Book Review: Sci-Fi from the Rock Returns

Details from Amazon:


Book Description

Publication Date: April 26 2013

The third collection of science-fiction short stories from Newfoundland’s top authors, including Steve Lake, Tara Murphy, Matthew LeDrew, Darren Hann, and Mark Todd! Also including the work of Jay Paulin (Ink’d Well Comics) and Larry Gent (light|dark)!

Product Details

  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Engen Books (April 26 2013)
  • Language: English

Initial Thoughts:

I enjoy supporting local writers and companies, I also enjoy short stories, combine those two likes and of course I buy Engen‘s short story collection every year. I was at Sci-Fi on the Rock last year (this year sadly I may have to miss some time) and of course I picked it up. Also the fact that I’ve read and enjoyed stories by Darren Hann, Steve Lake and Matthew Ledrew were an added bonus.

Main Points:

As this is a shorter collection (just 92 pages), I’ve give my thoughts on each short story (something I am not going to do every time).  I should also point out right away that Engen needs a better editor, in almost every story I found grammatical errors. Everyone makes them when they write but if they don’t get fixed afterwards…well it takes me out of the story and is a big flaw. I won’t harp on it the whole review so here’s a glaring example right on page 10 "Sowing us down?", that’s not just bad punctuation, it’s completely the wrong word. Sorry to be so harsh but it looks very unprofessional.

Also worth noting is since these are short stories it’s impossible to discuss them without giving away details, so consider this SPOILER ALERT!

"Shadow of the Full Moon" by Steve Lake

Steve has been doing a series of Full Moon stories, it’s a tale of vampires versus werewolves. I’ve enjoyed them, the characters are well done, good action and a nice story. This one, well I hate to start on a downer but this is the weakest one so far. My problem is that the descriptions are good (and it’s the same characters I like) in this story almost nothing happens. Frank wants to become a werelion, Ryan stops him and there’s a note on the floor. Really? It took you a year to come up with that? A big letdown I’m afraid.

"The Hadron Effect" by Mark Todd

Mark has also started to do short stories for Engen, I enjoyed his first one but here…I would like to say at this point that I like these two guys. I never write anything in a review as a personal attack, I hope they take it as constructive criticism and the opportunity to become better writers, because that’s how it’s meant. So with this one we get a nice setup, an interesting take on time travel and the consequences of the Higgs-boson Theory and teleportation.  The story has this time agent captured, his captor doesn’t believe his story, he is about to press a button on his wrist device to prove him wrong and nothing, the story ends. Once again, I really don’t like it when you do a short story (with I assume no intention of a sequel) and you’re just left with no conclusion.

"Mirror Blade" by Larry Gent

Now we’re getting somewhere! A good story with some well developed characters, a nice backstory and very exciting action sequences. I enjoyed it very much. The warm poem at the beginning and end was a great touch, excellent through and through. The best of this collection. I won’t dwell on it here (I bring it up later) but Larry is also not from Newfoundland, just saying the title of the collection should be changed if this trend continues.

"Invasion" by Matthew Ledrew

Interesting story, I liked how the mundane (and sometimes sadness) of every day life and relationships is contrasted again an alien invasion. Very good work.

"Hagridden" by Tara Murphy

Very creepy, gory and depressing, I loved it! Tara’s knowledge of horror and costume/set design comes through in the details and it helps make the story shine. Perhaps the scariest part of all is the idea that if a parasite took you over slowly, if you protested enough, maybe no one would intervene. It’s always refreshing to see when someone has the guts to kill the main character of the story, one of the bests of this collection.

"Rebel Howl" Jay Paulin

Short story in the form of a poem, a nice twist. Eloquent, brief and to the point. I also really like putting in his feelings on animals rights, excellent all around.

"Rituals of the Celestial Ram" Dr. Lee M.W. Whatte

Amusing little story with an interesting twist. I’ve never been a fan of coffee (or any coffee shop) so I couldn’t relate much. I do need to point here something, I have nothing again Dr. Whatte but isn’t this collection supposed to feature Newfoundland writers? It says clearly in his bio he lives in Chicago, was he born here? Just seemed like an odd thing to do for this collection.

"The Fishing Trip" by Darren Hann

Very short story but I liked the twist, it reminded me of an old episode of "Twlight Zone" (or one of the better "Outer Limits" episodes). I would have liked more details but all and all a good one.

"Recruitment Possibilities" by Larry Gent

Gent continues to show that he has quite the talent for short stories. I like a story with some action and this one provides in in spades. He has extensive knowledge of the military and it really pays off here. Interesting characters, a good story and lots of room for a sequel.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this collection and I would give it a cautious recommendation. My concerns are primarily about the first two stories (which both had good ideas, just needed further work) and some improper (or perhaps lack of) editing overall. This could have easily been an 8/10 but with the above concerns I have to put it down to a 6. Once again certainly not appropriate for children but certainly worth a look. And yes if you’re wondering I’m a forgiving person, I certainly will buy the next collection, I’m just hoping for an improvement. Until next time (which will be my thoughts on "Godzilla"), have a good one all.


Book Review: The Imagination Journals by Darren Hann

Details from Amazon:

Book Description

Publication Date: August 4, 2012

Within The Imagination Journals You will Find Five Stories , The Assignment , Holy Troll , What Makes It Modern Technology , Plan 9.5 From Outer Space ,and Bunker-6 .Each Story will Stretch your Imagination to new limits,and beyond.

Product Details

Initial thoughts:

Darren is a friend of mine and I’ve known him for years. I enjoyed his first novel "Time Stone: Saving the Rock" and while I was at a convention last year we did a swap and I got this collection of short stories from him. I quite enjoy short stories and while I’m a terribly slow reader, I did finally finish this book today.Open-mouthed smile

Main Points:

If Darren reads this…well we might have some things to discuss. I hope he’ll realize I’m being constructive and not mean spirited. Writers have to develop a thick skin after all. With that said I quite enjoyed the first 3 stories. (I had read "Holy Troll" in another collection of short stories). What starts to really become noticeable in "What Makes it Modern Technology?" is the lacking of proper editing and formatting. It becomes obvious here that the book is self-published and that like most authors (in my experience) Darren is great with ideas but terrible with editing. Editing is a chore and its a strange thing that we can easily find the mistakes in other people’s work but no so much in our own. Darren also has the unfortunate habit of establishing characters, getting the reader into the story and then abruptly ending it. I think they key with a short story is to get the reader involved and make a story just the right length. When you look towards the next story thinking "how can this be over so fast?" Or "is this done yet?", in either case you have a problem. I don’t claim to be an expert on writing short stories but I’ve read plenty and I know what I like. All of this brings me to the largest problem with this collection, "Plan 9.5 from Outer Space" I guess maybe now is the time for…


So Darren wrote and directed a fan film of the same name. The movie is both a homage and an improvement of the horrible train wreck that is "Plan 9 from Outer Space." I enjoyed the movie and this story is an adaptation of it. The problem is that it’s not a good adaption. Turning any kind of movie into a book (when it wasn’t based on one to start with) is a risky thing to do and Darren shouldn’t have tried. Editing and grammatical mistakes really takes the reader out of the story. Simple stuff her like instead of "u.f.o." there is "u.f.", simple words like "every" are misspelled and the story jumps all over the place and even has a character die and comeback (for no apparent reason) all in two pages. I found it a chore to get through this story and is mostly the reason I was so long reading the collection of stories.

The final story "Bunker-6" also has lots of grammatical strangeness going on and ends entirely too quickly. It has all the elements of a good story, fun characters, cool technology, humour, action and a recurring villain but once more technical issues drag it down. This story shows the most promise I may end up getting another short story collection from Darren just to see what happens next in the story.

Final Thoughts:

Darren really needs an editor, for his first book he did and the result was much better. I can only recommend this book if you skip "Plan 9.5" entirely and have a high tolerance for errors with the others. Darren is a creative guy that does lots of great stuff (including Sci-Fi on the Rock, which is an excellent convention I whole-heartily recommend Hot smile), sadly this is not one of them. I can only give this 5/10 and hope that Darren’s next work is a return to the "Time Stone". Next for me will likely be a movie review, followed by a book review of another collection of short stories by local authors (Light/Dark by Engen) which hopefully won’t take me months to read 😉 until next time I am as always…