Category Archives: @ashertopia

Salvage Trouble by Morin

From the publisher: Carl Ramsey has a starship to run. Down on his luck, struggling to pay the cost of fuel, he’s just looking for some quick, easy cash. While looting the wreck of a passenger ship, they discover that one escape pod never ejected, and the passengers are still alive. A routine salvage job turns into a rescue mission, and a good deed never goes unpunished. With two refugees aboard, Captain Carl Ramsey finds that his ship, the Mobius, has a target painted on its hull. Someone is after the new passengers, and willing to stop at nothing to get them back.

Salvage Trouble
Black Ocean #1
by J. S. Morin
Magical Scrivener Press
October 2015

My take: Interestingly, Morin calls his books, “episodes” which makes a ton of sense because each story, really novella at about 150 pages or so, are very much like what you’d expect to see on TV, especially the golden age of SyFy’s in-house shows like Lexx, Dark Matter, and Farscape. Add magic to science fiction space ship based television and this is what you’d get. And it’s not bad, but it’s also not deep.

In this story, we meet the crew, especially Captain Ramsey, as they attempt to salvage a ship that had been attacked. They thought it was empty, but it turns out that there was one escape pod left on the ship with a Barbie doll-like priestess and a teenager who may not be who he seems to be. Turns out the priestess kidnapped the teen to save him and to shed light on the genetic experiments going on at their school. The normal obstacles come up – the galactic authorities board them, hirelings attack them, and so on – until an all too quick resolution involving magic, subterfuge and quick talking by the Captain. I said “of course” in my mind so many times during that sentence. This isn’t epic, or dark, or hard science fiction. But it’s fun. So I’ll keep reading the series and see if it develops more.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Twain

I haven’t read many Twain books. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve read one all the way through. And I have to admit that it wasn’t easy to get through. The beginning was interesting enough, but the loooooong middle section was so uneventful that even Twain jumps forward a few years at one point.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
by Mark Twain
1889

I was struck by the fact that this book wouldn’t work with today’s audience for another reason as well: he just knows too much about things that we don’t. For instance, he creates a telegraph and phone line system, wires for power, creates factories and schools, manufactures bicycles and other tools. How many of us today know how to do any of those things? We get stuck with King Arthur’s court and we, what? Argue about political correctness on a Twitter made from stone carvings (there isn’t a printing press, no one can read, and paper as we know it doesn’t exist.) We’d be killed. I mean the guy knew the date of the eclipse from that year hundreds of years before his time. I don’t even remember the exact date of the one that happened here last August. Was it August?

The story ends in an unexpected and stunted way. I had to go back to the end and the beginning to make it all make sense. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s just so abrupt. And sad.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Unbelievable by Katy Tur

I don’t normally read books like this, but the Trump phenomenon over the last several years is so seismic (or yuge) and because the book was on sale, I felt that I had to give it a shot.

Unbelievable
by Katy Tur
Dey Street Books
September 2017

I’d heard some of the complaints by Trump about “Little Katy” during the campaign but didn’t understand what was going on. I don’t watch the news on cable or TV and had almost no experience with who this reporter was or her role in covering the Trump campaign. I almost stopped reading during the first couple chapters. Tur came across exactly how I had worried she might – argumentative, vulgar at times, and – most importantly – clearly biased. I had no interest in reading a book by someone with an axe to grind. But I was listening to this book – thanks Audible! – while playing Elder Scrolls Online so I left it playing while I became the Scarlet Judge. After a couple hours at 155% speed I was about half way through the book and had overcome my concerns. Oh, Tur is definitely biased and she I believe she definitely has an attitude (she narrates and I believe it’s clear in her tone). But she is also really interesting.

The background of what happened at key interviews and campaign stops was fascinating. Recognizing her bias and taking that into account I can say that this book was worth reading/listening for the first hand insight into the campaign and how Trump thinks (which may be extrapolated by how he acts in conjunction with Tur’s opinion.)

I’m not sure I’ll read other books by Tur in the future – or other books about Trump or his campaign – but as a one-time, sale-induced read it wasn’t bad.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

12 Rules for Life by Peterson

No matter what you think of Dr. Peterson there is no doubt at all that he is a worldwide phenomenon with sold out speaking tours all around the Western world, YouTube and social media accounts in the millions of views each month as well as this bestselling book. It would be foolish to read just our favorite news sources’ opinions of him when there is so much he publishes himself. So reading his book was a no brainer! And I’m glad I did.

12 Rules for Life
by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
Random House Canada
January 2018

Dr. Peterson blends an interesting mix of history (especially totalitarian history) with philosophy, religion and mythology all held together by psychology. So while some chapters may seem like they would go the normal self-help route he takes a long detour around his vast knowledge of these topics to provide insight into why he thinks we ought to do the things we do. In the meantime, we get good advice, some of it used to be called common sense, as well as lessons in all kinds of disciplines. I think that’s important. Too often, readers are told to simply trust the author because, well, they wrote the book after all. But why should I trust someone I don’t know? But make the case with authorities and evidence I can check myself or that I do know and I’m willing to bite. Peterson does that. Well.

I made the decision to listen to him on audiobook and it’s the way I’d recommend it to anyone. I love listening to authors read their own work – see Al Gore, President Clinton, President Bush, President Carter, Katy Tur – because you can hear what they really mean and how they really feel by their emphasis and tonal changes. I could hear the passion that Dr. Peterson felt when discussing certain topics as well as the pain. For instance, when he spoke about his daughter’s suffering.

Controversy and politics aside, there is no good reason I can think of not to listen to or read this book. His 12 Rules, if followed, can’t possibly be bad for anyone. Quite the contrary, in fact. We could all use more advice and urging to make the most of ourselves, fix ourselves before we try to fix the world (and in fact, fixing ourselves is probably the best kind of fixing the world there is,) focus on what’s good and make the time we spend with people matter by listening well and recognizing that they have something to teach us. There is so much in this book that’s extremely positive I recommend it highly.

A note about religion, especially Christianity. One thing that does vex Christians, myself included, is whether Dr. Peterson is actually a Christian in the born again/ giving his life to Christ way, rather than the respect for Christ and God, theist or Universalist way. I thought I had him figured out most of the way through the book as someone who follows Christianity because of what it represents – every character and story is archetypical or represents a greater truth. If that’s true only, and I’m trying to be precise here, then his faith may not be Christianity as we know it. But then towards the end of the book I’m certain I heard more personal faith in both his tone and his words. He points to the Bible throughout without directly proselytizing, but at times, especially in the Pet the Cat section and following, he seems to open up a little more about what his faith does for him. If that’s true and I wasn’t reading into him, then it’s possible that Dr. Peterson may be discussing Christianity in a way that won’t put off readers who don’t believe, while not specifically hiding what he does, but simply using what he understands about Christianity in ways that bolster his claims for universal truths in his Rules. So after reading this long book as listening to many of his YouTube videos and podcasts I am back where I was at the start: I have no idea what kind of Christianity Dr. Peterson has. Regardless, this is not a “Christian” book. But it is a good book. I’ll have to live with the ambiguity of Dr. Peterson’s cat-ness, here.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

A Trap for the Potentate by Atamanov

This is book 3 in the Dark Herbalist series with Amra, the goblin herbalist, and his plotline testers. Continuing after book 2, Amra has turned his sights to defeating the challenging quest to go to the end of the river Styx – a challenge that no group of players have yet won. Along the way, several plotholes open up very wide as Tim has to deal with real world enemies as a local gang takes out a hit on him and he loses his girlfriend early in the book when she completely disappears from the story. The ending – and so far there isn’t a fourth book, but it can’t possibly be done – is far too quick and leaves a lot to be desired.

A Trap for the Potentate
Dark Herbalist #3
by Michael Atamanov
Magic Dome Books
January 2018

Now that I’ve read three LitRPG books, all from Michael Atamanov, I’ve decided on two important conclusions: First, I really don’t think Atamanov is doing a good job writing a story. It’s completely possible that the fourth book will solve many of the outstanding issues, including, importantly, why Amra wins at everything. But I’m not sure that’s the case. He writes women like caricatures of Instagram models. They are there to be beautiful (every woman is) and interested in him (every woman is), while whining and complaining (every woman does) the whole time. There isn’t a three dimensional character in the book. Maybe his AI online girlfriend, Tiesha. Maybe.

Second, I like LitRPG and am totally feeling the itch to play RPGs. I’ve started another author’s LitRPG and am looking for others. There has to be a good LitRPG author and story. I’m a huge fan of Sword Art Online (season 1, especially), so I know this is possible.

If there is a fourth book, I’ll read it just to see if things wrap up. But I have low expectations right now.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Stay on the Wing by Atamanov

This is book 2 in the Dark Herbalist series with Amra, the goblin herbalist, and his plotline testers. This story picks up right where the first one ends with Tim (Amra’s player’s real name), his sister, his girlfriend and friends playing an online VR MMORPG.

Stay on the Wing
Dark Herbalist #2
by Michael Atamanov
Magic Dome Books
June 2017

In part two, other players who watch Amra’s video stream become upset that Amra, a small, weak new player, somehow gets a unique flying mount in the game so the game company decides to put the mount up for grabs to any player who can hunt and kill Amra. The majority of the book is the story of Amra running from the other players, including a large portion of the book where Amra becomes a pirate captain with an orc army. Like the first book, Amra continues his long trek towards awesomeness as just about everything works out for him.

The first book in this series was my first experience in LitRPG or GameLit a sub genere that tells a story through the perspective of a game player – usually a VR player in the near future. Books like Ready Player One or other books with VR as an integral plot device aren’t the same thing as LitRPG. The focus on LitRPG novels is the game playing and RPG leveling aspects. In fact, in this series, the plotline tester aspect of the books was all about the company showing people that playing a goblin herbalist was fun and worthy of their time. The story is constantly interrupted with skill updates, character leveling, experience, game notifications, and other aspects of RPG gaming that gamers know and appreciate. I’m not sure other readers will understand as well or appreciate things. The biggest thing that non-gamers need to know if that the vast majority of how this “game” goes is wrong. No one wins as much as Amra does. Nothing goes wrong for him. Nothing. Even when he makes a mistake the game somehow adapts what he did and makes it a win for him. Real games as grind, loss, playing, fun, loss, grind and loss.

I bought books 2 and 3 at the same time. Otherwise, I’d likely not finish these fun but vapid stories.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury

Imagine a world where there is so much information coming at you that you just can’t handle it; you decide that it would be better to simply avoid information that doesn’t make you happy. The world in this book is that world. And so is the real world, or at least it seems plausible that we are heading there.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
1953

In recent years we have seen a louder and louder call to silence critics or people we don’t agree with. From de-platforming on college campuses, to blocking and banning on social platforms, to campaigns to fire people from their jobs for things they have said outside of work, to trying to get books banned, to making speech illegal if we find it hateful, we are definitely on the road to more censorship, rather than less. Bradbury provides this world for us: a world of happy thoughts (or else) and complete control by a police state that regulates not only how we relate to others but entertainment and learning as well.

Bradbury was ahead of his time in more than just the call to be wary of totalitarianism. His ideas of wall sized screens (instead of TVs) and interacting with those actors directly was prescient. The idea that we would, as a society, choose to burn ideas (books) on our own, that we would self-medicate (ala Brave New World) and that only true freedom would be outside the system all stay with the reader long after the book is over. I’ve read this book before and, while the story isn’t great, the points the author makes are true and definitely worth being reminded of.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Hayes

The book’s title is, unfortunately, accurate.

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant
by Drew Hayes
REUTS Publications, LLC
July 2014

The book is a collection of stories that introduce the characters, one by one, and show some adventures that work out because they do. I almost didn’t finish the book. I set it aside and didn’t come back to it while I read several others. I did finish it and when I was done I couldn’t see myself reading more of this. But there are three books in the series. Three utterly uninteresting and unadventurous books.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Extracted by Haywood

Imagine a time machine. Then imagine checking out the future and everything looks great. Then you look again and the world has ended. Why and how? You aren’t sure so you go back in time to the moment of death for three heroes who you plan to send in time to figure those things out. Of course, there is another group of shadowy, deadly people trying to stop you.

Extracted
by R.R. Haywood
47North
March 2017

It’s not exactly original, but it works in a way. The book drags in the middle and only at the end did I realize that this whole book was only the set up for a series. As much as this book had going against it, I’m inexplicably interested in the next one. Maybe I have unresolved questions or just want to see if anything happens. But I do. So that’s a positive.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.

Unbelievable? by Brierley

I have had occasion to listen to the podcast by the same name by Brierley and found it interesting and worth my time, but how would a book work? Like he explains in the beginning chapters, this book is the first apologetic he’s written directly to readers and listeners.

Unbelievable?
Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I’m still a Christian
By Justin Brierley
SPCK
June 2017

Brierley comes across as thoughtful, if somewhat basic (if you read apologetics you’ll have already heard most of this.) Where the book shines is in his stories about his guests and their debates. It’s a short read and worth it, especially for fans and those who are interested in the topic but don’t want a more dense volume.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com and a believer, a husband, a dad, a geek, an artist, a gamer, a teacher, a learner and tired.