JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

My Review of “Origin” by Dan Brown

Sep
09

Origin (Robert Langdon, #5)Origin by Dan Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nobody will suggest that Dan Brown is a great writer. At a technical level, his work is fine (which could just as likely be his editor’s doing), but at the higher levels of storytelling, it has its weaknesses. Origin is no different.

Among other issues, there is a seeming lack of consideration for narration and POV–ineffective use of limited point of view, too many characters given POV that we don’t care about, times when the story is in the POV of a character that has access to important information that we are conveniently not given, too much telling and not enough showing. The writer has a full toolbox of tricks to keep the reader turning pages, such as constant (and unnecessary) POV jumps that drag the narrative out and make the story seem longer than it is. But these never amount to more than tricks, the sort of thing that would get an up and coming author labeled as amateur. Brown always comes off as an art history professor who writes novels on the side.

I finished Origin in record time, for me at least. This is par for the course when it comes to Brown’s books. There is certainly something to a Dan Brown book. However, Origin is not as compelling as previous Langdon novels. For one, this story is a lot more passive than the others. Things just seem to happen around Langdon, and he goes along for the ride. There are far fewer puzzles for the renowned symbologist to solve, and even those feel less significant. And there’s the grand reveal at the end, the basis of a Dan Brown book. I will not spoil this ending, but will say it was not surprising. It “reveals” an idea that has been in public discourse for years, adding relatively little to the discussion. And the reveal of the culprits behind the shenanigans in the book is also unsurprising and easy to predict.

And yet, I did finish the book, so I cannot help but give it three stars. Not the best writing, no, but somehow compelling nonetheless. What that says about how we define good writing, I’m not sure. Take that as you will.

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My Review of “The Lies of Locke Lamora”

Sep
04

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

DNF. I made it about two-thirds of the way through, but ultimately stopped reading this one about a month ago. It was the second time I stopped. I think, like with Stephen King’s IT, I will not find the motivation to get back to it any time soon. There are too many books out there I will enjoy, to spend my time trudging through one I do not.

That’s too bad, really. Lynch’s creation is one of the best, deepest examples of worldbuilding I have encountered, perhaps since reading Tolkien. But that is also the problem; the book never grows much beyond worldbuilding. Most of the problems with the writing relate directly to this. For one, there are too many misplaced info dumps, often unnecessary and in the middle of the action. There is also little regard for the narrator or POV–this is a book that wants to be third-person limited, and indeed spends most of its time there, but will go omniscient or head jump at random times for the sake of convenience. It is a lazy, inconsiderate sort of writing.

The book is overwhelmingly dialogue. Nothing really happens, only people hanging around, eating or drinking–they are always eating or drinking, which again is worldbuilding but not storytelling. They talk about what happened; the interesting stuff is told to us in dialogue rather than in narrative. It is the ultimate violation of that old adage, “show don’t tell.” I almost feel like Lynch heard in a writing class somewhere that dialogue is a good way to get around the show vs. tell problem, and he went all in. It works great for conveying information of the world, but not experiences. In the first third of the book, we are told about all the capers Locke goes on, but never see them, never experience them.

I had saved a bunch of notes while reading, specific scenes that demonstrate the issues mentioned above, but now I don’t think it’s worth my time. I’d rather spend that time reading something that is more engaging. Many of the book’s troubles probably derive from the author’s inexperience, this being his first novel. The work had a seed of an incredible story, but was in desperate need of an editor with the courage to tell Lynch off on certain points. I imagine the editors and publishers were too scared of losing access to the world to commit to the necessary rocking of the boat. Ultimately, the book’s faults fall on them more than on Lynch.

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3LineTales – Finding the Answers

Sep
02
tltweek135

photo by Davide Cantelli

Libraries were once the sanctuaries of knowlege, shining citadels that long stood against the darkness of ignorance, though in our current times they have fallen out in favor of the instant gratification of shimmering screens. But Susan knows well, the faster your gratification, the faster you get found out, so she scours the dusty shelves seeking something with the answers she needs. Her finger settles on the spine of a particular volume–How to Get Away with Murder.

*Written as a response to the Three Line Tales Week 135 photo prompt.

This week went dark…of course it did! 😀 Thanks for reading.

~JM

Story Ideas — Where do they come from?

Aug
26

Gnothi_seauton

Authors often get asked about their writing process. Most of all, readers want to know how we come up with our story ideas? From where do these ideas spring forth? Is it magic? Divine muses? Simple insanity?

I know there are authors out there that get inspired by reading other works of fiction. That does happen for me, but it is rare. As a writer of science fiction, most of my ideas come while reading science articles or listening to lectures.

For example, the picture above shows an interpretation of the Greek phrase that is commonly translated as “know thyself,” which is know to have been carved into a stone at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. I was recently listening to a lecture on Greek mythology that mentions this saying. Most people assume “know thyself” is about knowing your strengths and following them. But the lecturer said this was not the case. Indeed, “know thyself” is supposed to be a deeply humbling challenge. It means “Know your true nature. You must realize you are mortal. Do not try to be a god.” I took this idea and flip it on its head–what if a god or goddess who had lost her way saw this, what would her reaction be? And the story came from there. Currently I am revising this flash story for submission to publishers.

There are a few podcasts that I regularly listen to that often give me ideas. One is StarTalk, a great science discussion series. Another, perhaps more influential show is the BBC’s In Our Time. A lot of my short story ideas have come from episodes of that show.

Another influence for me is music. Listening to songs, I will often get a vision of a scene. As I ponder the scene, a full story might emerge. Some stories get built off of several songs by the same artist. For example, my yet to be written “vampires in Korea” story is inspired by several Breaking Benjamin songs. The idea all started with this one.

Of course, this is just how I get inspired. Every author is different. Speaking of which, if you’re a writer, what inspires you?

Thanks for reading!

~JM

Whose Kingdom? – 3LineTales Week 133

Aug
18
tltweek133

photo by Maxim Leyssens

“Dad took me to Overlook Rock and he said, ‘Everything the light touches will be yours someday.'”

“He did?” Kwame asked apprehensively.

“Yeah, but it was night time, so I couldn’t see anything!”

*Written as a response to the Three Line Tales Week 133 photo prompt.

It’s been a while since I did one of these. Feels good to get back into it once again. Hope you like this silly little story.

~JM

Now that I have your attention, you might like to know that I am planning to send out my next newsletter soon. It will be filled with Comic Con details and also a free flash story. You can sign up for my mailing list on the side of the page.

A Wonderful Suprise

Aug
17

OMDB

Look at that! I would not be surprised if some of you reading this have never seen, or don’t even know what that thing is. It’s called a “check.” It’s what people used to use for cashless payments before the internet age. Feels like a lifetime ago! I used to have a checkbook, you know. But I don’t think I used even half of the checks in my first book before I had a debit/check card. Mostly, I had to dig out my checkbook from time to time to find my bank’s routing number.

Why do I mention this? Why do I so date myself? What does this have to do with writing?

Well if you look carefully at the check, read that bit in the lower left corner, the part of the check called the “memo” or “note” section, you’ll see it says “Stacking the Cards.” What does that mean? Are these my gambling winnings?

No, of course not. “Stacking the Cards,” is my latest Storm Hamilton story. This check means I am official a published mystery writer! The story will be soon be featured in Over My Dead Body! Mystery Magazine.

If you want to get a sneak preview, you can find one in my Storm Hamilton Collection, available in paperback on Amazon. Otherwise, you can stay tuned here for further details on when the story will go live on OMDB.

I hope you read and enjoy the story!

~JM

Now that I have your attention, you might like to know that I am planning to send out my next newsletter soon. It will be filled with Comic Con details and also a free flash story. You can sign up for my mailing list on the side of the page.

Free Books!

Aug
12

Hope you enjoy this little video of me as much as I hate watching and hearing myself! 😀

~JM

 

Big, but Unceremonious Release News!

Aug
12

Well, it’s finally out. The book I have been working on for what seems like a lifetime.

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The book is out in both paperback and Kindle formats. I grabbed an ebook copy myself, and I have to say that Fiction Vortex did an incredible job on the formatting. It really looks great!

This book is my attempt to break into the fantasy world with something new. I has an innovative narrative structure, which I am calling the short-story-novel. Each chapter is a new, semi-contained story, featuring a new character. But put together, they create a linear, meta-plot, like that of a traditional novel. Any of you who have enjoyed my short stories should love this collection. Maximum dedication and care have been put into this work.

I really hope you like the book. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are the lifeblood of indie authors!

~JM

A Quick View of Comic Con

Aug
09

I went, I saw, I sold a few books. I also met some cool people, too. I will write a more detailed assessment in a few days, but for now, let me share a few snapshots.

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Check my Facebook page this weekend for a video of me giving away two free books!

~JM

A Blessing

Aug
03

Touched by a leaf spirit. Wait, didn’t this guy end up going crazy at the end of the film…?