Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Section 31: Control reviewed on The Captain’s Table

My friends Michael Clark and Roslyn S. from podcast The Captain’s Table have returned from their year-long hiatus to review my latest Star Trek novel, SECTION 31: CONTROL.

I always enjoy hearing what Michael and Ros have to say about my books, and I think their reviews are honest, insightful, and well-considered.

Give it a listen, and check back soon for their interview with yours truly about this grim installment in the life of Julian Bashir.

If you enjoy Michael and Ros’s review and discussion, please make sure to leave them a good rating, or some feedback, or link to it on social media. Let them know you were there.

First review of 2113: “Our Possible Pasts”

2113_largeOver at Tangent Online, reviewer Brandon Nolta had these very nice things to say about Our Possible Pasts,” my new original short story just published in the anthology 2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush

“Mack manages to commingle legal proceedings, quantum physics, and the psychological machinery of loss into an elegant narrative of hope and the human condition. One of the most keenly felt, and outright beautiful, stories of this collection.”

He also shared his thoughts about each of the other entries in the anthology, and singled several other stories out for praise., including those by Michael Z. Williamson, David Farland, Larry Dixon, and Brad R. Torgersen.

I’m hoping this will be only the first of many thoughtful reviews of this wonderful anthology and of my story — a work of which I am quite proud, and that I hope I can get into the hands of as many readers as possible this year.

Review: Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

This summer, I had the privilege of reading an uncorrected advance proof of Last Song Before Night, the debut fantasy novel by Ilana C. Myer.

(Full disclosure: Ilana and I have been friends for several years, and she and I are both writing novels for the same editor at Tor Books. That said, please note that I almost never review works by my friends. I am doing so in this case of my own volition; my review was not solicited. I have been offered nothing in exchange for this review, nor have I asked for anything. Furthermore, I have no financial or creative stake in this novel.)

Updated-Last-Song-CoverLast Song is a fantasy adventure about artists struggling against oppression, and it’s a tale of a once-great society poisoned by corruption and censorship run amok. Its theme is one that never goes out of style: the need to fight back against oppression in all its forms, to sing truth to power and hold one’s government accountable to the people. Its narrative is propelled by the mystery behind a series of grisly murders in the glittering, jasmine-scented, romantically Mediterranean-style capital city of Tamryllin, but its most compelling element is its vividly drawn characters:

Kimbralin “Lin” Amaristoth, a highborn woman plagued by a cruel brother who refuses to let her escape his tyrannical control, is a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a culture where women are barred (by custom if not by law) from the noble calling of the poets. Her partner-in-song, a poet named Leander Keyen, knows next to nothing of her past.

Darien Aldemoor and Marlen Humbreleigh are esteemed, nobly born poets, graduates of the revered Academy, and best friends. Unfortunately, ambition and temptation threaten to pit these two boon companions against each other in a bitter rivalry.

Rianna Gelvan, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful merchant, is betrothed to the nebbishy but well-meaning (and utterly smitten) young nobleman Ned Alterra, who is unaware that Rianna has fallen for the poet Darien.

Rounding out the ensemble are the treacherous court poet, Nickon Gerrard; his old rival, the venerable but mysterious seer-poet Valanir Ocune, recently returned from a decades-long journey through distant exotic lands; Rayen Amaristoth, Lin’s complexly vicious older brother; Marilla, a woman who excels at manipulating men and extracting secrets, and for whom pain and pleasure are intertwined; and troupes of troubadors, legions of political power players, and a host of common folk, every one of whom feels as fully realized as Myer’s main cast.

Murders and betrayals force our characters onto a perilous journey, one that entails unraveling centuries-old mysteries and unearthing the lost secrets of magic that once informed the music of the poets, a power that was stripped from them by a paranoid and power-hungry political class. Lin-and-ValanirAt the same time, a deadly plague known as the Red Death—an affliction whose origins are linked to the practice of forbidden “blood magic”—has many people of Eivar fearing for their lives and turning against the poets who represent the only hope for their salvation.

One of the richest pleasures of Last Song is seeing how Myer subverts readers’ expectations of the epic fantasy genre. It evinces all the hallmarks of a typical quest tale—then it becomes something deeper, more intimate, and ultimately unflinching in its examination of its characters’ ugliest qualities and darkest secrets.

Plotwise, this book shines. Its pacing is excellent; every scene crackles with conflict and urgency, pushing the story and its dramatis personae deeper into peril with every page. Myer does a fine job of foreshadowing, and of setting up pieces early to be knocked down later when the reader least expects it. She also displays a deft touch for nonlinear narrative, moving the reader forward and backward within her tale with grace and skill, so that one is never confused as to the true sequence of events.

The dramatic choices Myer makes concerning her characters’ private lives and tragic backstories are impressive for how fearlessly she depicts them. Where a less confident author might have pulled punches or softened the rough edges of the characters’ lives, Myer plumbs them for their maximum dramatic value. In particular, the exquisite details of Marilla’s relationships and Kimbralin’s motivations for fleeing her old life are brilliant in their ruthless honesty.

Pulling all of these elements together is Myer’s lush, lyrical prose. On nearly every page of this book I found sentences to make my reader’s heart swoon and my writer’s ego quail in admiration. Allow me to present a few of my favorite lines, excerpted for your pleasure:


“It was while occupied with this particular thought, this melancholy satisfaction, that Dane heard a new strain of music break the silence. But this was not music such as he had ever heard before. Dissonant, it ripped across the night. Across his soul. And then blackness before his eyes, and then nothing at all.”


“Jasmine and honeysuckle twined in starry abundance on walls that sealed the mansions of Tamryllin from the streets.”


“Roses greeted them in a profusion that appeared white by moonlight, islands in a dark sea of thorns and leaves. … Stone benches were scattered under the trees with deliberate artlessness.”


“Valanir, eyes alight, had begun to speak.

‘It is good to be home.’ Each word, shaped with the precision of a rock carving, falling into breathless silence.”


“He was still in the old district, where ancient marble gave art to each slope, every winding passageway and soaring arch.”


 

The lines above are all from the first half of the book; there are many more of equal or greater beauty, subtlety, and power throughout the novel. Individual lines divorced from context fail to convey the flowing precision of Myer’s prose, which is imbued with the kind of lasting music to which her story’s poets aspire.

Last Song is an elegantly executed, masterfully conceived tale filled with memorable characters—some base, some noble, all steeped in real human complexity and eminently plausible in their motivations and actions. The wider world of Myer’s fantasy milieu, the lands beyond Eivar, are only hinted at in this first book, which gives the future volumes of this trilogy-to-be room in which to grow and explore new octaves of Myer’s opus.

If you love fantasy novels, I recommend you get yourself a copy of Ilana C. Myer’s debut, Last Song Before Night, at your earliest opportunity. It’s one of the most impressive debut novels I’ve ever read; I am in awe of what Myer has accomplished here.

The book’s official publication date is Tuesday, September 29, 2015. Let me humbly encourage you to pre-order a copy in hardcover or eBook format today.

Last Song Before Night on Amazon

Last Song Before Night on Barnes and Noble

Last Song Before Night on Macmillan/Tor

Ilana C. Myer – Official Website

The first reviews for DISAVOWED

ST.Section.31.Disavowed.CvrEric Cone has posted his review of my latest Star Trek novel, Section 31: Disavowed, over at Visionary Trek. (Spoiler Alert: He liked it.)

A few choice quotes:

“David Mack has hit another one out of the park with Disavowed, as he takes us on a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, and twists and turns abound….”

“The stakes have never been higher, and Dr. Bashir is front and center as he walks a tightrope over a minefield. … David Mack has won me over, again.”

“My score: A+! Section 31: Disavowed is fantastic!”

Not too shabby.

Over at Trek Lit Reviews, Dan Gunther had this (and much more) to say about the book:

“Another incredible tale from David Mack … action, suspense, and superb writing.”

“I will have my work cut out for me in naming the best Star Trek novel of 2014. … One thing is apparent, however: Section 31: Disavowed is certainly in contention!”

All right, then.

 

Is today’s Star Trek fiction guilty of “lazy” quasi-racism?

In what is generally a favorable write-up of Star Trek: Seekers #1 – Second Nature, reviewer Steve Donoghue of Open Letters Monthly makes an observation I find troubling:

“In this first volume in the Star Trek Seekers series, Second Nature, Captain Terrell heads a somewhat predictably multi-racial crew — there’s a Vulcan, a Trill, an Arkenite, a Denobulan, etc. — and, unfortunately, Mack tends to lean on these race-implications just as so many Star Trek fiction writers have done before him. (It lends itself to an egregious laziness that would be condemned as simple racism if it were being applied to people from Lithuania instead of Alpha Centauri; countless times, Mack designates these characters by their races – “the Vulcan” this, or “the Trill” that).”

seekers1Considering how eagerly I and other Star Trek authors of recent years have strived to create a more inclusive portrait of humanity and of diverse ideologies and lifestyles in the novels, this note of his gave me great pause.

Have we been guilty of perpetrating a “lazy” and “casual” form of racism by using species identifiers in our prose? I know that I and some other authors do it to avoid pronoun confusion in scenes where several characters are of the same sex, and to avoid resorting to physical attributes (“the blonde,” “the tall man,” etc), or overusing the proper names to the point of distraction.

But now I’m curious. Does Mr. Donoghue have a point? Are writers of speculative fiction (including but not limited to Star Trek) committing a sin against the inclusive philosophy many of us consider important by using species identification as a form of literary short-hand? Or is this reviewer overreacting to an innocuous trope of the speculative fiction genre?

I’m not looking to pick a fight or incite people to pile onto Mr. Donoghue. This is a serious inquiry: How can we improve this aspect of SF and Star Trek fiction without creating clunky prose problems in the process? Or is this not even really a problem at all?

Podcast review of Silent Weapons

silentweapons_coverAnother month brings another terrific critical discussion of my work over at the trekmate.org.uk site’s Ten Forward Book Club. This month, regular book club host Sina is joined by Delta Quadrant Podcast host Melissa to review and talk about Silent Weapons, the second book in my recent Cold Equations trilogy.

Once again, it’s an in-depth and very astute analysis of what does and doesn’t work in the novel. As with their review of The Persistence of Memory, it’s interesting to see how Melissa reacts to many of the book’s elements, as she has not read much of recent Star Trek fiction. The contrast of her viewpoint with Sina’s is especially interesting.

Give it a listen, leave them some comments on their Forum, and tell them Mack sent ya.

 

New reviews of my work

destiny_omniThough it has been several months since the publication of my Star Trek: The Next Generation trilogy Cold Equations (September–December 2012) and will be months until my next novel hits shelves (Star Trek: The Fall, Book III — A Ceremony of Losses, in November 2013), a spate of new reviews of my work have hit the Internet this week.

Over at the United Federation of Charles on blogspot.com, reviewer Charles Phipps shares his in-depth reactions to all three volumes of the Star Trek Destiny trilogy. I’ve been pleased to see how thoroughly he enjoyed the trilogy, and that many of his favorite parts as a reader were my favorites as the author.

A couple of great excerpts. First, from his review of Gods of Night:

“David Mack does a wonderful job with twists in this plot. When there’s conflict with Erika Hernandez and her crew about the new aliens, I was sympathetic to both sides. However, I squarely came down on the side of those who wanted to escape the Caeliar’s planet at all costs–and against those who disagreed. Seeing how this situation turned out was one of the few times I was genuinely stunned as a reader.”

And this snippet is from his review of Mere Mortals:

“Erika Hernandez is a complicated character as she’s able to bond with the Caeliar in a way her crew can’t and this occasionally makes her an unsympathetic character. Erika Hernandez might have decided to stay with the Caeliar of her own free will but the others hate them for holding them indefinitely, despite there being no malice. Erika, herself, starts to comprehend this only after her crew begins dying off. Watching her rediscover her humanity at the end was genuinely heartwarming.”

Read Charles’ full reviews on his blog:

Star Trek Destiny, Book I: Gods of Night

Star Trek Destiny, Book II: Mere Mortals

Star Trek Destiny, Book III: Lost Souls

persistenceOn the audio podcast front, my friends Michael and Sina at The Ten Forward Book Club on trekmate.org.uk —ably abetted by fellow podcaster Melissa— dig into a detailed discussion of Star Trek: Cold Equations, Book I: The Persistence of Memory. It’s a spirited discussion, with Melissa coming to the book cold, not having read any of my previous work, nor any of the recent Star Trek fiction. It’s interesting to see how she reacts to a Star Trek universe and characters who are very different than what she remembers and expects, and noting which make sense to her and which don’t.

As always, Sina, Michael, and their guest Melissa are incisive and insightful commentators, and their discussion of the book’s story, themes, philosophies, and characters is lively and spot-on. They present some superb literary review and criticism, and I encourage everyone to settle in and listen to this podcast, because it is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT.

You can find The Ten Forward Book Club’s podcast review of The Persistence of Memory here.

#SFWApro