A Couple of SciFi Books: A Review

Well, I did one on audiobooks; it’s only fair to do one on regular books, too.  My squirrel minions and I always try to be fair.


Thank you, Squirrel Minion.

At HonorCon, I picked up quite a few new books, and decided to review them for you.  I have two short ones for you today (which I will try to get through without spoilers): Code Frostbite, by John Darling; and A Time To Die, by Mark Wandrey.

Being a new, first-time author myself, I like to support other new guys.  When I saw John Darling’s table at HonorCon, I stopped to take a look.  I was really impressed with his presentation of his book, Code Frostbite — the cover art was interesting, and the summary on the back was quite promising.  It sounded like the secret zombie apocalypse, rather than the usual end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse.  Like the government knows about the zombies, but they’re still classified.  It reminded me of a cool combination of the MCB from Monster Hunter International and James Bond.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the book.  Normally, I would refrain from posting a negative review, just out of politeness, but when the author said to please review it, “even if you hate it,” I will do so as courteously as possible.

There is a good story in there somewhere, I can tell.  The problem is that Mr. Darling didn’t have an editor, or he tried to edit it himself.  The introduction was exciting and promising, and then the beginning slowed down a little, but for a good reason.  The main character was mourning the death of his father, which means that some significant angst is going to happen, and rightfully so.  It was a bit heavy-handed, but I could get past that and move on.

By the time I got to the real meat of the plot, though, it was even harder to continue reading.  The story itself was good; the execution left much to be desired.

First, the story switches between first-person-present-tense narration, to first-person-past-tense.  It was a bit off-putting at first, but then I realized that the author was telling the story more in the way of a guy sitting in a bar with his friends and talking about his dad and what happened after he died.  We do that in regular conversation all the time.  So, once I saw that, it was much easier to take the strange back-and-forth style.

His style, though, wasn’t the only problem.  There were numerous typos that kept recurring.  I can, of course, excuse a few; but when the author continuously makes the mistake of substituting “your” for “you’re” and vice versa, and uses “SEAL’s” when he really means “SEALs,” it jerks me out of the story.

Between those errors, and the fact that nearly one hundred pages were devoted to not much more than the main character’s angst (the purpose of the mysterious government agency still had not been revealed; or the enemy they’re fighting; or what really happened to his father; etc.), I had to put the book down.

I hate to say that, especially about a new author who is obviously trying very hard to make his work successful.  There’s still hope, though.  I think that if Mr. Darling got a really good editor, he could make this book into something amazing.  He needs to clean up his final product and eliminate the typos and grammar mistakes, and eliminate some of his emotional angst in the beginning of the story.  After that, though, I think Code Frostbite will be a great tale.

Speaking of end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse stories, that’s exactly what Mark Wandrey’s A Time To Die was.

Just so we’re clear: if you don’t like descriptions of gory violence — as in, people turning into zombies and eating other people, and then getting blown up or shot by the normal people — don’t pick this book up.  If it was a movie, it would definitely be rated R.

Now, violence like that doesn’t usually bother me, so I was having fun with the descriptions of significantly badass main characters kicking zombie butt.


Thank you, Ivan the Sniper Squirrel.


About those main characters: there’s more than one group.  Instead of having one hero and following him and his compatriots through the zombie apocalypse, Mr. Wandrey has multiple “main characters,” and you’re interested in all of them.  It’s not quite my style, but he did it very well.

Of course, he started the story in North Texas, which automatically makes it near and dear to my heart.

There are a few warning labels that need to be stuck on here, though.  In the first few pages, you encounter a completely useless scene involving a woman taking a nude swim in the Rio Grande in full view of a male NASA scientist on purpose.  The character was a “shameless flirt” (I would call her something less flattering, though) and was enticing him deliberately.  The description was a bit lurid for my taste, and considering that it had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the story (you never see those two characters ever again, and her little escapade had no effect on the plot), I disliked it even more.  Still, it was possible to just roll your eyes and move on to the much more interesting zombie apocalypse story.

The rest of the book has exactly one detailed sex scene in it; the only redeeming factor is that it’s short, and you can see it coming a mile away, so self-editing for content is possible.  Once again, I’m a bit disappointed.  In my opinion, scenes like that are unnecessary for a storytelling purpose.  I’m not saying that characters should be completely celibate all the time; we just don’t need to know the details.  Drop them off and pick them up; that’s all we need to know.

Still, I’d be very interested to see what happens to all of the main characters in this book when the sequel comes out.  The story has an interesting new spin on your typical zombie apocalypse story, and has a lot of action-packed fight scenes, and some almost-over-the-top feats by the main characters (the bit with the C-17; that’s all I’ll say), but it just makes it that much more fun.

So, bottom line: I’ll give A Time To Die a 3.5 out of 5 stars (would have been four without the instances of X-rated content).


  1. Sex scenes are always hard to write, and unless you’re rooting for those two kids to get together, they’re hard to read (unless you’re reading erotica, in which case, that’s the point of the book). After all, if the point is romance or the classic “end of the world” sex, then it’s the emotional release for the characters that’s important. As you point out, the real question is “does the scene serve the plot?” For example, in “The Devil’s Advocate,” there was gratuitous nudity for the purpose of bringing the main character over to the dark side. To use nudity to show that you have a limited view of femininity (see John Ringo’s “Gust Front”) is just bad writing.


    • I agree. I can acknowledge that the simple fact that the two characters in question actually had sex may be significant to the plot or to the characters. I may be a Catholic, but I’m not a complete prude. 🙂 On the other hand, I don’t believe that anything as detailed as “insert tab A into slot B” is ever necessary from a storytelling perspective. I can know *that* it happened without being told *how.*

      I think that Victor Hugo had it right. He says in Les Miserables that, regarding wedding chambers, “an angel stands at the door with his finger to his lips.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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