Unstructured Review: The Big One

About a decade ago, I saw a thread on Spacebattles and got a self-published book that set me on a path. I still can’t make up my mind whether that path was for better or worse, or if that one thriller really had too much of an influence. But that book was Crusade, in The Big One series.

The thing about stuff like this was that it was part of my strange experience where I often experienced the imitators and follow-ons first, and only later looked at the originals.

So my initial view of it was that, after the somewhat forgivable first book, it was something as bad as it was implausible. Now it’s changed. The books themselves haven’t changed and I can still see the many flaws. What has changed in the context I see them in.

So, the Big One Series goes like this. In 1940, Lord Halifax stages a parliamentary coup and withdraws the UK from the war. So far, good enough. Then via zombie sorceress contrivance, the Germans seize Britain in what amounts to a Crimea-style sneak attack into already-guarded airbases. Moscow is overrun, Stalin is taken out in a coup, Zhukov rises to the top and decommunizes near-immediately, returning to just “Russia” (and quickly becoming a pro-American teddy bear). The US gets involved, fighting on the Eastern Front on the ground while its carriers pound western Europe. It devolves into a stalemate until 1947, when a stockpiled fleet of B-36s nuke Germany into utter ruin.

The goal is to show “throw Germany all the bones, and as long as the US enters the war, it’ll just end up nuked even if it does better.” It has many issues with plausibility, but is still accurate in the most general terms and isn’t too bad in terms of plot tangles.

Later, it devolves. The Germans fight on for years in the occupied USSR and flee into the Middle East, where they aid an implausible strawman “Caliphate” as it twirls its mustache and gets beaten up by the Americans. Farther east, China and Japan kind of meld into Communist Imperial Chipan, which proceeds to engage the US in an Easy Mode Cold War where the Chipanese (yes, really) have all the USSR’s weaknesses (and then some) but few to none of its actual strengths.

Meanwhile, immortal millenia-old manipulators have their adventures, and one of them, “The Seer”, serves as advisor to every single American leader. Under his guidance, the US sticks with the course of Massive Retaliation, with a military composed mostly of super-bombers like the B-70.

So, what changed? Well, I still view the series as subpar. It’s just no longer as distinctly subpar as I had initially thought, when stacked against its two obvious fellows in arms-later technothrillers and internet alternate history. Look at Crusade, my first entry, and where it was into its full goofiness. That has…

  • Multiple meandering plots that don’t really connect and get in each others way
  • Characters and scenes that exist solely for the author to give political rants.
  • A main character who exists to give the author a mouthpiece in a position of power.
  • Long descriptions of weaponry.
  • An implausible Middle Eastern superstate that beats up a few local jobbers before being effortlessly crushed by (awesome) American Weaponry.

Now, what does bestseller Executive Orders, by the technothriller king himself have?

  • Multiple meandering plots that barely connect and get in each others way.
  • Characters and scenes that exist solely for the author to give political rants.
  • A main character who exists to give the author a mouthpiece in a position of power.
  • Long descriptions of weaponry.
  • An implausible Middle Eastern superstate that beats up a few local jobbers before being effortlessly crushed by (awesome) American Weaponry.

I rest my case. And if I want to go into obscure works, well, I have the Arab invasion of Ireland or the aircraft-carrier spawning Middle Eastern superstate. In terms of plausibility, it really isn’t that much (if at all) worse than other military thrillers. Their wrongs don’t make it right, but at least they’re wrong together.

And in terms of characters and plot, it’s actually better than its contemporaries-especially internet alternate history. The series at least tries to have characters and a conventional plot instead of being purely pseudo-textbook. Whether or not that’s a good idea is a matter of opinion, but it earnestly tries. And it’s definitely not the only tale to star paper-thin and/or strawman characters. The prose is still clunky, but that’s both true of a lot of stories and understandable. The author is an analyst and it can be hard to leave the “analyst mindset” when writing fiction, particularly on a whim.

So what does separate it from the pack? I’d honestly say simple timing, both on my end (it was one of the first technothrillers I really read in depth, alongside Dale Brown) and in general. It was self-published in Lulu and managed to be self-published alternate history that arrived earlier before the Kindle/web machine really got going. Also, at the time, it was both detailed and controversial in the history/military nerd corners of the internet, and you know what they say about bad publicity. And it’s distinct from the “South/Germans win ACW/World War II” divergences that dominate popular alternate history.

But to be fair, I think there still is something that makes it stand out in a dubious way and it’s not the weird divergences or the immortal manipulator contrivance characters (who needs zombie sorceresses?)

The standout element is how ridiculously and incredibly one-sided it is.

Now, far be it from me to say that other thrillers aren’t or can’t be one-sided. They definitely can be and have been. But TBO has work put in to making it one sided. Lots of work. Detailed worldbuilding work on everything from force structure to force competence to technology to politics and constant mentions in-story about how awesome the Americans are.

Any main TBO book will be filled with variants of “The Americans are awesome.” “We can’t attract the attention of the Americans, lest they destroy us awesomely.” “What we can do is nothing compared to what the [awesome] Americans can do.” “The Americans are ruthless and driving (and therefore awesome)” and so on.Likewise, there’s infodumps and conversations galore about how weak their current or potential enemies are compared to them. One one-sided encounter where an American fighter aircraft sinks a missile boat even says “it really wasn’t fair.”

I’ve said multiple times that TBO resembles an “unironic One Punch Man” in terms of how stacked the deck is in favor of its (awesome) Americans. To be fair, there’s battles that are nominally more even because they don’t involve the Americans-only there the clunky writing style really shows and I rarely felt interested. It never felt organic, and in every case I could tell who the winner would be anyway.

So was this worth my kind of fixation on it? Not really, with full hindsight and full knowledge of other books/series’ at the same time or in the same genre. I cannot emphasize enough how much more forgiving of other dubious military thrillers Executive Orders has made me-because if the most mainstream, most popular author in the genre sank that low, could you really blame any of the others?

I wouldn’t recommend anything beyond the original book for casual reading or anything except seeing what happens when an author goes “How can I use a lot of effort and knowledge to remove drama and tension?”.

Still, it’s not the absolute worst ever, and just happens to have been in a prominent place at a prominent time.

Review: Task Force Desperate

Task Force Desperate

Task Force Desperate is Peter Nealen’s first novel in his American Praetorians series. It’s the same kind of gritty merc story that he would perfect in his later Brannigan’s Blackhearts series, one of my favorite cheap thrillers. This has some of the rough spots expected of a first-in-series, but is still a very good thriller.

Icelands

This is a classic “few mercs” story with a welcome hint of some, but not too much grounding. This sort of tale is as old as writing, and it has had a flexibility to it that the outright “technothriller” lacks.

Rivets

This is the kind of story that goes into great detail about what type of firearm each character is using and what accessories are on said firearm. Thankfully it doesn’t get in the way too much.

Zombie Sorceresses

By far the biggest contrivance is why, after a huge incident, the task of resolving it goes over to a few private contractors. The book’s explanation is budget cuts and wearing down of the regular US military, to the point where it’s compared to 1990s Russia.

While that made me somewhat skeptical, I could understand why that decision was made for storytelling reasons, and it didn’t really interfere. Some contrivance like this is inevitable in most small-unit stories.

The “Wha?”

The action is very good, managing a good balance of “just spectacular enough” along with plausible grit. Two things get in the way, besides prose that’s still being “broken in”. They’re contradictory to boot. It has a mixture of both first person narrative that I don’t think works as well as the author’s later third person books and the “look how the world changed” infodumps that seemed a little too tell-not-show.

That being said, the first person characters were good enough for a cheap thriller and the pacing, though not up to the level of Nealen’s later works, still worked well enough.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Task Force Desperate is a good cheap thriller by an author who would go on to write great cheap thrillers. I’d recommend going to the later Brannigan’s Blackhearts series if given a choice, but the American Praetorians books started with Task Force Desperate are still perfectly readable action stories.

 

Review: Protect And Defend

Protect And Defend

Protect and Defend by Eric Harry is a very good post-1991 technothriller, albeit one with the issues of the genre. I had mixed feelings about Harry’s Arc Light when I reviewed it here, but enjoy this newer book more.

Icelands

There’s viewpoint hopping, assassination conspiracies, and crisis overload. But there’s also a very novel setting that the ridiculous plot is used to set up-an old-style Chinese army invading the Russian Far East.

Rivets

The gritty infantry combat means the rivet counting is very limited, certainly in comparison with Arc Light. When infodumps happen, they’re generally more relevant.

Zombie Sorceresses

The setup involves an “Anarchist” takeover of Russia and mass assassination of world leaders that leads to an UN force in eastern Siberia, followed by a large Chinese invasion. Ok.

Then when the action starts, both sides have their technology downplayed. China should be several years into its boom-fueled military modernization, yet for the most part it’s treated like a Korean War-era infantry fieldcraft army. The UN, facing such an army, should leverage every technological advantage, but that’s not the focus.

In literary terms this is a good thing (see below), but I still raised an eyebrow more than once at this.

The “Wha?”

Protect and Defend keeps many of the some problems as Arc Light. The tinny, clunky politics get in the way too often. Some of the scenes are a little superfluous, with me thinking “is it really important to show basic training so many times?”.

When it gets to the action, though, it works considerably better. It’s down and dirty infantry combat that, however potentially anachronistic, serves as a nice contrast from the stereotypical technothriller and shows Harry’s resisting the temptation of making it (as Arc Light was) a technological knockout punch . The infantry fighting does get a little too repetitive by the end and the ending itself is kind of abrupt, but those aren’t deal-breakers by any means.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Protect and Defend is one of the better post-1991 military thrillers, and I liked it considerably better than Arc Light. I’d give more credit to changing styles than Harry improving in the fundamentals (although he still did), but the result is what it is-a good cheap thriller if you can get past the setup.

 

Review: Not By Sight

Not By Sight

Time to read a spy novel. Not by Sight is a long-in-the-making debut novel by Ken Prescott, telling the story of Air Force super-agent Dennis Sandoval. It’s a debut novel in a genre I’ve only read a few books in and am not the biggest fan of overall… and I liked it.

Icelands

As a book where the focus is on preventing World War III rather than starting it, the Iceland scale really isn’t applicable. From what I have seen in the spy-thriller (and thriller overall) genre, it doesn’t break the most new ground-but doesn’t have to.

Rivets

This helps that it’s not an exact technothriller per se, but it’s less rivety and infodumpy than a lot of other books in its genre. They’re there, but it’s not that bad.

Zombie Sorceresses

Let’s see, some of Sandoval’s feats are a little action hero-y, the plot twists are likewise similar, and there’s a little too much “conspiracy entanglement”. Other than that and the basic premise, the zombie sorceresses didn’t have to do all that much work. They don’t have to prevent World War III from going nuclear if World War III never starts, after all.

The “Wha?”

This had the feeling of a well-executed first novel. It has a few first-novel stumbles. Some of the prose gets clunky at times, there’s a bit too much telling and too little showing, and some of the dialogue gets a little exposition-y, especially in the final showdown.

But on the important parts, Prescott nailed it. The first is tone. It begins with and maintains a consistent “semi-grounded” tone. The second is narrative flow. Not By Sight’s multiple viewpoint characters don’t get in the way of a coherent, cohesive tale at all. The third is characters I cared about. I had an interest in the characters.

In fact, one of the issues I felt was that the characterization and chase through East Germany was a little too good. I was invested in them, so while the stakes raising war scare was understandable and plausible, I felt it wasn’t necessary.  It didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment and didn’t feel contrived, but a smaller-scope tale could have been just as effective.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Whatever small issues I have with this book, I enjoyed it, recommend it, and eagerly await Prescott’s next one. It was a good genre shift away from both classic war fiction and Ahern’s cartoon novels.

 

Review: Agent Lavender

Agent Lavender

I’m going to push my review system to the limit by reviewing a mostly nonviolent alternate history story set in 1970s Britain. But Agent Lavender deserves all the positive recognition it can get.

Icelands

The “Iceland Scale” is simply not suited for something like this. After all, World War III never happens here. And that’s a good thing, especially considering the genre. Alternate history tends to swing to two extremes. Either it appears (especially in mass market fiction) as an often clunky parallel of actual historical events, or (in niche fiction and online postings) as a bunch of events happening for the “thrill of it”, often descending into lurid darkness.

Agent Lavender manages to dodge both these extremes. Yes, in the tumult of Britain in 1970s, stuff happens. But it never spirals out of control or is clearly something contemporary pasted over the date.

Rivets

This “section” is one of the book’s weakest parts. It can get very “inside baseball for nerd aficionados of British political history” at points. Thankfully this doesn’t take the form of clunky infodumps.

Zombie Sorceresses

This is where it gets effective. There’s one implausible divergence, and that’s the main character, Harold Wilson himself. A lot of alternate history tries to make the divergence itself plausible. This shows that an implausible zombie-sorceress induced divergence can work as long as there’s care shown to the aftermath.

The “Wha?”

Agent Lavender probably boasts the best example in this section I’ve seen. The plot and pacing are very, very good. There’s only one small bump in the scenes with Wilson himself that descend into pure goofiness. Other than that, it flows well and avoids a lot of the mistakes.

First, it feels right. This kind of verisimilitude is what makes or breaks alternate history. Parallelism tends not to feel right because it’s easy to tell what event the author is making an analogy of at the expense of accuracy. Lists of events tend not to feel right because they feel very clunky and artificial. An integrated, grounded story like this may not be right (After all, it has the one big divergence and I’m not exactly the best expert on 1970s British politics), but it feels right, and that’s what matters.

Second, the research is done to benefit the story, rather than the story being done to show off the research. Which is to say, it’s integrated to aid the feel of the plot and only dwelled on when necessary rather than just being shoved out in infodumps. The most infodumpy parts are placed in a section at the end where they don’t interfere with the main novel.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Agent Lavender is probably the finest work of alternate history and one of the best political novels I’ve read. It’s not perfect, but what is? I highly recommend it.

The Dead Generals of World War III

I’ve finished reading Aleksander Maslov’s Fallen Soviet Generals, a chronicle of the fallen general officers of the Red Army in World War II. Over two hundred Soviet generals were killed, on average one every six days. German general casualties were similarly massive. The Western Allies got off lightly (the United States lost twenty generals), although there were exceptions. In Vietnam the U.S. Army lost five generals.

The subject of how generals died after the invention of the telephone and radio has been a area of weird fascination for me, and I even chose it as the subject of my first (probably too goofy given the seriousness of the topic) ebook.

No doubt there would be a lot of generals dying in a hypothetical World War III, even a purely conventional one, along with their subordinates. The causes can be divided into two main categories:

Deep Fire

“Deep Fire” refers to anything to strike deeper, and encompasses air strikes, long-range artillery, surface-to-surface missiles and special forces raids. This would likely be the leading cause of general deaths. The long-range fire strike complex (to use the Soviet term) abilities of both sides had increased dramatically from World War II, and command installations are clear targets for “big-ticket”, scarce weapons.

Close Fire

“Close Fire” refers to direct fire and, for the sake of convenience, shorter-ranged battlefield mortars and artillery. While the advances in deep fire and targeting would potentially render it secondary, it cannot be counted out as a form of killing generals. Maslov’s book gives countless examples of how, in twisted, confused, rapidly mobile engagements, command posts ended up close to enemy soldiers and armored vehicles, with very dire consequences for those inside them. Especially in a conflict with overwhelmingly more mechanization than the Second World War, something similar is bound to occur.

Of course, these categories can be blurred. Is a long-distance tank raid “deep” or “close?” Is a CAS airstrike on a forward command group “deep” or “close?”

Either way, the generals will not be spared.

 

Unstructured Review: The Survivalist

Having completed the Herculean task of finishing the entire Survivalist series, I figured it would be ideal for my first unstructured review. The “formal” parts can be found in my reviews of Total War and Pursuit, and not that much has changed in terms of zombie sorceress contrivance or rivet-counting detail.

The first nine books are good fun for anyone who likes 80s cheap thrillers, and the overall arc provided the series with a natural stopping point. The Rourke family and friends ride out the fire wave around the world in suspended animation, and they wake up to await the return of the Eden Project, a similarly suspended group of people launched into space just before the nuclear war to return a long time later.

Ideally, they’d ensure the safe return (with Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun” blaring? 😛 ) and that would be that.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Instead, after the tenth book, the series felt increasingly less post-apocalyptic and more self-indulgent. Ahern could finally write the sci-fi he wanted to, and the books felt like an author’s toy box. This is not a bad thing at all by itself-after all, more than two dozen books of Rourke flopping around in the wilderness would have felt monstrously dull and samey in its own right. However, the hearts of the books are still close combat with laboriously described pistols, bullets, and knives. It’s just occuring around a backdrop that by the end involves Nazi mad scientists, memory-implanted clones, and hypersonic fighter aircraft.

The soap-opera serial nature meant a clear-cut possible ending never emerged again after the ninth book (even the finale is kind of rushed). The characters almost never have to scavenge and can fish from convenient arsenals. The world has a “Fallout game” problem of everything working after sitting for centuries (and of course, everyone using either real or replica versions of centuries-old equipment). Convenient underground and underwater cities emerge when the plot calls for it. The series never was “plausible” and had ridiculous geology from the get-go, but the parade of gimmicks still felt contrived.

The rough and tumble charm of the first few books is gone and the sci-fi action stuff doesn’t quite rise to the level of replacing it. If I had to give a reason, it’s a sort of “have the cake and eat it too” effect where there’s all this supertech but still the good old familiar (and of course, exactly infodumped) weapons. The science fiction tone isn’t really that much of a problem, but I still liked the original postapocalyptic one better and have read better military science fiction than the weird hybrid Ahern made.

And then there are the fundamentals. They don’t get that much worse, but often they weren’t the best to start with. That Ahern wasn’t afraid to shake up the character relationships and kill an important character off is a good thing. That Ahern devoted a lot of time to characters pondering about their lives and continued a love triangle for muuuuch longer than he should have is not. For the action and prose, Ahern’s definitely not the worst, but he doesn’t really try to grow that much.

The later books are still readable and still have the action feel -if they didn’t, I wouldn’t have finished them-, but the series definitely goes past the point of diminishing returns after the ninth or tenth book and the lack of “compartmentalization” means they’re less enjoyable on their own.

_ _ _ _ _ _

I’d only really recommend the first nine books to cheap thriller fans. I must emphasize I don’t want to be too hard on the later ones in spite of my critique. A much better author would still struggle with keeping quality up over a very, very long series. Ahern was clearly writing the way he liked and was making a sincere effort to be different. The books kept flowing well and did not devolve into total clunkers like say, later Tom Clancy ones.

But they’re still less interesting and unless one is really into Ahern’s writing or is determined to see the overall plot through to the end, I’d say that there’s better sci-fi or contemporary action novels out there than the later Survivalist novels. Still, nine fun goofy over the top cheap thrillers isn’t bad.

 

Review: Operation Arctic Storm

World War 1990: Operation Arctic Storm

I have a little bit of queasiness towards reviewing self-published ebooks. Often they’re, even if well-intended, lacking in quality. I’ve felt I’ve made too many sneery reviews of internet fiction that wasn’t even commercialized, and want to move towards being fair.

That being said, I’d gotten William Stroock’s World War 1990: Operation Arctic Storm long before I started this blog, so it wasn’t like I’d just plucked it out. I should have known what I was getting into, because I’d read another book by the same author that was as dubiously written as it was one-sided.

So why review it? Well, because it’s organically bad, and that for all I want to review good fiction, I need something to compare it with. Plus there’s one scene that’s something I wanted to share because of its ridiculousness.

Icelands

This is a pretty “Icelandic” tale (Soviets start, conference room infodumps, etc…), not helped by the portrayal of the Soviets that somehow manages to make Tom Clancy at his worst look like Tolstoy.

Rivets

Stroock listed a long series of references and advisors at the beginning of the book. They did not help in making it accurate, and especially failed in making it un-stereotypical. There are technical inaccuracies that range from small nitpicks (elite paratroopers and SPF still using “AK-47s” instead of “74s” in 1990?) to massive ones (see the “Zombie Sorceresses” section below) and the dialogue is extra-clunky.

There isn’t that much “The T-64BV1K was hit by an M829A1 round”-style exact equipment specification infodumps, but that’s only a small silver lining.

Zombie Sorceresses

Besides keeping the war conventional, the zombie sorceresses also make the Soviet advance into Germany stopped at the Weser very quickly. This by itself isn’t that implausible. This is 1990, at the absolute height of NATO’s power.

What is more implausible, not to mention slanted (and then some) is the one-sidedness of how they were stopped. Apart from treating GSFG 1990 equipment like Iraqi export equipment, there’s things like a single fourteen-tank company of Abrams’ being able to hold off a whole operational maneuver group for half a day. Worse, in the highlight battle, Soviet paratroopers lose to armed civilian Alaskans.

The “Wha?”

The plot and pacing of this book is clunky. It’s about half tinny infodumping by stereotypes and about half poorly written battles. And they intersect, with the initial halt of the West German invasion being told via a Politburo infodump that is written with such “fervor” that I was nostalgic for the Politburo infodump at the beginning of Red Storm Rising.

But there’s one scene-one scene that pushes the book into the surreal, and was the tipping point for me writing this review.

That’s a scene where the Soviet paratroopers in Alaska find someone’s NES and play various video games, including Tecmo Super Bowl (which is mislabeled as Super Tecmo Bowl). It’s either a clunky effort at comic relief or just there to be there.

The Only Score That Really Matters

Ok, there’s no other way to say this. This book is to WWIII novels what Plan 9 From Outer Space and The Room are to movies. Something so bad it becomes slightly amusing, at least to gluttons for punishment like me.

I’m very reluctant to call something the “worst ever”-I’ve used that term in the past with far too much shortsighted hyperbole. But it’s definitely one of the worst World War III stories I’ve read. At least it gave us Soviet paratroopers playing Tecmo Super Bowl.

Review: Long Reach

Long Reach

What do you get when you take the scrambling paradigm of the post-1991 technothriller, a country that was always on a lower ‘tier’ to start with, and an interesting prose style? This. Long Reach by Mike Lunnon-Wood tells the story of a Guatemalan invasion of Belize, one of the British Western Hemisphere flashpoints-a far cry from the goofball Libyan-Palestinian invasion of Ireland in Dark Rose.

It’s an example of a story I wasn’t the fondest of personally, but can still see as well done.

Icelands

Long Reach follows the formula of the ‘national-scale’ cheap thriller fairly well. Viewpoint hopping, crisis, the like. That it has to be a British-scaled cheap thriller means everything has to be toned down compared to an American-scaled one, so it handles it.

Rivets

This book does have a lot of rivet-counting, although it’s mostly a symptom of the overall prose. I’ll talk about that more in “The ‘Wha?'”.

Zombie Sorceresses

Except for a bit of logistical handwaving on both sides to help smooth things along, the zombie sorceresses actually don’t have much to do here. They needed a break after Dark Rose, and they got one, for which I’m sure they’re grateful.

The “Wha?”

The plot is what it is and the characters are mostly flat, but the prose has the same issues Dark Rose has-it’s this (to me) overly lush, overly detailed, overly Hemingway-esque writing style that feels a little iffy for the boom-boom cheap thriller it is.

Thankfully, it’s a lot better paced and cohesive than Dark Rose.

The Only Score That Really Matters

This is a somewhat tricky one. For all its issues, Long Reach is not badly written, and it manages to dodge a lot of issues that could have sunk it. The enemy is more plausible, the action detailed, and for all the prose gets clunky, it could have been worse. It’s readable and conceptually interesting. After all, if American post-1991 military thrillers had to struggle with scaling down their opponents, British ones with a smaller base had to go even lower.

I just didn’t find it the best myself, because of personal quibbles with his writing style. But it’s both more plausible and better-paced than Dark Rose, and you could do a lot worse if you wanted a military cheap thriller.

Fuldapocalypse Blog Plans

Fuldapocalypse has been very, very effective for me. Going in, I expected to be reviewing on a very narrow continuum from Hackett/The War That Never Was on one end to Red Army on the other. To distinguish the works in this one narrow, specific, subgenre, my formal scale would be useful in determining just how they differed.

Then I started branching out. I think it was my review of Axis of Evil that proved surprisingly good-while I didn’t think that highly of the book itself, I liked that I branched out from the “classic 198X WWIII” genre. This was coupled with me realizing that military/techno/action thriller fiction was a lot more varied than my previous narrow perspective had indicated. And that was a problem for my scale. It’s wonderful for me, but it’s not so much for a very strict scale.

The Scale

Obviously, “The Only Score That Really Matters” is fine. So is “The wha?”, although some stories are meant to be more character-based than others.

I have a little bit of an issue with “Zombie Sorceresses”, although I’d think it’s a matter of bias. I think a contrived scenario is more easily “swallowed” by me if the surrounding story is good or if the reveal is handled well. And I think a problem happens, as has happened in this blog, a story that’s explictly paranormal happens.

Then there’s “Rivets”. I think my biggest problem with “Rivets” is that this genre tends to be very infodumpy, and almost everyone already knows this. It’s like going shopping for giant SUVs and being told that they don’t get the best gas mileage. Yes, it’s true, but it’s also not exactly shocking. I feel like I’m repeating myself. “Yes, this has a lot of infodumps in it”. “Yes, this also has a lot infodumps in it.” “Yes, this also has a lot of infodumps in it”.

But the biggest and most jarring one is “Icelands.” It’s both too prescient and too inaccurate at the same time. At one end, it can be like “Rivets”, where I’m repeating that a book in a genre has most of the cliches from that genre. Not exactly shocking. At the other, well, the Iceland Scale itself feels irrelevant if applied to a genre other than “Red Storm Rising knockoff.”

Then there’s the lack of an ‘action’ category in the scale. It’s kind of folded into “The ‘Wha?'”, but given that cheap thrillers live and die based on how good the action is, I figure it deserves more focus.

So I might change some scale categories and see what works, and I also want to do some “unstructured reviews”, particularly of books where the scale categories may not apply. (For instance, if I was doing a review of an outright science fiction novel, both “Icelands” and “Zombie Sorceresses” would be out of place, the former for not really applying and the latter for being redundant.)

Which brings me to…

Book Review Plans

I’ve been mostly winging it with Fuldapocalypse. I’ve figured that since I want to have fun first and foremost and would probably get sidetracked anyway, I wouldn’t make a rigid “review schedule”. But I’ve become more selective about what I want to review here. If my reaction to it is formulaic, I don’t want to just instantly review the latest blog-suitable book I read.

Thankfully, I have a pile of previously read and accessible books I can use to tide me over until the new releases emerge soon (fingers crossed). There’s a few cheap thrillers, including one by an author I like (you’ll know if/when I review it) upcoming, and there’s also the biggie. The real biggie.

Northern Fury. I’ve been following the Command scenario set for a while, and seeing a novelization of it is amazing. However I personally feel about it (and it’s obviously too early to judge a book that hasn’t been released yet), I wish its creators the absolute best of luck. A weird part of me even wants to deliberately hold back on reading “conventional” WW3 books before Northern Fury H-Hour’s release so that I can be more unbiased.

That’s probably thinking too hard-after all, my mind is heading towards less “Icelandic” books already, and the goal is to have fun here.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Fuldapocalypse, and hope to have even more fun with it as I experiment and read more and more!