To quote the irrepressible Sally Field, “You like me! You really, really like me!”
Well, at least 90% of y’all anyways. As of a couple of minutes ago, A Sword Into Darkness logged its 100th customer review, and it did it in the best way possible, with a short and sweet 5-star love note. THANK YOU, DEAR READERS! For those of you keeping a tally, the current count is 68 5-star reviews, 22 4-star reviews, 8 3-stars, and one each of the 2-star and 1-star variety. I’m pleased as punch about the whole thing, not because I’m that concerned about my own vanity (though I do go tee-hee and squee a little every time I get a new 4 or 5-star one in), but because I genuinely want to show folks a good time. I’ve stolen perfectly good beer money from you. You deserve to have a few hours or days of kick-ass super-sciencey fun in return.
ASID is not a perfect book. I acknowledge that, and its admitted flaws are probably what kept the gatekeepers of traditional publishing from allowing me into their club. But, I think it is a really fun book and one I hope subsequent folks will like just as well as those 90% which have so far. It’s my first book “worthy” of publication, and as a first novel, I get a by for some of its less-well-put-together elements by a lot of people, but I don’t think kindness is the sole reason I’ve got the track record I do. There are a lot of things that people think I accomplished pretty damn well.
Some commonly noted positives: I got the science right and it’s earned its bona fides as hard science fiction, with SCIENCE actually being necessary to the plot. Yes, I have a very important, very central, very unexplained macguffin in the story, but its limits are well-charted and used consistently. And as one reviewer noted, everything else is done so well, they can forgive an element or two of hand-wavium. Another positive is my true-to-life portrayal of the Navy and the military in general, as well as its interaction with corporate interests and civil government oversight. I’m glad folks recognized this, because it really was important to me (though some did note I was a bit heavy on the lingo and mil-speak). In this, I cheated a leeetle bit, in that I have a modicum of experience in those roles due to my unspecified day job. So I stole shamelessly from years of interaction with superiors, subordinates, and shipmates all.
Other elements of goodness reviewers have noted: The characters are interesting and quirky, the action scenes are clear, fast moving, and inventive, the plot is well-balanced, flowing briskly with a realistic timeline, and I had a few real surprises for readers, things they’d never seen before, but I also paid homage to a lot of classic sci-fi that preceded me, namely that of Niven, Heinlein, Weber, and Ringo, while still putting my own spin on well-used tropes. One of the biggest notes of appreciation most folks had was that the book was well-edited and professionally assembled. It does not read like a screed cobbled together in someone’s basement print shop. Apparently there is a lot of self-published work riddled with typos, and copyediting mistakes that should never have been made public. For that, I have to give credit to my own OCD and to Jeff Edwards, a true professional and a kick-ass author who has the attention to detail to save you from my usual misspelled rabmlings.
And then there’s the not-so-positives: my ten more-critical reviews. Some folks think I needed a bit more editing, less for bad copy and more to remove some meandering elements that perhaps should not have made the final cut. I’m accused of shallow characterization, but some may have had preconceptions in that regard, considering it a common element of the genre. Now, me . . . I like my characters, but I admit that I did not delve too deeply in their pasts or their internal lives. They grow, but this book is not about catharsis. It is a plot-driven vehicle and I think it’s a fun one, but deeper characterization is definitely a goal for the sequel. Then there’s the accusation of predictability, which I both understand and somewhat disagree with. It is a book of genre-classics, an intentional homage trying to one-up or become perhaps the definitive version of those tropes. It is recognized that there are certain expectations in the plot. As soon as a main character recognizes the potential for an alien visitation, you KNOW there is going to be an encounter, likely of the invasive kind. That is expected, anticipated, but predictable? I dunno. Recognizing that something is likely to occur, that a pleasant, fun novel like this DOESN’T end with all the protagonists dying and the antagonists upsetting the whole apple cart is not necessarily predicatability. How was the journey to that point? Was it worth the trip, even if you anticipated what the destination would look like and turned out to be right?
So, check out my reviews, and if you haven’t tried it yet, give the book a spin! It’s a whole lotta fun for less than a Venti Starbucks coffee (and not nearly as bitter).