Archive for Dan Wells

Behind the Curtain

Posted in Events, New release, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2014 by jaclemens

Howard and Mary blindside Dan with an award while Brandon looks on at Westercon.

My FantasyCon experience began in the same way as FanX: with a booksigning by Dan Wells! In this case it was not at Wellers, but at Westercon (Wellers was onsite). My press pass allowed me to enter the FantasyCon floor early, get the lay of the land, then cross the street for the launch party of Shadows Beneath: A Writing Excuses Anthology. All four authors from Writing Excuses were guests at Westercon, so I was able to meet Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Tayler for the first time.

The anthology collects the transcripts of the podcasts (both brainstorming and critiquing), the first drafts, and all the edits that went into the final version of each story. Sanderson also included his own analysis of the process, as well as notes from his own writing group. This is the entire process, warts and all. Four seasoned authors go beyond giving advice: they reveal the challenges each faced, and the exact tools of the trade they used to surmount said challenges. The final versions of the stories alone are worth the price, but the glimpse behind the curtain is priceless. (Incidentally, Dan managed to wear a cloak through multiple international airports without anyone asking for a glimpse of what he had under it!)

In Person

Posted in Events, New release, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2014 by jaclemens

Rob (with therapy dog) and Dan (wearing Bavarian hat)

I recently watched the first season of Battlestar Galactica at my older brother’s insistence. He thought I would like it, and he was right! It’s an excellent series, and – although I came late to it – the timing was perfect for me.

At the end of March I went to see Dan and Robison Wells at Weller Book Works. Dan was back in the U.S. touring for Ruins, the finale of the Partials sequence, so I passed on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance at the University of Utah the same night to meet the brothers Wells.

Partials was inspired in part by Battlestar Galactica, and Ruins examines many of the same ramifications: what if the Partials not only look human, but are programmed to think they are human? What would happen to the offspring of a Partial and a human mating pair? War between the two sides has decimated the human population, and a faction of humans consider using the nuclear option against the Partials, condemning their own kind in the process. Humans created the Partials and bio-engineered them with certain fail safes to make them dependent on humans, so all sentient life on the planet will be eradicated  if the two sides can’t work together.

Wells was aware of the disappointing conclusion to BSG (I haven’t gotten that far yet myself, but I’ve heard the reactions) and promised to deliver a more-satisfying ending to his series. There is a payoff to the conflict, but the resolution left more to be desired. If the two peoples are to be interdependent, why do the romantic pairings split neatly down the human/Partial divide? It is a YA series, so it has the requisite love triangles. It does not have a fitting demise to the villain of the first two books, however. Her arc gives way to other monstrosities with which Kira must reckon. Ultimately only one of the geneticists who had a hand in creating the Partials survives, and that too seems unbalanced.

EJOI have finished reading the Partials sequence, but I haven’t finished watching BSG. Some of the big reveals have already been spoiled for me, but my brother isn’t to blame. He tried to warn me, but it was unavoidable. I had to go see Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama) when he came to the Salt Lake Comic Con’s Fan Xperience in April! If you’re going to get spoilers, you might as well get them from the show’s star! His panel was stellar, and I was able to shake his hand the next day at his table. My brother wanted me to ask him if Deckard was a replicant, and Olmos said “Of course he was a replicant! I was the only red-blooded American in the movie [Bladerunner]!”

After I told Olmos I admired him I realized I was wearing a silly Kermit hat!

I told EJO I admired him while wearing a silly Kermit hat!

Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) was also a guest at FanX, but I missed his panel due to a scheduling conflict. Douglas didn’t miss Karl Urban watching BSG on their flight to Salt Lake City, however! Urban (Bones) claimed to be just like us as a fan, but I found that statement suspect. Urban has most recently appeared in the tv show Almost Human, in which he played a human detective with an android partner, after all.

SpinerAnd then there was Brent Spiner, who played Data, the greatest android of them all! He was pretty great at playing the crowd as well! Given the heavy emphasis on Star Trek actors at FanX, I wanted to go in a Khan costume from Star Trek Into Darkness.

Ultimately I had to settle for reading the graphic novel Star Trek: Khan, by Mike Johnson. It details how Khan came to be bio-engineered (twice) in addition to memory tampering. It reminded me of  Isolation, the point-five story in the Partials sequence. Both show how the genetically-modified warriors were trained and manipulated by their creators; both stories result in biological warfare that destroys the ecosystem and the population.

My FanX read was Infinity Blade: Redemption by Brandon Sanderson. He was a FanX guest, as was ChAIR Entertainment, the developer of the Infinity Blade games. An oversight scheduled their panels concurrently, so I only got to see Sanderson. This installment of the Infinity Blade lore tells of how the God King (Raidriar) and Siris (Ausar) came to be Deathless through – you guessed it! – the wonders of bio- engineering! I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t the secret to Sanderson’s prolific writing!

The epilogue to my Fan Xperience took me back to the prologue; it was a final panel featuring Rob Wells, Brad R. Torgersen, and other local authors of dystopian literature. I read Blackout before FanX (and before Ruins, in fact). It explores what happens when a virus interacts with the developing brain of teenagers. Some of the teens (and only teens are susceptible) who have the virus manifest superhuman abilities. It’s the X-Men minus the mutated x gene! Most of the teens are unaware of their unique powers, and go about being typical teenagers. Others have been identified early and trained – as terrorists. All the typical teens are rounded up and screened for the virus, as the Army intends to fight virus-fueled fire with virus-fueled fire. It’s an interesting premise for X-Fans, and it features a fine diabolical mastermind. Establishing the story takes some of the energy out of the equation, leaving it incomplete. There will be a sequel, Dead Zone, coming this fall, and, like the Partials sequence, it has a point-five story called Going Dark. I’ve already ordered Dead Zone (war with Russia!), and may go on to download Going Dark for the additional world building. Come to our store to meet Robison Wells in person and get his new book signed when it comes out!

Sunny Day

Posted in New release, Reading List, Young Adult with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2013 by jaclemens

Siege and StormI’m always glad when summer turns to fall, but I haven’t finished reviewing summer books yet! So if you didn’t get enough summer sun, I give you the Sun Summoner, Alina Starkov! She doesn’t just walk in darkness (see previous post) she dispels it, allowing safe passage through the deadly Fold that divides Ravka. When last we saw Alina, she was escaping the Darkling who had enthralled her power to increase his own. She abandoned him in the Fold, leaving him to perish in the everlasting darkness he created. Alina rescued her friend Mal, and together they sailed to a distant land to lead ordinary lives. That would be nice for them, but it would make a rotten second book in the series. Fortunately the Darkling tracks them down – he survived, and gained terrible new powers in the process! Even so he still requires Alina’s ability, and they go off in search of another amplifier to increase its potency. All the conflicting plans come to fruition with minimal resistance. A new character is introduced, and he spirits Alina and Mal away from the Darkling. What follows is a tour of the other districts countryside, complete with pseudo-love triangle, that reminded me too much of the second book in another young adult series. There is another overwhelming confrontation with the Darkling and his hordes, but Alina and her ragtag band of freedom fighters manage to slip through the siege. They take refuge in an underground bunker, and the Mockingjay Sun Summoner becomes a symbol of the uprising to come in the last book in the trilogy. I didn’t care for the third book in that other popular series, so I wouldn’t continue reading this series if not for a singular surprise in the ending. I prefer Bardugo’s short fables set in the same world, such as “The Too-Clever Fox,” to the tired trilogy approach.

FragmentsFragments by Dan Wells is an example of a second book in a series that is more exciting than the first. It’s not an example of a summer book – came out in February – but I read it in June and I’m reviewing it in September. I deliberately waited until I read Siege and Storm so I could review the two books together. I anticipate doing the same with the third books – Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3) and Ruins (Partials Sequence #3) – when they come out next year.

After learning that she is neither human (as she was brought up) nor a standard Partial (the enemies she was brought up to fear), Kira sets out on a voyage of discovery. She hopes to discover the truth about her own nature and hopefully unlock the secret to the survival of both races. Leaving behind Marcus, her human companion who wouldn’t understand, she goes off with Samm, her Partial counterpart with whom she cannot link. She is trying to embrace both sides, to bring them together and save both sides, but she is rejected by both sides. Kira is not mistaken for a saint or fanatically followed like Alina. She does get to travel cross-country, but in the place of the Shadow Fold there is the Desolation of the Midwest caused by the destruction of the oil fields of Texas. Flying monsters are replaced by acid rains. No edible forage remains for their horses, no bridges remain for crossing overflowing rivers. Kira and her traveling companions don’t have a fantastic flying contraption like Alina uses to traverse the wasteland, so they have to find their own innovative ways to cross. Where Ravka is thinly veiled, this post-apocalyptic America is nuanced and believable. First they travel to flooded Chicago, then on to ravaged Denver. It is a long journey on horseback, but the pace doesn’t slow down. Surviving the trip is challenging enough – one of the foursome doesn’t see the end destination – and finding the information they seek hits snag after snag. In pursuit of Kira and her peculiar genetic profile is the nefarious Dr. Morgan, from whom Samm helped her escape in book one. Wells broadens the scope and deepens the plot in book two, making it more compelling as the story progresses. I read Partials in May and Fragments in June, but even with waiting until September to write this review it still seems like a long wait for the conclusion of the series in March!


Posted in Fiction, Reading List, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2013 by jaclemens

Appointment in SamarraBacklog may be the more accurate term, as I failed to blog the past two months, but I have been brushing up on my backlist. The Marriott Library had a sale in April, and I managed to pick up paperback copies of two books already on my list: A Separate Peace by John Knowles and How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. The first is a book I should have read ages ago. My grandfather also went straight from high school into the war. It was the only option. Now I have a better grasp of what that would have been like for him and his older brother. As for the second, the best I can say is the cameo appearance was brilliant!

While I wasn’t blogging about those books I was playing the game Infinity Blade, so I downloaded the story Infinity Blade: Awakening by Brandon Sanderson. I don’t read many adaptation stories, but I’ll read just about anything by Sanderson. I also dipped into Partials, the first book of a series by Dan Wells, one of Sanderson’s cohorts on the Writing Excuses podcast. I’ll be starting Fragments, the second book, this weekend. I’m also working my way through A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara in preparation for the next one, A Chain of Thunder.

But the pinnacle of my backlist reading has to be Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara. I received one of the new Penguin Deluxe Classic Editions of O’Hara’s quintessential first novel, which went on sale at the end of April. I read the majority of it in an appropriately opulent location, a salon outside the Grand Ballroom of the Grand America Hotel. I was there to sell books for the Congress for the New Urbanism, and one of the Congress members commented on the rarity of seeing anyone reading this classic work in the current day. O’Hara’s style of writing feels anachronistic, but the man wrote one hell of a backstory! One might think my blog has had an Appointment in Samarra (a phrase that has likewise fallen from our vernacular), but I have a great many new releases to review this summer!