Terms of Enlistment – Marko Kloos (Kindle) review

It has been a dream of mine for a number of months to get a Kindle and be able to read all of the science fiction tales to be had through that device which are not availiable in paperback form.  Self Publishing, once the hated bastard offspring of the ‘proper publishing house’ is now in its own element.  It’s a digital age and the world has indeed changed.  I wanted to read of that change for myself and see if things ‘rejected’ by some would be good enough to entertain others.  I also know there will be a lot of let down and dross to wade through too but we can all enjoy that together.   This festive season my good lady surprised me with just such a device and once I had it set up my first port of call was to purchase the ebook Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos.  Having had two days off I managed to read the whole novel while attending to all the other madness of the holiday.  So aside from being my first non-paper reading experience in hand what was the book actually like?  Read on for my own review starting with a short web lifted synopsis.

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

I began by reading the ‘free sample’ offered on Amazon and this got my attention.  A few pages about Andrew Grayson, a street rat, a potential pointless hoodlum in waiting whose life is going nowhere.  His only chance to get out of the PRC is the army.  The book divides into three main parts and these are firstly the slums and military training, secondly military action on Earth and thirdly adventure among the colonies and a change of pace.  I don’t want to spoil the tale so I will keep it short and loose.  I thought I was reading one novel when I began and another when I finished and do you know what it was bloody good all the way through.  I could complain about typo’s and some editing (the gods know I get them too despite a lot of editing so sod that, it was not enough to spoil the story to any degree) and I could mention the boiler house dialogue in places (some reviewers did but to be honest it made me smile, I like this kind of character speak).  I will mention that the whole book is written in first person perspective and this is no mean feat believe me.  The author does this well and the character grows throughout the novel and you can tell by his mannerisms.   It is military science fiction and the combat scenes work well.  The technology is evident but not overpowering.  Infodumping is there but this is not a problem especially for first person narration.   Characters were well drawn and sparse where needed but rounded where required.  It kept me focused on it.   In short a novel that deserves success and will impress those who want action with a little social-economic thought too.

My opinions were actually mirrored in several of the reviews I read after typing this blog post and that made me laugh.  I will not hide the fact that I should and I could write a novel that would be good for fans of this genre but seriously folks take a dump or get off the can.  Snippy comments by those jade green with envy over another’s success (always success not talent remember that) on forums is just sad.  I tend to avoid comments and leave it with a blog review.

You can read an interview with Marko Kloos on Writers & Artists.  Well worth a read for me as it actually validated my thoughts on self publishing through Amazon to Kindle for the talented writers.  Lastly it also informed me of the authors new work Lines of Departure which is due out late January 2014; its been picked up by an Amazon inprint 47North so in  a way Mr Kloos is no longer self publishing!  Evident to this see below for the new (not designed by the author himself).  He has arrived!

If you like Military Science Fiction then give this a volley of shots.  Its a tungsten flechette of action packed fun that will lift you out of any crummy government apartment in the NAC for a few hours.  I have pre-ordered the sequel this afternoon.

GBS

Visibility wins Peoples Millions Prize

I got an email in my inbox today that made me smile.  I support several charities and don’t talk about it much but one of the ones I enjoy supporting the most is Visibility a charity that assists those in the West of Scotland who suffer sight loss or blindness in their efforts to live a normal life.  With the small support of myself and many, many others the charity won a prize of more than thirty thousand pounds with the Peoples Millions prize.  This will allow them to do so much more excellent work.

Huzzah!

GBS

50 Years for Who?

Today is the day, across all the multi-verses today is the day.  I have listen to, watched, recorded and sat the dark late at night to see all of the multitude of BBC programmes on TV and Radio to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.  I could dribble on about the programme and about the books, the gifts and gadgets and the other items across the years that have form a part of my life from this mighty science fiction show.  But I won’t.  I will just say that since I was a wee lad its been a part of me.  I have gone to exhibitions, met the cast, got autographs and that is saying something.  I waited with the rest of my generation through the long 1990’s for it to return and it did in time for my own children.

From the brand new (tonight!) to the very oldest in flickering black and white Dr Who is a programme unlike any other on television.  Its fans and devotees among the best of Humanity (those I have met anyway) and its lore so diverse that it has covered more ground than any other science fiction series.  It has tackled issues wide and far.

Best Doctor….

So tune in tonight and if you are not in Great Britain then I feel sorry for you this time.  License Fee is worth it today!

GBS

Children in Need 2013

Today is the annual Children in Need event on television and I, along with the rest of the family have done my part.   I enjoy watching the televised event and I do not donate money by phone.  I donate money by hand held boxes, by boxes in shops and by way of Girvan Primary School’s events.  Today’s event was a ‘wear your pyjamas to school’ day which mercifully it stayed dry for.  After what has been a hectic week at work (see the Havelock ESO results over on the Ion Age blog) I finished up a bit early and picked the three offspring up at the school gate.

There are a lot of charities out there…a whole lot.  In fact I have got to the point where I ignore almost all of them as the feeling of guilt at not dropping coins into every hand that reached out was getting me down at a deep level.  This does not make me a bad person.  In fact I am a ruddy good person as all who know me will point out but my resources are limited.  So I choose which I support and Children get some priority in this as does the UK so Children in Need is near top of the list (after Sense).  It is a very worthwhile cause.

So have a look, have a read.  Have a watch if you can.  Give them some money too.  If you live in the UK and you walk home after work, sometimes the child you see in the street needs your help more than you might know.

GBS

Beighton’s Shipyard’s short USEME Starship Battles review

In the inky stellar darkness….

Mark over at Beighton’s Shipyard blog has posted a short review of a wargaming title I partially authored a couple of years ago along with Omer Golan Joel.  Its the sixth in the USEME series and its a set of rules for simple and fast fleet scale starship battles in miniature.

u006cover_ws

I have to say he did a grand job.  Its not a simulation set of complex rules, it was never meant to be.  Its fast and fun and with enough variety and bolt on mechanics to be adaptable to most settings.  I have used it myself several times for everything from dogfights with five a side fighters to a whole fleet of dreadnoughts in the dark and also with Eli Ardnt’s fleet scale mecha for a special robotech style struggle.

Check it out!

Also if you are wondering what ‘The Big Mac’ is…well I know, I wrote it, but you will have to read it to find out!

GBS

Fjodin adds some cracking miniatures to the SHM Range

Creatures and Nightmares!

Today I added four more new 15mm scale miniatures to the SHM Range on 15mm.co.uk.  All of them created by the talented Fjodin who resides in Australia.  Its true that Fjodin has other miniatures in the range but these ones, as you can see above, are excellent and to me his best yet.  Three sort of ancient creatures and a nightmare horror to go with them.  Useful for all sorts of things I am sure.

Only a Pistol? You are in trouble my friend!

I have included another image of the new miniatures above, a scaling shot with a standard sized Human for comparison.  The point of this posting aside from virtually patting Fjodin on the back is to once more make the point that I am justly proud of the whole concept of SHM.  While I do not know if these miniatures will sell well enough to cover the costs of molding and so on that is not the point with SHM.  Yes, money is not the point.  The point is that above you can see four miniatures (five if you include the Human Commander) which most likely would NOT EXIST without SHM.   The talent that Fjodin has developed and the exposure he has had to gain more work would have been MUCH more difficult for him to achieve.  So the wargamer benefits and the designer benefits too.  To my knowledge I am the only person offering the chance for novice designers to get virtually any concept into production if they have the talent.

SHM gives the wargamer awesome and odd miniatures and the designer the confidence to grow.  Sometimes all you need is a chance.

Well done Fjodin!

GBS

USEME Prohibition Gangsters – WIP

um015cover

Top of the World Ma!

There are some more USEME Titles in the planning stage over at 15mm.co.uk and while I have posted about my own title in the next three (Alien Safari , delayed I know!) I have said nothing about the others; so here it goes!  Provisionally titled UM015 USEME Prohibition Gangsters this booklet presents rules for two scales (15mm and 28mm) in wargaming the period in American history when booze was illegal and tommy guns the norm.  That is the 1920’s and 1930’s.

This is not a period I know much about really so I was delighted when Bob McAlister over in the USA told me he was keen to write just such a title.  With some assistance from his good lady and playtesters UM015 has shaped up as a solid and themed set of rules.  Its the first set of wargame rules Bob has written that has made it to published stage and he is rightly proud of this achievement.

Skirmishing is the name of the game and the idea is that small groups of Cops, G-Men, Molls, Gangsters, Hooch Runners and others fight it out over objectives such as hidden stashes, nightclubs and speak easies, warehouses, the open street, flop houses and more.  As with most USEME titles its ten or so characters a side but you can use more plus the solo rules engine is attached.  In fact Bob handed in a manuscript that was too long when his two scenarios were included so these will be given away free on the website and also included in the paid for PDF version.

As USEME’s are budget titles for gaming fun I opted for public domain photographs and so on for the internal pages of the book and the cover is a clever bit of dress up fun on a sunny day from the creative commons licence on Flickr.

I feel that in terms of the way it plays this vision of USEME is most like UM003 USEME WW2  written by Omer Golan but without the armoured vehicles and aircraft of course and a lot more car chases.  This title will be published later this summer.

GBS

Tony Harwood publishes and ships his first book!

Book Anyone?

I have known Tony Harwood for more than a decade and he is a great fan of Flintloque so when he mentioned online that he planned to publish a book of his terrain ideas and works I was very interested.  Tony makes wonderful terrain for several different game systems and also for a couple of companies too.  All of this is in his own unique style.  I actually own a piece of his terrain which Tony very kindly gifted to me last year (is it in the book we will see!) for the Sharke’s Gingerbread adventure at Salute.

My House is a very, very fine Gingerbread House

One hundred copies of the book have been printed and it looks like it is selling well.  I have held off ordering just now as I wanted Tony to expand his fan base and I will pick up a copy once the huzzah calms down a bit.  Writing, Editing, Laying Out and Publishing a book is a daunting process (trust me I know!) and all that before you take it to a market and attempt to sell what you have come to love and often loath so much to interested parties.  Tony’s works deserve to be seen by all those who are interested in wargame terrain and how it can be constructed.

You can see some of Tony’s work over on Barking Irons Online and also on his own Blog along with the book itself.

Well done Tony!

GBS

Iain (M) Banks dies aged 59

A Great picture of Banks…nicked from Neil Gaiman’s blog!

I only learned of this sad news this morning after a rather dramatic Sunday which saw me having to rush my darling wife to Ayr Hospital’s emergency room after she fell and hit her head.  A mild concussion was the result and she is fine now but it did give me rather a bad fright.  Headlining newspapers here in Scotland today the news that renowned science fiction and other genre author Iain (M) Banks has died at only 59 from cancer of the gall bladder.

This is sad news indeed as it was partially this author and his book Use of Weapons which encouraged a teenage me to aspire to writing fiction in the first place.  Also fifty nine is just too young in this day and age to die I lament all of the lost stories his great mind will now never produce.  I also took great pride in my shared Scottish identity with this author as there are not many writers of Iain Bank’s standing in Scotland these days and I had and do hope to emulate him through my own titles.  I do not have his flair for gothic humour but I we share other traits.

If you have not heard of this author’s work then I do suggest you have a look around (the given link will show you all his work) and try him out.  His novels about ‘the Culture’ especially.

Rest in Peace Iain.

GBS

Ray Harryhausen dies aged 92

Jason and the Argonauts  Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans to name a few famous ones.  All films made fantastic by the stop motion work of Ray Harryhausen who died peacefully yesterday.

Harryhausen was a legend among fantasy and science fiction movie fans and I see at least five of his films a year during festive or other holidays.  In fact I know some of them off by heart.  What makes it even more sad is that his good friend Ray Bradbury died not that long ago.  An age really is ending.  Its going to be CGI over substance all the more.  Something akin to parts of the wargaming industry but that is not for now.

You Looking at me!

You can read a full obituary here and check out the clip above.  Its old, its creaky but man it’s still awesome!

GBS