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Monday, January 6, 2014

Indie Review - Clarity

Clarity, is the first book in the "Epsilon" series of dystopian science fiction stories R. James Stevens is currently writing.  I met Mr. Stevens on twitter and he gifted a copy of Clarity to me for an honest review.  You can find the book on Amazon.  You can also view his blog here.
Discovery. Salvation. Redemption.
Three individuals; three separate paths. All will be irreversibly entwined as they search for the answers in an attempt to reassemble the pieces of their broken lives. But will they find what they seek, or will they stumble upon the devastating truth that lies just beyond their reach?
The Epsilon series explores the events seven years after the catastrophic death of a technological society.
The first installment, Clarity, begins in 2084 and focuses both forward and back on the raw, emotional journeys of former friends and partners. Will they band together to help right wrongs and restore order to the scattered remnants of the populace? Or will their quests for individual fulfillment tear apart an already worn bond?
While not their primary concern, Clarity is indeed what they will find. 
It was the right thing to do... one of the main characters in Clarity, Brigadier Stroud, says this to justify his actions throughout the book.  On the surface, I agreed with him.  Put in dark, unwinnable situations, he tried his best to let his conscience lead him.  He breaks protocol and shuns orders to save innocents.  Yet many times, doing "the right thing" led to unspeakable tragedy. 
This is the darkness of the world R. James Stevens created in his "Epsilon" series.  70 years from now, the URA (United Republic of Americas), a nation uniting both American continents, is gone.  Destroyed by a cataclysm the book only hints at, those still alive fend for themselves in a broken landscape, filled with the remnants of a past technological super power.  The world of Clarity is both dark and believable.  It is obvious Mr. Stevens put significant effort into building this world and has a lot of back story still to reveal in future books.

Mr. Stevens is unapologetic with his form of story telling in Clarity, which can be jarring at times.  I was reminded of the TV show "Lost", as the book jumps around often with numerous flashbacks, while leaving the reader guessing as to what is really going on.  I admit, this built up the suspense, but at times frustrated.  Many scenes left out the details of what a character saw or thought, even though the scene was written from that character's point of view, as a way to keep the reader guessing.

The book is much longer than the other IndiePub books I reviewed in the past, but at 500 pages, it is by no means overwhelming.

I was most impressed by the action scenes in the book.  The story is full of brawls, military engagements, and heists, and Mr. Stevens imaginatively choreographs each.  They kept me guessing, pulled me in and kept me wanting more throughout the story. 

In between the action, the book slows at times.  I feel like the author could have edited these scenes to tighten them up more.  I would suggest looking at a book like Rayne Hall's The Word Loss Diet to help these parts of the story flow better, and remove unneeded words that slow down the prose.

I commend Mr. Stevens for finishing and publishing Clarity, a dystopian sci-fi novel that looks at a world torn apart by the technology it trusted.  It is dark and gritty, and I believe gives a believable glimpse of the human condition.  The action is solid and pulls you in and keeps you guessing, even if at times the story telling can slow down and confuse.  I can tell Mr. Stevens has a lot more to say about the world of the "Epsilon" series, and I encourage him to continue. 

For anyone looking for science fiction in a dark dystopian future (one of my favorite genres), I recommend Clarity and the future stories of the "Epsilon" series.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Reflections

I am not big on resolutions.  I'm terrible at them.  I'm more of a "do it now or you'll never do it" kind of person.  This is why I made so many blog changes back in September.  I figured there was no "right" time to start, so I just started!

That said, I do think the New Year is more than just an arbitrary day on a calendar.  I think it is a great time to look back on the last year that I can look forward and plan for this year!

With that, I'd like to discuss some of my successes, my stumbles, and what I learned from 2013 as I look forward to what I plan for 2014.



If I had one creative venture this last year I saw as a success, it would be the miniature painting I took up in the summer after I received my Reaper Bones from their first Kickstarter.  I never imagined how much fun I would have with this new hobby. 

If you look back through my various posts, you can see pictures of the various minis I painted.  I think it is also pretty evident how I improved as I went.  I learned a lot of new techniques, and I continue to learn as I go.   I never burned out on painting as I went, as I never forced myself to paint when I didn't want to.  It was a true hobby and it worked well!


I'm not sure where the idea first originated, but I think I did a good job of picking up steam reading and reviewing the works of #IndiePub authors.  I read a number of books I would never have found otherwise, and really enjoyed it.

I hope my reviews helped both authors with valuable feedback and readers with finding authors they might enjoy.  I have a number of books queued up to review early in the year, and I expect they will keep rolling in.



This one was really tough for me.  The whole reason I started this blog was to make progress on writing stories and giving life to the ideas in my head.  I feel like I made several positive strides in the right direction in improving my writing.  I wrote a number of character bios/stories to go with miniatures I painted.  I took a class on writing "flash fiction" and then wrote six flash fiction stories in six weeks. 

Looking at all this, I feel like I had some success in writing this year.  Why do I call it a stumble?  I have not written much of anything in over a month since finishing the previous flash fiction story.  I burned myself out.  I found that forcing myself to write at such a feverish pace just wasn't fun.  I ended up not enjoying what I was doing.  I wrote the last couple stories just to meet a deadline, and I believe their quality lacked because of that. 

If I want to write, I need to find a rhythm that keeps me writing while also still enjoying the process. 

Over Commitment

I think I put this on my personal list of stumbles every year!  I suffer from committing to way too many things.  I end up filling my "free time" with more things than I can handle.  Over time, the pressure builds, and I am forced to quit everything in order to "simplify my life."  Of course, within about 6 months, I repeat the process.

Looking Forward

So, what does this mean for 2014?  My first instinct is to focus on the successes and cut out the stumbles.  But as I think about it more, I wonder if that's exactly the right thing to do.  How can I grow if I only do what is fun and I feel I'm already good at?  How do I stretch myself?

Here's what I do know:  I have a number of personal commitments that must come before any work this year.  It's a big year for my family (did I mention child #4 will join us in March?), and I have a number of other commitments that must take priority over this dream, at least for the next six months.

Does that mean I'm quitting?  Oh no!  I just need to determine what I'm going to work on this year.  I have a number of things I want to try this year, and I will be announcing them over the next few weeks. 

I will continue to paint, continue to read and review, and continue to play D&D this year.  On the writing front, my goal is to continue writing and to rekindle my love for writing about the characters and places of Ryndaria.  I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Happy New Year, and thank you, as always, for reading.