Book Review: “The Circuit: Executor Rising” by Rhett C. Bruno

Executor RisingOne of the most enjoyable things about having spent the last couple of years as a science fiction and fantasy book reviewer is that occasionally a new author will see a review I’ve written about a book intended for a similar audiences as their new effort. Sometimes those authors get in touch with me and offer a free copy of their new book in exchange for an honest review. Who am I to turn down free books after all?

The Circuit: Executor Rising found its way to my reading list because the author, Rhett C. Bruno, stumbled upon my review of James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes from a while back. This book fits into the same genre and intended audience that Leviathan Wakes goes after, so the author thought I might be interested in giving it a try.

There is a certain charm to science fiction novels that base themselves exclusively in our solar system instead of ranging into fictional galaxies and strange places that the reader knows nothing about before they pick up a book. Pretty much everyone knows where Saturn is located, or that there are well-known moons such as Titan or Enceladus. Readers already know about Earth’s moon and Mars as places that even in real life scientists have notions about colonizing. The fact that a reader can know where an author is referring to from the first mention of the place rather than needing a lot of extra world building to make things effective allows an author to keep their focus on the story. A small part of me thinks that all new science fiction authors should be forced to start in our solar system instead of inventing their own, but I’m not foolish enough to think that would ever actually happen.

The Circuit: Executor Rising keeps itself firmly rooted in our home system, dealing with a future where humanity has done what seems to be the inevitable and ruined our home planet. Earth is a shell of its former self, barren and unable to support life in any meaningful way. Instead humanity is exiled to the Kepler Circuit, a string of colonies and stations spread through the solar system linked by ever-moving transports known as Solar-Arks. The Tribune, a religious faction, has assumed control of most law enforcement and most of society in general, and as as a result exert their influence and control as widely and brutally as possible.

With a book like The Circuit: Executor Rising it can be very easy for the author to overwhelm a reader with far too many viewpoints as they try to set the stage for everything going on in their book’s universe. However, Bruno, like James S.A. Corey with Leviathan Wakes, has managed to keep the number of viewpoints in The Circuit: Executor Rising to a small few while still providing a rather expansive view of the book universe he is working in. As a reader jumping into a book by a debut author, or as a reader jumping into a new trilogy or series in general, I find that only having to keep three or four character viewpoints straight in my mind is so much easier than a dozen or two dozen. It makes for a tighter, more engaging first experience with the book.

An android by the name of ADIM was my favorite viewpoint by far. His artificial intelligence is very advanced, but he still has struggles comprehending some of the more basic feelings and situations that a normal human would find to be second nature. I enjoyed the character as I watched him grow bit by bit over the course of the book even though he had what seemed to be the least amount of screen time by a significant margin. My second favorite character is Sage, a Tribune Executor who has been sent to infiltrate a rebellious group, but is struggling with her own past decisions in service to the Tribune. I think there is a lot more coming from Sage, and perhaps even a lot more back story than I originally thought. It would be interesting to read a prequel type novella revolving exclusively around Sage and the very briefly mentioned relationship she had in the past with another main character’s son.

When it comes to how well The Circuit: Executor Rising compares to other science fiction, I think it stands up rather well. The opening chapter or two did feel a little bit disjointed to me, but by the time I was four or five chapters in I had a good grasp of where the story was taking me. There are a few patches that aren’t as polished as they could be, but they aren’t bad and I think with future installments the author will see those rough edges smooth themselves out on their own. The story was tightly paced, never leaving me feel like I was waiting for something to happen and the switches between viewpoints were well organized to let me connect with a character, but not get worn out by only seeing things through their eyes.

There are a lot of good things going on with The Circuit: Executor Rising. I think Rhett C. Bruno has found himself a wonderful story to tell and I’m looking forward to seeing what a second book has to offer at some point in the future. If you are a fan of The Expanse series, or anything remotely in the same vein, then The Circuit: Executor Rising is probably a book you should take a good, hard look at picking up sometime.

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Looking Back at July 2014

I’m still playing a little bit of catch-up with the blog as I wind down my time at my current job (today is my last day) and prepare for my new job (Monday is my first day), but at least this time the monthly recap is only about a week late instead of an entire month late. Progress is progress I suppose.

July as an interesting month of reading for me. I read an entire trilogy from start to finish without anything in between, read the final two books of another trilogy, read what I believe to be a standalone novel (but I’m not entirely sure), and started a new series by an author I’ve heard lots of great things about over the past few months. On top of all that, I got to enjoy the latest installment of The Expanse, which I had been waiting a long time to pick up.

In no particular order, here are the books I read in July:

My interest in the books by Alex J. Cavanaugh came from a conversation with an editor friend of mine who said he had read the first one and wanted to know what I thought. CassaStar is not particularly long, so I gave it a shot over a Saturday afternoon and it grabbed me enough I went ahead and read the other two over the remainder of the weekend. I liked what the author was doing with the books, although they are still a little rough around the edges. I could see his improvement though, so I’d give another endeavor of his a fair shot in the future.

Born of Hatred and With Silent Screams are the second and third books of The Hellequin Chronicles, and I had read the first book a few months ago. I found that first book to be rather engaging and there was something about the main character that just kept eating at the back of my mind, so I read these two books to try to find the answer I was looking for. It took a while, but about three-quarters of the way through Born of Hatred I got the answer, and then continued on with my enjoyment of the trilogy. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Steve McHugh has any new material forthcoming.

The books by Myke Cole and Michael R. Underwood came from following my favorite authors on Twitter and seeing them talk about those two authors an awful lot, so I went out and got a couple of books to try. Shadow Ops: Control Point was much different from I was expecting and had me hooked from the first page. Shield and Crocus can best be described as “The Avengers you never knew you wanted to read about.”

And, of course, I absolutely loved Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. It was recently announced that The Expanse has been extended into at least three more books in the coming years, one per summer (which is perfect), and I’m hoping it doesn’t start there. I hope I’m still reading new books in The Expanse series when I’m 50 years old.

As for August, I’m blatantly focusing on books closer to 300 pages more than anything else. I’m starting a new job, moving into a new home, and in general still making a lot of adjustments to my everyday life, so reading time is going to be at a premium. I think if I focus on the shorter books I have available to myself I can still finish eight or nine before the end of the month and keep my pace for the 100 books read this year goal.

Looking Back at June 2014

I’m aware that this recap of the books I read during June is literally a month late as of right now, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I mentioned in my post at the beginning of July that things were going to be a little slow around here for a few months while some other things got sorted out and taken care of, so I suppose this is the verifiable proof.

However, I did read books in June, and some of them were magnificent. I did not quite get caught up all the way to 50 finished books by June 30th like I wanted, but I got to 47 for the halfway point of the year and I think I can make that up in the final six months. There is still hope for my goal of reading 100 books this year! There is still hope I say!

In no particular order, here are the books I read in June:

A couple of other shorter works I also read in June:

I really hit the jackpot in June because I was reading only 2 books I was confident were not going to let me down. The rest of them were all gambles to a certain extent, but only one of them left me feeling disappointed. City of Heavenly Fire is the concluding volume for The Mortal Instruments series and as such I was expecting some serious fireworks both from the characters and the plot. As it turns out, the book had a rather mopey feel to it and by the end of the much too long 725 pages I felt really unfulfilled. I’m glad I stuck with it so I can have finished the entire series and tie it off with a bow, but it wasn’t the same as the previous books, not by a long shot. I think the author was already mentally moving on to other projects before she finished City of Heavenly Fire.

My absolute favorite book of the month was The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir. I only grabbed a copy because other authors on my Twitter feed were raving about how good it is and I figured I should jump on that bandwagon sooner or later. The book is fantastic! I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen because while it might be a science fiction novel it appeals to a much broader audience than that. There is a little something for everyone.

Everything else from June was wonderful as well. Defenders was a wonderful discovery of mine that I’ve been recommending a lot as well. The Crimson Campaign left be desperate for the final volume of the Powder Mage trilogy. Prince of Fools was as good or better than Mark Lawrence’s award-winning Broken Empire books. Trilisk Ruins and Fool Moon were wonderful reads as well as they helped me break up the monotony of reading longer books. I heartily recommend basically everything on this list as something worth reading if you were on the fence about any of the titles previously. Give them all a shot, you won’t regret it.

In other news, I continue to do rather terribly at not starting new trilogies and/or series. I have been tying a few off as I either catch up to the current installments (and am now waiting for the next installment to be published) or finish them off entirely, but I’m also starting up new ones willy-nilly. I imagine it will never not be a problem for me to be honest.

For July I have another good lineup I think I’m going to enjoy. Some new authors, some established favorites, and a few choices I really have no idea what to expect from. July should be another quality month, I’m fairly certain of it.

The Crossroad of Blogging and Reading

I’ve been blogging about books here since March 2012 and I’ve had a lot of fun for the past two and a half years. My hope is that I’ll continue having fun blogging for many years to come, but right now I’m dealing with lots of things pulling me in a lot of different directions. As much as I wish this blog were a cash cow that pays all the bills with money left over, the fact of the matter is that I make nothing off of my endeavors here.

You know what? I’m entirely okay with not making any money off of my blogging because I started 20four12 as a way to fill time when nothing else was going on during slow days at the office. It seemed like a great way to get all of the great things I had in my head about the books I read down somewhere I could share them with others and for years I had been wanting to give blogging a try anyway. Making money from blogging would be great, but it’s not something I currently plan on doing here.

However, because I don’t make any money from 20four12, it’s also very difficult to put it ahead of other things that need my attention. I’ve got a wonderful wife and two young children need me to spend time with them as any good husband and father should. I’m also making a lot of adjustments in my career as a web developer at the moment as I try to take on more responsibilities at the office as well as improve my skill set for future projects I’m thinking about. Add all of that to the general hustle and bustle of everyday life and right now the time I have to spend writing, planning, and posting blog entries seems to be dwindling more and more.

Why is any of that important? I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t, this is just a book blog written by an amateur who reads a lot of books. I’m not changing the world or anything here, but I do like to do things right and not halfway. There are people who read this blog regularly through their RSS feeds, visiting the site directly, or in some other fashion, and for whatever reason I feel like if I’m not going to be blogging as much for the next little while I should at least give them a heads up, even if fewer posts here won’t be the end of the world for anyone.

So what am I going to do?

First, I am going to focus on one particular goal I set for myself this year. The one I set to read 100 books for the year. As of right now I’m three books behind pace, which should be easy enough to make up with six months remaining in 2014, but I need to stay very focused to make it happen. I set a lot of goals at the beginning of the year and some of them were a little to ambitious, but the one for reading 100 books is the one I really don’t want to give up trying to accomplish. With that in mind, writing a review about every single book I read is something I’m probably not going to have the ability to do.

Why can’t I write a review for every book? Because I need to free up some time. Why do I need time? That’s easy to explain: I want to move 20four12 away from being hosted on WordPress to being self-hosted. That’s the second thing I want to do in the last six months of this year. I have the requisite skills needed to make the change, but finding the time is a much more difficult proposition. If I back off on the actual blogging for a little while I might just be able to find those slices of time I really need to make it happen.

So, the end result of this decision is that my posting on 20four12 is probably going to be a little sporadic over the coming months. I’ll still be writing my monthly update on which books I’ve read to keep both myself and any interested parties up to speed on my goal for completing 100 books. I will also write an occasional review, but likely just for the books that really speak to me as I’m reading them. This is me giving myself permission to keep the blog going but also to get some other things done that have been piling up.

Perhaps none of this will mean a thing and I’ll somehow find myself with all the time in the world to get the new projects finished and still read all of the books and blog about them, but I have a feeling 20four12 will be a little less busy for a little while, and while I wish that didn’t have to be the case, I’ve accepted that it’s okay and nobody is going to go screaming through the streets in despair while I step back for a bit. I’ll blog when I can and I’ll make sure those posts are as amazing as they can be when I write them.

Book Review: “The Breaking World: Dawn of Swords” by David Dalglish and Robert J. Duperre

Dawn of SwordsTitle: The Breaking World: Dawn of Swords
Author: David Dalglish and Robert J. Duperre
Publisher: 47 North
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Length: 609 pages

Obtained: I bought my copy from Amazon.

The Plot: Dezrel is a new world, a young world. The gods Karak and Ashhur have come to this world to try again at creating humanity after failing before. With this new attempt at humanity the brother gods have designated some known as the First Families to guide the fledgling race as it discovers the path it should take. The leading members of these families will never age and never die as long as they remain faithful to their respective deities, If they aren’t, the aging process begins. Sometimes, they haven’t exactly remained faithful, but they go to great lengths to try to hide it from others.

The children of Karak are at odds with those they have thrown out of their order and have threatened them with destruction if they don’t forsake their ways. The children of Ashhur are content to live their lives full of innocence, ignoring the happenings in other parts of the land. Ashhur has protected them, protected their lives so they can be happy.

Jacob Eveningstar, the very first man created by the god brothers is determined to find a solution to the problem as he knows that if the children of Karak go through with their plan the entire world, both the followers of Karak and the followers of Ashhur will suffer.

The Commentary: There is an awful lot going on in this book, and if you are a fan of the Half-Orc universe, you will find Dawn of Swords to be a wonderful eye-opening look at the early days of Dezrel that are referenced so often in the other books. There is a lot of great information in Dawn of Swords that adds so much extra depth to the books that take place after it in the Half-Orcs chronology. For no other reason than that I found Dawn of Swords to be a great read. David Dalglish has previously created such a vibrant world with his books and now Robert J. Duperre has joined Dalglish to take that world to the next level.

Seeing Karak and Ashhur in person for the first time was really exciting. I had pictured in my mind how the two of them would be from the other books, but I was only partly right with my mental picture. I had their general characteristics rather spot on, but the more subtle things I was pleasantly surprised with.

Having the chance to learn about the First Families and the life of Jacob Eveningstar was also a very exciting thing for me. They are referenced plenty of times in other books but they were always a mysterious entity most of the time. There is a lot going on with the First Families and I think there is a lot more to learn in the books that follow Dawn of Swords. I believe it is intended to be the first of a trilogy, but don’t quote me on that.

The world building in Dawn of Swords is spectacular. Dalglish and Duperre have a lot of room to work with Dezrel and because this book is essentially the origin story for all the other ones they get to do a lot of filling in the blank along with bringing new information to the forefront. All of it was done with fine dexterity, and while the book may have been just a tad too long for the story it was telling, the pictures being painted were fantastic.

Needs More: Action. Dawn of Swords has its fair share of action scenes, but at over 600 pages in length I went in thinking there would be more action of the epic variety. This isn’t a knock on the book by any means, it’s just that as a personal preference, given the amount of action I’ve seen in the other books of this universe, it was a little tame. Perhaps it comes as part of this book being such a big world building endeavor.

Needs Less: Exposition. I’m all about length epic fantasy books, but this on was just a hair too long for the content it was giving me. Perhaps 75 pages less would have done the trick for me. There were a handful of scenes that hung on just a little bit too long.

Worth It? Yes, I think so. Granted, this is not the book to start with if you are looking to read something from this universe for the first time because it deals with a lot of story that won’t make as much sense as if you’ve read some of the other books first. However, if you are a fan of David Dalglish’s previous books, this new prequel to those by Dalglish and Duperre will likely  be something you’ll enjoy.

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