First Review of The Ghost Brigades

Sending out those ARCs of The Ghost Brigades is paying off: The first review of the book is up at SFReviews.net. A choice pull quote, complete with an ellipsis to make you wonder what I’m skipping over:

Like Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades is thinking fans’ space opera. And for all that Scalzi gives you to chew on intellectually, he doesn’t skimp on the blow-shit-up factor. The book opens with a fantastic action scene that ends with a brilliant narrative bait-and-switch I didn’t see coming, and climaxes with an even better one… The Ghost Brigades maintains Scalzi’s standing as one of SF’s most rewarding purveyors of thrilling, gut-wrenching, and thoughtful space opera.

Neat. The full review is here

One Song, Five Takes — A Musical Meme

I haven’t done a musical meme for a while, so here’s one for you:

Find a song with at least five cover versions (i.e., a version other than the most famous version) and give a quick review of each cover (can’t find five? Try three, then).

My selection: "Unchained Melody" from the Righteous Brothers

Cover Artists:

Cyndi Lauper (off of 2003’s At Last): A slow, torchy and surprisingly affecting version; Lauper’s been developing a reputation as a smart song interpreter, and this song certainly lends credence to that. This is the version you’d play when, in fact, you hope God will speed your love to you, because your love is not with you now. Rating: B+

Justin Guarini (off of 2003’s Justin Guarini): Someone dropped Justin into a karaoke booth! This thing might have gotten 2003’s teen girls all moisty, but here in 2005, it’s exhibit A in his trial for crimes against humanity. Rating: D

Heart (off of 2002’s The Essential Heart): You know, the Wilson sisters can do a fine cover of Led Zeppelin. Righteous Brothers? Not so much. It’s not like this is a subtle tune, mind you, but Heart’s inherent level of rawk-bombast is waaaaaay too much for this poor little love song. Dial the whole thing back 70% and it would be okay. As is, pass. Rating: C-

Stray Cats (off of 2005’s Live From Europe — Paris July 5, 2004): A toss-off version, sung in French, no less, with microphone feedback and everything. Brian Setzer’s rockabilly guitar bridge makes for a nice touch, though. Rating: C+

Al Green (off of 1973’s Livin’ For You): Oh, come on. Al Green could sing Britney Spears trailer park pop anthem "Toxic" and make it sound like a smooth soulful thing. That he’d do justice here isn’t even a question. Green drops in Hammond B3 organs, soul strings and backup singers and makes this version a top contender for 1973’s "Song Most Procreated To" title. Rating: A

What have you got? 

Off It Goes

The second pass corrections for The Ghost Brigades are now in to Tor, and hopefully we’ve caught all the errors there are to catch, and if not, well, then know we’ve done our best (the corrections for "Questions for a Soldier" went in this weekend as well — truly a weekend for correction!). Barring another unexpected round of corrections, this is probably the last time I’ll read TGB for a while, at least until I get my author copies. Mmmmm… author copies.

I’m probably repeating myself here, but re-reading TGB reminded me that I’m very happy with how the book came out, and I’m going to be very interested to see how it’s received. Personally speaking I think it’s a better-written book than Old Man’s War (one would hope it would be, considering it was written four years and several books later than OMW), with better pacing, interesting and evolving characters, deeper explorations into the nature of the universe (and humanity’s place in it) and of course tons of action, because what’s the point of character development if people can’t grow while the things explode around them? This is, I believe, one of the fundamental existential questions facing writers today.

For all my enthusiasm about TGB, I am not naive enough to equate my personal feelings about the book with an expectation of how the book will be received. There are a lot of potential potholes this time around: The book is darker, with less chatty, breezy humor; the plot is more complex (it’s not the "ride on a rail" OMW was); the writing is less overtly "Heinlein-esque" and so on. And of course, it’s a sequel, which means that some of the element that took readers by surprise in the first book will simply be part of the background here — but at the same time the first book’s main character is nowhere in evidence, so some of what people come to a sequel for is just not there. In all, lots of places for people to go "Hey! This isn’t what I wanted!" and to tear me a new one from there.

That’s fine. I wrote what I think is a good book, and that’s what I require out of myself as a writer: To write as well as I can, and not to phone any of it in. That done, I can take whatever else transpires, for good or ill. I am not so lacking in personal vanity that I can say I truly don’t care if people don’t like the book, but I do have to say that since I’m happy with how the story works, I’ll be at lot more at peace with how other people respond to the story, whatever that response will be. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. I don’t mind if people hate the book — at the very least, that will engender some enjoyably scathing reviews — but I’ll be severely depressed if people are merely entirely indifferent to it. I don’t think people will be; allow me enough vanity to suggest that I’m a good enough writer that the book will produce a pronounced response one way or another. Be that as it may, if you want to know what the definition of writing hell is, it’s this: audience indifference. Man, that just sucks.

This much I know: I enjoyed reading The Ghost Brigades. As a reader, I get bored quickly, even (hell, especially) with my own words. I didn’t come close to being bored with TGB, even on the twentieth or so re-read, which is what this was. I think that’s a very good sign.