Book Review: The Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt

Fantastic_novels_194803This is a story I’ve wanted to read for along time. It’s early speculative fiction, and often categorized as either sci-fi or fantasy, but after reading it I can say it’s definitely a fantasy story. The story is more of an adventure tale than anything, which makes sense given the state of publishing back then.

The story follows Kenton, who is whisked away to a bizarre ship that’s divided into two halves. It travels an unknown sea, and is said to belong to the goddess Ishtar. Aboard the ship, Kenton has a unique sword and is mistaken at first for a messenger of the gods.  After it’s revealed that he isn’t who they thought, he’s already met the two other main characters: Sharane, priestess of Ishtar, and Klaneth, a priest of Nergel.

Kenton, upon seeing Sharane in all her beauty, falls for her instantly. The story is then a love story between Kenton and Sharane, with Klaneth serving as the main antagonist. Kenton goes through several adventures and meets people who become his friends along the way.

Ultimately, I think it was a solid book. It’s a great example of the kind of adventure fiction that was popular in the mid-twenties. While it’s certainly a product of its time, I think it’s well worth a read for anyone interested in the history of speculative fiction.

[Spoiler] A major failing for the story is the ending. I really don’t think it ended well. It felt like it ended with no real resolution.

If you liked this, you might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Or maybe one of my posts about writing:

75% Writing, 25% Coping

Turning a Hobby into a Career

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

75% Writing, 25% Coping

chalkboard-1927332_960_720Rejection isn’t something a writer should fear. We all get hit by it, one rejection at a time. I’ve lost count of the amount of rejections I’ve had since I got serious about writing. It’s what happens.

I think to myself: am I really improving? What am I doing wrong?

It’s worrying to think I’m missing something, I’m failing to meet someone’s approval.

In truth, I feel like I’ve improved. I look back at my early work and scoff. There’s no way  anyone could reasonably look over my work and think it was written by a skilled storyteller.

But it also feels like I’m at the edge. Like all I need is a little more improvement and I’ll be there. I have the ideas, the realization of what it is I like about these stories, but all I need is a little something more. I need a spark, a small light to kindle the flame of my writing. There’s something missing, but I don’t know what.

But it’s more than that. I sometimes really worried my dream of being published won’t come true.

Even now more lessons strike my heart. I think to myself about how I write and realize I need to write as I think. An easy thing to say, but a personal realization to me nonetheless.

But I have to cope. The writing game is 75% writing, 25% coping.

Writing with Inspiration

creativity_idea_inspiration_innovation_pencil_paper_plan_business-714869I often struggle to find a push to write when I’m feeling ill or tired. Since I have a full time job and a family, I’m often tired and just want to relax. However, I think once motivation is conquered, the next hurdle is inspiration.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anything. Other stories, people you’ve met, ideas you have in the shower, friends and family, and just generally living your life. That last part is important. How can you write about people and events if you don’t live your life?

Being an introvert, I get it. I get tired talking to people and meeting large groups, but I do it to interact and learn about human interaction. Your character dialogue might improve if you learn how other people talk. Who knows, you might even get inspired by a stranger to create a brand new character!

If you find yourself being boxed in, without an idea to move forward with, try stepping out and seeing the world and the people in it. Maybe that will help you as it has me.

Ultimately, inspiration is a result of what you put into it. Go out and experience things, and write about similar things.

You might like some of my reviews:

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Book Review: The “Troy Rising” Trilogy by John Ringo

You might also like some more of my writing posts:

Turning a Hobby into a Career

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Shadow_of_the_torturerThis is the first book in “the Book of the New Sun” series, and honestly one of the best books I have ever read. I said this about The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance, and it stands true still.

This book follows Severian, who starts out as an apprentice torturer. The guild he’s in is respected for their craft and though they have a dark job to do, they don’t hire the bloodthirsty or sadistic. Instead, they pick children at a young age and teach them about it and seemingly participate as a part of the justice system. It becomes somewhat clear that torturers exist as both a means of punishment from the judicial branch and an executioner.

Severian commits a crime among his guild, having fallen for a woman they kept imprisoned in their halls, and is sent on assignment to another city. They would have liked to kill him, but his masters seemingly had pity on him for the situation and wanted to spare him his death.

Ultimately, it follows his travel to another city, his challenge to a duel, and his subsequent ritual in order to meet the requirements of the duel. Though the ending is a bit lacking (it was obviously set up for a sequel) there are hints of future events from the narrative of Severian himself. You know he survives the duel, you know something will happen to raise his status in society, but you don’t know what.

The world is fascinating, full, and vibrant, with rich characters and an interesting setting. Wolfe really shines here with the fleshed-out guild of torturers and the unique social structure the society seems to employ.

Ultimately, I consider this among the best fantasy works I’ve ever read, though it seems to mention some science fiction elements.

If you’re a fan of those genres, give it a chance and see if it works for you. I, meanwhile, will begin to read the next book.

You might like some of these other reviews:

Book Review: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

You may also like my work on writing:

Finding Your Writing Style

Dodging Derivatives

Book Review: The Universe Maker by A. E. van Vogt


I have been thoroughly impressed by A. E. van Vogt. I previously reviewed his books Voyage of the Space Beagle and Slan. He’s a good author, if not a little dated.

The Universe Maker, however, is such an odd tale it’s impossible to properly give it credit in a short review.

Morton Cargill, a heroic soldier from the 20th century, is accused of drunk driving and killing a woman. He doesn’t remember it, but all the evidence suggests it was his fault. As a result, he flees the scene and tries to escape.

The story involves a fight on the future earth 400 years later. It’s between floating airships of middle Americans and a city of Shadows, humanoid shaped creatures of mysterious origins and powers.

Two notes on Cargill’s character:

  1. Cargill never feels like a sympathetic character. Maybe it’s my modern reading, but a drunk driver is not a good person in any context. As such, he’s immediately disliked.
  2. Cargill does things for the end result, seducing two girls in an effort to take control from them. He’s again unsympathetic due to this, but he does feel unique and real.

He’s well-written, and as such holds a whole story on his own.

Downsides of this book are that, yes, it feels a little dated, and it also feels a little repetitive.

However, if you can hold on until the end, that ending is superb.

You might like some of these other posts:

Book Review: 1632 by Eric Flint

Dodging Derivatives

Book Review: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

TheSirensofTitan(1959)Kurt Vonnegut is an author I was exposed to early on in my life. In high school I read the short story “Harrison Bergeron” which impacted me the rest of my life.

However, when I was older I truly appreciated Vonnegut as an author when I read The Sirens of Titan.

It’s difficult to put down what this book was about. A succinct summary seems impossible. It follows a history laid out in detail that spans multiple worlds and times.  The ideas, the concepts, and the setting are all interesting and hold up for the most part. Some of the science is a little dated, but it’s charming in a way that Triplanetary was not.

The image of the sirens will always stay in my mind, as will the idea of the Unmoved Mover being a power source. Vonnegut is a skilled author and this is one book I recommend to anyone who enjoys science fiction.

I know this is a short one, but it’s a really complicated story to delve into.

You may like some of my other posts:

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

You may also like my posts about writing:

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

Finding Your Writing Style

Book Review: The Dragon Masters by Jack Vance

1467740I don’t know exactly where to start on this book. It’s fantastic and the author is amazing. I give it my highest recommendation and suggest it to anyone who is a fan of science fiction or fantasy.

The book starts out in the past. This is on a distant world called Aerlith in the far future (relative to us), but the past is showing the history of this world. Long ago, the world was ruled by reptilian masters, aliens who had advanced technology and the ability to breed humanity to serve them.

Mankind, in their own way, bred the eggs of those aliens into dragons for themselves to ride. The eggs were bred into submission and became dragon mounts, able to bring their masters across the rocky, mountainous terrain.

This book packs in so many unique ideas and science fiction concepts. It’s fascinating to see how Vance is able to weave in interesting characters and ideas with plot progression. About the only thing I didn’t like was the aliens themselves. They seemed flat and uninteresting, even though they had an element of mystery.

The main character is Joaz Banbeck, descendant of Kergan Banbeck who defeated the aliens once long ago. He’s an interesting character, with his own goals and such. But he’s missing anything that makes him really unique as a person. He never really felt fully fleshed out.

The other humans were interesting, but some of the side characters were passed over quickly, such as the characters of Phade or Bast Givven. I get that it’s a short book (a novella, really), but it still felt frustrating when so many of those characters were interesting in their own right.

The ending really is bittersweet. Not bad, mind you, but a little sad.

All in all, I recommend this book highly.

You might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

You may also like my posts on a variety of subjects:

Turning a Hobby into a Career

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Please also follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Book Review: The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson

TheEnemyStarsI had heard of Poul Anderson in my readings of science fiction, but I think this was my first venture into his work. I should say I was not disappointed.

The Enemy Stars follows several characters, specifically those aboard the Southern Cross, a vessel for travelling the universe. Apparently the technology used is called a “mattercaster”, which I understood to be a teleporter of some kind.

I can’t speak of this book without getting into spoilers. Let me say, it’s a short read and worth your time if hard science fiction from the late 50’s is your thing. I liked it well enough, but I wouldn’t say I’d recommend it to everyone who likes sci-fi in general.

The book follows characters. As such, the main characters on the ship are interesting people, but I felt that the two main men, Ryerson and Maclaren, were far too similar. I had trouble remembering which one was which. Also their portrayal of Nakamura had him practice Zen and use simple Japanese words, which struck me as a little one-dimensional. The other characters also suffered from this plight, save Magnus, who was interesting in the end.

Like a playwright, Anderson is able to use various characters in a simple setting to make interesting observations and musings on a variety of subjects. The ideas are solid science fiction, with a black star being the central focus of the expedition.

It’s a good book, but not for everyone.

You might like some of my other reviews:

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

Book Review: Slan by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

You might also like my work on books or writing:

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

Finding Your Writing Style

The First SciFi Book I Read

Make sure to subscribe to my WordPress, check out my Twitter account, and follow me on Instagram!

Book Review: Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

jack of shadows, zelaznyI should begin this review with a sobering statement: I’ve never read Roger Zelazny before this book.

The book follows Jack, also called Shadowjack. He is extremely powerful, but lives on the dark side of the world with a shield that keeps the world on that side warm. These darksiders are able to use magic and summon spirits, but the light side is people who are scientific and academic in nature.

Jack is killed in the beginning, and resurrects on the opposite side of the world. He ends up swearing vengeance and the book takes off with him travelling across the planet.

Let me say this: the book is fantastic. This is by far one of the best blends of scifi and fantasy I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read it, I recommend it. It’s a bit outdated, but it’s worth a read.

It deals with subjects like the nature of reality, the existence of higher powers, and the question of technology as a curse.

That said, the book isn’t perfect. I think the ending is indicative of 70’s science fiction, in general. I read George R. R. Martin’s Dying of the Light, and it fits this tone perfectly.

Give it a read!

You might like some of my other work:

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

I Couldn’t Finish “Triplanetary” by E. E. “Doc” Smith

This is mostly an update for anyone who cares about my progress on these books. I update my Goodreads regularly, so check me out there if you have one!

Honestly, the book Triplanetary was far too outdated for me. It was mainly a problem in how the book communicates, I think, but I’ve read Victorian-era books without a problem, so I don’t know.

My complaints from the van Vogt books I’d read were similar, but overall I enjoyed them much more. In this one I had trouble keeping track of anything from characters to events. I don’t know why that was, but it was too hard to understand anything.

So, I’m giving up. I got 150 pages in, and I can’t remember what’s going on.


You might like my A. E. van Vogt book reviews:

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Slan by A. E. van Vogt