Saturday, 29 June 2013

ePulp Review of the Week - Ten A Week Steale by Stephen Jared.

Ten A Week StealeTen A Week Steale by Stephen Jared
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*E-Pulp Warning* All my e-reading is e-pulp focused so my reviews are written with e-pulp in mind. Reader beware :) *E-Pulp Warning*

Overall: 4 stars (Recommend).

Ten A Week Steale is a great little noir story set in 1920s Hollywood, authentically capturing the mood and the city as Steale does what hard-boiled men do. Hollywood is captured brilliantly by someone who obviously loves the genre and the setting and, although it's not the fastest or pulpiest story around, it's well worth a look.

Pacing and Action: 3 stars.

To be honest, the story probably wasn't written as a pulp story. At least not dialled up to 'Full Throttle' which makes 3 stars a little awkward. By the standards of any other genre this has plenty of fisticuffs and dames, villains and other action galore. But by pulp standards there's a lot of thinking and brooding and contemplating the nature of life etc. None of this detracts from the story in any way but it does lack that pulpy extreme.

Pulp Concept: 4 stars.

Steale isn't a Private Investigator cliche and the use of 1920s Hollywood rather than the 30s are both nice touches that give Steale his own road to walk. The back story also makes all of what happens completely plausible as the hard-boiled action ensues. It's classic era setting and the easy action tropes it allows all come together for a pulp concept that, while not ground-breaking, certainly does the job.

Then there's the setting. First class. The author clearly has a love for this era and this town and it shows from the details sprinkled throughout. You don't drown in it but the sense that you're wandering through these gaudy temples to the new demi-gods of their age is palpable. Fantastic stuff that begs to be explored further.

Character Development: 4 stars.

Related to the pacing this is a book that has plenty of character development and a fair bit of introspection and self awareness. Being noir-ish tends to do that :) The characters are well rounded, have plausible motivations and personalities and they are all indelibly tied to the world in which they exist and it works very well.

Production: 5 stars.

Have you seen that cover? Wow. Gorgeous. Eye catching, era relevant and professional. And that's a sentence you could use to describe the whole package. It's been edited properly and is a quality production all round.

Series Potential: 3 stars.

This is where I'm guessing the story was not originally intended as a straight up pulp story. While there's definitely space to produce sequels and create a series - and the author's familiarity with the setting BEGS for SOMETHING set in 1920s Hollywood - the story does little to set up a serialised status quo. While this isn't an issue for people not interested in the pulpier side of life, for those of us who are it's another indicator that, while a good read, it's not straight up pulp.

Wrap Up.

A good, entertaining story that anyone with an interest in noir or hard-boiled detectives should like, with an interesting twist thanks to the setting and atypical era. Not to take from this though, it's not the pulpiest story going, even if it is of the highest quality.

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Saturday, 22 June 2013

ePulp Book Review - Tier Zero by Henry Brown.

Tier ZeroTier Zero by Henry Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Pulp Warning* All of my reading and reviewing is skewed towards epulp. All reviews are therefore skewed to that end. Reader beware :) *Pulp Warning*

Overall: 4 stars (Recommended) - but drop a star if you're a pulp purist or think the politics may annoy you.

Tier Zero, though not the pulpiest read you're likely to find, is a good read in the vein of an old-school men's adventure paperback. It moves at a fast clip and has plenty of authentic military action and hardware to satisfy any enthusiast but the American politics can be a bit much if you're not that way inclined.

Pacing and Action: 3 stars.

If there's one thing this story does well it's the authentic use of military hardware and action. Clearly the author has some form of military background and the story benefits, conveying the use of hardware and what it's like to be on a battlefield, all while moving the plot at a rapid fire pace. Battle scenes are explosive, the characters know what they're doing, and what they achieve is built on a solid foundation of training, making much of what happens completely believeable. On the battlefield at least.

Where the story can bog down is with the politics. Maybe it's an American thing but, as an Australian, I found the political discussions a bit jarring. Long arguments full of assumptions I clearly wasn't privy to slowed the action down. It also sounded a bit one-sided so I can imagine that if you're American and you have a different set of political beliefs you may also be rubbed the wrong way. But, again, I'm clearly out of the loop of these discussions.

I'd also imagine pulp purists would find it a bit annoying. It does tend to suck the fun out of a story.

But this story isn't, per se pulp, more like a paperback from the 70s or 80s with a very strong retro vibe so if that's what you're after, you'll get it in spades. Less so if you're just after pulp or don't appreciate the strong political message.

Pulp Concept: 4 stars.

It's an okay concept but I think the author carries it a long way. Were it in the hands of someone who wasn't as comfortable with military characters it may have been a shallow read but the author is able to give the situation a lot of authenticity and depth. There's also plenty of material to mine from the subject matter so overall it's a fairly satisfying concept, mostly thanks to the execution.

Character Development: 4 stars.

Military stories are usually ensemble stories and the author does very well bringing together an eclectic group of people who still work together in an authentic way. There's plenty of inter group drama and very different personalities but they're handled very well, each character achieving some sort of depth. Some characters felt like they only existed to support the politics but overall it was very good.

Production: 3 stars.

Spelling and grammar were good. There were a few weird page breaks in the middle of the book and for some reason, every time I turned on my Kobo the bookmark was about 8 or 9 pages back from where I finished last. But this could be a problem with the Kobo as much as the book. Where the production is really let down is the cover which, while serviceable, does sell the story short. The content inside deserves better.

Series Potential: 3.5 stars.

There's plenty more story left in this series with ramifications for the protagonist that could be interesting to explore later. But at the same time there isn't a lot there to suggest there's more to come. The characters are likeable enough to sustain another sequel (I think this is the second in the series) but it could also finish there without too many problems.

Wrap Up.

Tier Zero is a well written men's adventure action story with an old-school vibe but there are some aspects that will mean it's not for everyone. However, if old-school men's adventure is what you're after then this is a good example.

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