eBook ARC Roundup: Open Road Integrated Media

Open Road Integrated Media is a great company that takes books that may not previously have had the opportunity to be released in ebook format and give them a second chance at being discovered. Many of the books they offer have been printed previously and have been circulating in hardcopy format for decades. But a lot of them are out of print now or unavailable in libraries since they’ve long since been sold off in library sales. (Trust me, I’ve tried to track down some physical copies of the titles that Open Road Integrated Media has released recently and failed spectacularly.)

I got my hands on four awesome previously published works that have managed to once again see the light thanks to this publisher and all four of them more than deserve the recognition.

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17938131Title: Future Land: Nine Stories of an Imminent World
Author: Walter Mosley
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Short Stories

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers: N/A
GoodReads | Amazon

Walter Mosley nailed this anthology in a way that the author of 25 Perfect Days (featured in an earlier Indie eBook Drop) failed to do entirely. Instead of trying to overload us with too many stories, Mosley crafted nine absolutely fantastic short stories. Okay, so, granted they aren’t all top notch. But Walter Mosley is a fantastic writer with whom I placed my complete faith and I was not disappointed. Some of the stories fall a little flatter than others but the plots and stories are all very well developed and each series of characters are remarkably well thought out and realized despite the short time we spend with them.

The book works as a sort of series of short films all set in the same speculative future. They are not really interconnected; only so far as they take place in the same future. In this future, technological advances had divided the world into the wealthy and the poor so drastically that wealth dictates who lives where, who does what work, and the way that society functions as a whole. Every aspect of this world is so advanced in these little ways but so backward in so many fundamental ways that it’s sad. It’s depressing. And yet there is a level of realism and possibility that just seems to cling to the back of your mind and make you wonder.

I don’t want to go through and try and review every single story because if I do then I’m sort of giving away a lot. It’s hard to just summarize stories in anthologies like this. But there are a few that are pretty damned noteworthy. In particular I think that Whispers in the Dark, Angel’s Island, and the Electric Eye are probably the strongest of the stories. Most of them are good stories but they don’t stick out like these ones did. At least to me. I’m sure others had their favorites.

Basically, all I can say is check this out. Futureland is a great compilation and I really enjoyed it. And I usually don’t like short stories. They don’t really get as developed as I’d like but I was a big fan of several of these stories and I think other speculative fiction fans will be, too.

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17859520Title: Last Summer at Mars Hill
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Thriller, Horror, Short Stories

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: N/A
GoodReads | Amazon

Unlike Walter Mosley, I had no prior experience with Elizabeth Hand before reading through her collection of short stories. And where my esteem for Walter Mosley kept me going (okay, so, the first story in his compilation was also pretty damned good) the same cannot be said for Hand’s anthology. Now, that’s not to say that it’s a bad series of stories or anything. I just didn’t really enjoy them that much. I read through the first one, read the poem, checked out some GoodReads reviews, and then tried reading the a couple of the stories that other people had recommended.

Obviously, I read the titular Last Summer at Mars Hill which is sort of a novella and less of a short story. And it was good. Which makes sense. It’s a Nebula prize winner, I think. The real problem is that after that, they weren’t nearly as good. I actually kind of liked the Erl King because for whatever reason I’ve always been attracted to that bit of mythology. I routinely say how much I hate faerie stories but that one is the exception. I got wrapped up in the whole opera thing in elementary school (I don’t know why we were told that story about the boy dying in the coach with his father in elementary school but we were and this was like… second grade). So I read that one just because of the name. Otherwise I probably would have skipped it, too.

This is not an affront to the author’s writing or anything. She’s a fantastic writer from what I can tell. The problem is that I just don’t get into short stories very easily. I think Futureland was easier for me to get into because of the common setting and common themes. They read like a series of episodes or something even if they weren’t really tied together. Meanwhile these stories stood largely on their own and didn’t quite flow the way I had hoped.

If you’re a short story fan, check it out still. I’m just not. Really, I just wanted to read Last Summer on Mars Hill and I really enjoyed the novella. So if anything, it’s worth it for that story alone.

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17228048Title: The Still
Author: David Feintuch
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Fantasy, sorta Young Adult-ish, LGBT

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low to Medium
GoodReads | Amazon

So this book fell victim to my problem with most fantasy in general. It either hooks me or it doesn’t and this one didn’t really hook me. Which is sad because I had heard really great things about and I’ve heard really great things about Midshipman’s Hope which was the first book by David Feintuch that I tried to read. (I would have finished it but I didn’t download the eGalley in time – it was the first one I ever requested and I didn’t realize there was a time limit on that stuff.) I muddled through it at least and I think I did manage to enjoy more than not.

At some point I’ll probably try and read the sequel, the King. I guess most people recommend that you have that one on hand for afterward. Unfortunately, the sequel title kind of spoils what happens in the first book I guess? Clearly, douchebag Roddy becomes the King, right? That’s what I am assuming anyway.

My issue with the book was that Roddy wasn’t exactly a likeable character. I get starting out with a spoiled brat of a kid but it just got old after a while. I wasn’t really sure why people were helping him. Even when he was claiming he wanted to change and be something more it was almost a little too late for me. I just sort of wanted him to get there a little bit sooner. I did appreciate the LGBT themes in the book, though. I think that took a lot of guts – probably even moreso than in 1997 when this book as originally published. The emphasis on sex in the book was a little weird all together – not because it was homoerotic. I’m kind of a prude no matter what. All written sex is awkward to me most of the time. But I did appreciate Roddy and Rust’s relationship as that developed. And I guess after a while Roddy was worth putting the effort into because he does ultimately try to change and become worthy of his crown and everything. He’s just so insufferable before hand and I don’t understand the reasoning behind the rules and things… I don’t know.

I just didn’t get that into this book. It’s definitely worth a read for fantasy fans who don’t mind the LGBT angles of the book. It’s well written and the characters really are pretty well developed even if I think Roddy is a dick most of the time. So it’s certainly worth your efforts! It just wasn’t for me.

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17859466Title: At Winter’s End
Author: Robert Silverberg
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Source: NetGalley ARC
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Spoilers:
GoodReads | Amazon

Okay, so, here is a really interesting book. I don’t know what to say about this one entirely because I don’t want to give too much about it away. I think this is one of those books that you really need to read to get the full effect and I’d hesitate to really come close to spoiling anything. It’s not a perfect book. Then again, that could just be the fact that this book was first released in 1988 – the year I was born – and writing styles have changed since. I definitely want to track down the sequel, the New Springtime.

At Winter’s End is about a tribe of people who have spent millennia below ground after catastrophic natural disasters turned the Earth into a desolate ball of ice. Following their leader Koshmar out of the safety of their underground home on beliefs grounded largely in prophecy these people return to the surface only to find a very different world than they may have imagined. It’s a very interesting book because moving to the surface means a lot of changes for these people and they have to essentially build a new civilization from the ground up. But it’s not even that simple. Everything has changed and nothing their ancestors could have left behind could prepare them for the differences in nature, wildlife, and everything else. There are even other survivors on the surface, other types of inhabitants that have made it through the long winter.

Watching the people as they explore this new world and struggle to establish themselves is actually a really great experience. The diverse point of view characters the author chose to introduce and use to tell his story are all fairly well developed. I liked seeing how each of them reacted to their new circumstances and grew now that they were on the outside. I liked Hresh a lot and thought Haruel was a really great character. Mostly, though, I just liked bouncing around the cast of characters.

This one is definitely a great read for anyone who likes solid science fiction stories. A lot of greats came out of the 1980s and there was a lot of really deep, philosophical thought that went into a lot of those stories. At Winter’s End is no exception. You’ll definitely get your time and money’s worth out of this one. (Of course, then you have to go hunt down the next one!)

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