science fiction / space opera

Review: An Unproven Concept

I’m struggling a little with continuing to do reviews on this blog. A while back – and I delayed this discussion to give some space, but those who read regularly will know which one – I did a less-than-glowing review on a book. Look, it’s a bad book. There are a lot of flaws with it, enough that I finally decided not to waste any more of my life on it, and I set it down. But I did a review anyway, pointing out that the hang-ups I had with it were in large part me… things I know that the general public doesn’t know or care about. I did like the first few books in the series.

I was attacked, personally, privately, and through multiple others, who told me quietly that they had received private messages asking them to squash me, or join in the attack. I was disappointed by this behaviour by an author, but not terribly surprised, I have caught flack for my reviews in the past. But I’ll make this clear. You can buy a ‘professional review’ if you want rave reviews about your book. You can’t buy or bully me.

Here’s the thing, though. I must be honest in my reviews. Just because I am also an author (and sure, I hate negative reviews of my work, but constructive criticism doesn’t bother me at all) does not mean I am going to ‘go easy’ on other authors for no better reason than tit for tat. I have an obligation to my readers, yes, you whose eyes are on these words. I’m going to tell it straight. Now, you might disagree with me. The book I couldn’t finish, you might feel it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. And I urge you to publish that review, because you’ll make the other author feel great! but don’t lash out at me just becuase you don’t like what I wrote about your book. Hiding that attack behind fans is even more unbecoming.

WHEW! Now that is off my chest, I can go on to the real meat of the matter today.

James, my friend, you already know this, but for my readers, I must say the truth and nothing but the truth. Readers, beloved readers, bear with me…

Your cover sucks, man.

BUT the story inside the cover is terrific!

Ok, enough teasing the author. James L. Young came to my attention relatively recently, and I had picked up his short story The Ride of the Late Rain, hadn’t started it, when he released his novel An Unproven Concept.

Edited to add: *facepalm* I forgot a link… sorry, guys. Click on the icon below to check this book out.

Space Opera fans, my Harrington series peeps (heh), this is another one you’ll love. Those of you who glaze over at overly detailed space battles? Bear with the first chapter, then, and dig into the dovetailed plot and interesting characters he gives you from there on out.

The two plots intertwine, one the tale of the Space Fleet and the men and women who struggle to keep humanity from imploding into an interstellar war that threatens between the core worlds and the Spartans. The other is the story of the fatally-named Titanic, a gargantuan space liner for the rich and powerful to soar through the spectacle of the stars, dancing in micro-gravity.

The collision of these two story arcs is unexpected, and yet well-foreshadowed. I really enjoyed the gritty realism that Young, himself a veteran, put into the battles and something I rarely see detailed; the aftermath of battles.

He made me cry. I almost never cry at science fiction anymore, and I won’t spoil it, but the character who… well, there’s a holographic farewell delivered that made me laugh while crying. It was masterfully done.

And the ending, well, he keeps delivering right through the end, continuing after the climax to give the reader enough to satisfy them about the emotional growth of the major characters. It’s good. Really. It just needs a new cover to properly cue the awesomeness within. On the other hand, my blog readers can now be ahead of the curve, and sneak in before it takes off like Andy Weir’s Martian (which initially had a crappy cover, and I was surprised at the quality of the writing inside) and gets all popular.

Follow-through. Yeah, that’s what James Young has…




8 thoughts on “Review: An Unproven Concept

  1. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather have an honest negative review than to ever buy a good review. Oh, they suck, but I can at least look at myself in the mirror in the mornings.

    As for James’s book, I’ll be snagging a copy as soon as possible. 🙂


    • I wouldn’t buy a review (or reviews!) either. And I don’t send my book off to lots of ‘professional review blogs’ to get it bigger coverage, either. I’d rather build word of mouth, and if I release a stinker, let it sink.


      • I’ve thought about sending my next book out to review blogs, but mostly because I’m unemployed and if I can sell enough copies, I can pay some bills. However, I’d really rather just sit back and let reviews happen more organically.

        When I got reviews for my last thing, it meant a lot because I hadn’t asked for them. Folks like you simply chose to read itthem and write about it. That’s a really good feeling. 🙂


    • No, it isn’t. I always prefer to do what my henna friends call a sandwich: something good, the negative, finish it up positive. But sometimes even that isn’t an option. I don’t take pleasure in a bad review.


  2. Reviews and reviewing remind me of taking a couple of creative writing classes in college – no one really wanted to say bad things. We had this one kid whose first story was supposed to be a sci-fi/film noir cross over that was first, horrible, and second broke the suspension early on when it was a series of bad puns on “Private Dick”. I’d talked to a couple of folks in the class when before we went in and we all agreed it was horrible, but no one wanted to hurt his feelings about his story when we got into class. So naturally, I was the annointed one – and I ripped it. The look of “you evil bastich, you kicked my puppy repeatedly” on his face was, I hate to say enjoyably epic. He later in the class doubled down with a story about mosquito’s saving humanity from destruction by the rest of the animals and insects on the planet. It was worse. This time though, people were willing to give an honest appraisal of the work.
    Why do I bring this up? Because I’d rather have an honest appraisal of my work than someone praising my use of font because they’re afraid to hurt my feelings.


    • Way back when I first started writing I was desperate for input, so I got involved with Critters (is that still around?) and because you got random critiques from people you didn’t know, would never know… it could be brutal. But it was excellent for me to develop that thick skin you need when you start putting your work out in public, especially for sale.


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