovely 70% author's cuts for e-books are going to fall by the wayside.

What I'm hoping is that the rise of alternative markets expands rather than contracts our reading choices and that the competition leads the Big 6 into abandoning some of their occasionally ridiculous and counterproductive ways of doing business that hang on for no other reason than "because that's how it's done."

So far, given some of the statements I've read from publishing insiders who do little but carp about the problems with self-pubbing (and there are quite a few), I'm not seeing that happening. But, we live in hope.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HELL Is Coming to Breakfast

GOOD DAY IN HELL, my second novel featuring North Carolina Bounty Hunter Jack Keller, is now available for Kindle, Nook, and other e-book formats!

Publisher's Weekly said:

At the start of Rhoades's well-crafted second novel to feature Jack Keller (after 2005's The Devil's Right Hand), the North Carolina bounty hunter and his new girlfriend, sheriff's deputy Marie Jones, discover that the two suspects for whom each has been searching—a troubled young woman who skipped bail on an assault charge and the likely perpetrator of the brutal murder of a gas station owner—have taken the gas station owner's teenage son and in short order pulled off senseless mass murders at a local church and factory. When the media-savvy killers contact an amoral local news personality, guaranteeing her exclusive access in exchange for the chance to tell their tale, the situation escalates and the lives of all are put in danger. Fast-paced and rich in regional color, this satisfying thriller is notable for its empathetic portrayal of the two emotionally damaged protagonists, each struggling with past trauma—his sustained in the first Gulf War, hers resulting from the killing of her partner—in order to form a trusting relationship.

Booklist had this to say:

Rhoades follows up his scorching debut, The Devil's Right Hand (2005), with another high-voltage thriller starring bounty hunter Jack Keller. This time Keller, his Gulf War nightmares on simmer, thinks he's ready to take a stab at a committed relationship with North Carolina state cop Marie Jones, but that's before he starts tailing a bail jumper turned serial killer and her equally deranged partner in crime. As before, this one is all about the chase, but Rhoades lets us follow the action from the points of view of both hunters and hunted. Unlike Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, who humanize their bad guys by giving them senses of humor, Rhoades portrays unrepentant, psychotic killers but manages to make us feel, almost against our will, the human hearts that beat within their violent souls. Keller's own violent soul remains in turmoil, loving the hunt even as it threatens his new-found stability. Drawing from a half-dozen thriller formulas used by such masters as Lee Child and Stephen Hunter, Rhoades shuffles the deck skillfully and deals an altogether new hand.

And for now, it's only 1.99!

The other two titles in my backlist, SAFE AND SOUND and BREAKING COVER, will be coming soon for e-book.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Latest Newspaper Column:

It seems that "Sharia law," that favorite bugbear of the hard right, is back, and it weighs heavily on the fevered minds of some lawmakers.

The latest crusader is Alabama state Sen. Gerald Allen. Allen has introduced a bill in that state's legislature that's very much like a measure voted in by referendum in Oklahoma a few months ago, in that it bans the states' courts "from using Sharia law or international law in making legal decisions."

Never mind the fact that, as in Oklahoma, no one has ever used or attempted to use Sharia law (a term which Allen admitted to a reporter he couldn't define) in the state courts.

That's not the point, Allen insists.

"It's not about what's happening right now," he told a local paper. "I'm thinking about 10 years down the road, 20, 30, 40. Time has an effect on these things, and I'm thinking about the future."

Got that? It's not that Sharia law is a threat right now. It's that, 20 to 40 years in the future, someone might try to impose it, so we've got to be ready.

Good to know that in a state facing a $110 million budget deficit, unemployment rates of up to 18 percent in some counties, and a corresponding flight of its citizens from the state, someone has the wisdom and foresight to take the long view and prepare for the time when the overwhelmingly Christian state known as the "Heart of Dixie" might possibly become a hotbed of Islamist agitation.

After all, it's happened in other places. Just ask failed Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, who managed to turn what looked like an easy pickup of a Senate seat from the feckless Harry Reid into a debacle by, essentially, talking like a raving loon.

Responding to a question about Muslims "taking over a city in Michigan," Angle responded, "First of all, Dearborn, Mich., and Frankford, Texas, are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States. It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States."

Only problem with Angle's rather confusingly phrased expression of outrage is: First, Dearborn's "government situation" is indeed still solidly under American law, with American cops and judges and everything; and second, Frankford, Texas, the other city Angle was so exercised about, doesn't exist. It's a former suburb of Dallas that was absorbed into that metropolis in 1975.

Who knows, though? Maybe Angle was talking about Muslims from "20, 30, 40 years down the road" who'd learned to travel back in time to before 1975 and impose Sharia law in a vanished Texas -suburb. You never can tell with these people.

It would be easy to dismiss this nonsense as fringe craziness from a backwoods state legislator and a rejected Senate candidate. But the newly elected Republican majority in the House apparently intends to try to mainstream anti-Sharia hysteria.

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert told radio host Frank Gaffney (a guy so insane he insists right-wing icon Grover Norquist is a Muslim agent) that he was going to "push for hearings" on "creeping Sharia." Florida uber-wingnut congressman Allen West has indicated he wants to do the same.

Yes, my friends, fear is where it's at this year. Fear of the Creeping Sharia. Fear of the Stealth Jihadist, the guy who only looks like a moderate, reasonable Muslim, but luckily for us poor saps, those in the know (and in the GOP) can see that inwardly he's cackling and plotting the next 9/11.

Which is why, this past week, we had Rep. Peter King's Homeland Security Dog and Pony Show in which he trotted out carefully selected witnesses to prove that, while he's not actually saying all Muslims are terrorists, he is saying they all would be happy to kill us in our sleep and convert our babies to Islam.

Because fear sells. Fear distracts. Fear, King and his fellow travelers hope, will keep us from noticing that they have no real answers to the problems that plague us, just the same failed coddle-the-rich, screw-the-middle-class policies that dug this hole for us in the first place.