Previously I'd observed an increase in sales and Amazon reviews of my books whenever CHORFs attack my fans. Thanks to my stalwart readers, the trend continues. Here is a sample of reviews that books in the Soul Cycle received over the weekend.
First up, Souldancer get some love from the indomitable Jeff Duntemann. I've read and favorably reviewed Jeff's work, and it's an honor to get accolades from an author I highly respect.
Souldancer is a worthy sequel to Nethereal in all ways: setting, characters, plot, ideas, and images. The author has done more than build worlds in the Soul Cycle. He’s created an entire cosmos utterly unrelated to ours, with its own physics, metaphysics, and history. This comes at some cost in immediate comprehension; fortunately, there’s a detailed glossary of the technical terms that helps a great deal. The glossary doesn’t really contain spoilers, and it bears reading even before you begin the novel, especially if you didn’t read Nethereal first.
At the core of the story are the souldancers: personifications of the classical elements earth, air, fire, and water. The story’s focus is on Astlin, the Fire souldancer, whose human soul struggles within a body of near-molten brass to control the ravenous force inside it. I was reminded of Dune’s St. Alia the Knife, also a deadly girl with weird mental and physical powers. The atmosphere of the story itself is more than a little Dune-ish, after the cosmic fire at the end of Nethereal ravaged the world of Mithgar into a desert of ash. Astlin shares a soul with Xander, a young man whose clan has been mysteriously wiped out, and has been journeying across across Mithgar seeking answers. Souldancer is their love story as much as anything else. Most of the horror of the tale is implied rather than seen, especially Astlin’s “transessence” from human girl to elemental souldancer.Favorable comparison to Dune. Day. Made.
There is much else: werewolves, monsters of several sorts, starships, stargates, mortal gods, an emissary from Hell, and a clockwork souldancer that embodies kairos, the sort of time that touches eternity. In fact, there’s so much in the book that you can easily miss key story elements if you’re not paying attention.
My advice: First of all, read the Soul Cycle in order. Start with Nethereal; it’s a fine story and introduces Niemeier’s slightly Byzantine cosmology. Second, read slowly and carefully. There is a lot going on, and an enormous number of moving parts. Skim and you’ll start missing things, and the later parts of the story will stop making sense.I agree with Jeff. All honest reviews are appreciated, but some of my critics just talk about their short attention spans instead of reviewing my books. While they have my sympathy, they're not helping Amazon customers make informed decisions. If you're looking for a series you can skim between respawns, the Soul Cycle ain't it. I trust that my readers are smart and committed enough not to need their hands held. If that scares you, might I suggest some adult coloring books instead?
Souldancer and the Soul Cycle itself are like nothing else in fantastic fiction. The ideas, characters, and especially the world-building are all first-rate. Highly recommended.
It's hard to describe Nethereal without going into spoiler territory. Myself, I'm a guy who likes spoilers, but I went into this only knowing the genre, and that there were a couple of sequels out there. I'd like to grant you that opportunity as well so I'm going to avoid them as much as possible here.
As with most space-opera, we begin with the character archetypes. You've got your emotionally-withdrawn Captain nursing long-ago losses. You've got a hardcore female first-officer who keeps the crew in line and sometimes pilots the ship. The other pilot is a young guy, full of awe and wonder.
But just when you think this the crew of the Serenity in disguise, we get a little splash of a Dune-esque interstellar guild with an iron fist on the underlying economics of space travel, and they are after our pirates.Another Dune reference! I don't deserve you guys :)
With the first-novel exposition out of the way, it's full speed ahead as the crew of the find themselves shanghai'd into a venture by a group of separatists to help them on the maiden voyage of their newest ship. In a novel rife with Biblical allegory and folkloric shout-outs, it's telling that the separatist ship has been named the Exodus. Unfortunately, they are going nowhere near the Holy Land . . .
This is the part of the book where we depart the comfortable climes of space opera and head straight into the black emptiness. Shades of Boyle's Sunshine or Anderson's Event Horizon? Oh, yes.A lot of readers have said they'd love to see movies based on Nethereal and Souldancer. If it ever happens, Danny Boyle is one of my top picks to direct. No two movies by him are the same, but all of them are awesome, so he could helm all three Soul Cycle films and keep his streak going.
In a work that was full of twists and surprises, perhaps the biggest one for me was the conclusion, which did satisfyingly tie up the initial arc while leaving possibility for a sequel. There are real consequences, real triumphs, and real scares. Can't wait to read the next one.Thanks. We can't wait to hear what you think of the next one ;)
Our next Nethereal review comes courtesy of JimFear138. Jim is a professional audio book narrator who sent me a free audition of Nethereal chapter 1. Since narrators read for a living, when I saw his review I was pretty sure we were in for a treat.
True to form, Jim did not disappoint.
Full Disclosure: I am an audiobook producer, and at the time of writing this review have reached out to the author with an audition to record this particular book. In the interest of transparency I'm disclosing this fact at the beginning of the review, and I wrote this review so positively for the same reason I reached out to the author about an audiobook. It's damn good. Whether or not you believe me when I say that my desire to bring this book to audio has no bearing on my positive opinion of the work itself is up to you, but for what it's worth that consideration didn't enter my head while writing this review.
If you're looking for staid, by-the-numbers science fiction, this is the wrong book for you.
If you're looking for fresh, new ideas and a world so lovingly crafted and well fleshed out that you won't be able to put the book down until you finish it, then buy this book. The only thing in the entire canon of science fiction I can feasibly compare it to is Dune, but even that's a rough comparison. Whereas Dune can be dry (hehe) and plod along at times, the action in Nethereal never, ever lets up. I'd always read reviews or pull quotes about books that say things like, "This book rushes to its conclusion, a real page-turner!" or something akin to that, and never did I really understand what they meant until I read this book. In every chapter, on every page, there's something happening. Whether it's characters being introduced, built, or even dying, or new information about the universe these characters inhabit, or events of cosmos-shattering importance, something interesting happens in every. Single. Chapter. There were parts where I had to actually stop, go back, and re-read paragraphs because I was reading too fast, and if you do that with this book, you will miss things.Dune trifecta!
Brian has not only outdone himself, but just about every other author in the science fiction field with this book. There are very few books in any genre I would describe as 'all killer, no filler,' and this is most definitely one of them. There's not a wasted punctuation mark, let alone word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter in this book. There's a lot of popcorn literature in the sci-fi genre, and precious few steak-and-potatoes books have been released in the past couple of decades (that I've found, at least). This is steak and potatoes, cooked to perfection. If you're anything like me, and you've been starved for quality science fiction in a sea of bland, safe, easily defined, paint-by-numbers genre fiction, buy this book. You won't be able to put it down.Thank you, Jim--and all of my readers who've taken the time to write reviews! Entertaining my fans is my passion and my job. I deeply appreciate you spending your limited entertainment dollars on my books.
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