Make that Ten (and Eight) Reviews!

You know, I seem to recall saying I was going to stop making announcement every time I got a new review.But in this case, it was three new reviews, so… yeah! In the past few weeks, The Cronian Incident has received two more reviews on Amazon (4 and 5 stars, respectively), bringing the total to ten. Meanwhile, on Goodreads, I picked up another 5 star review, bringing the total there to eight.
Granted, I am more excited about the latest Amazon reviews, mainly because my publisher has said that advertisers pay more attention to books that have ten good reviews or more. And while I am thankful for a good review no matter where it comes from, the Amazon ones also came with comments, which I wanted to share.
The first came from a user named Chris B, who gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I especially liked what they said in the last sentence:
I’ve enjoyed the world building as another reviewer has stated and am starting to warm to some of the characters. I really like how the action is taking place on various planets/moons of the solar system, and am eagerly waiting for further instalments of the story. For a (seemingly) first time fictional author it’s certainly well written.

Wow! And here I’ve been feeling self-conscious about my writing all along. When you know people are going to be reading it, you really begin to second guess your choices of words, your pacing, everything. Hearing a comment like this makes me feel a bit more comfortable with the writing process.

And here is the second and latest review, which came courtesy of Heather Archuletta. I bragged about her impressions in a previous post (which she posted on twitter) but I’ll let her speak for herself right here:

The Cronian Incident, which I recommended to my audience as my top Sci-Fi read of the year, is a treasure of planetary science. From bio-implants to solar system stations to the particular engineering environments in each planets’ system, this is a well-developed story with believable settings and characters. The author has a firm grasp of exobiology and extremophiles that will please scientists who enjoy ‘realism’ in their reading, but enough possible future tech that will also please the space-opera crowd. Don’t be afraid of methanogenic hydrocarbons — the hard science is never overwhelming, but neither does Williams assume is audience is dumb by over-explaining anything. A nice balance is struck, here. The novel assumes you know the basics of aerospace, but even if you don’t, you’ll follow the hero because you want to, as his reluctance transforms into purpose. The standout in terms of detail is the uniquely, culturally distinct planets and moons, which could only be done with competent research on each environment, and projecting the imagination into the framework of what it would truly take to colonize places like Mercury, Titan, or Callisto. Join the Interplanetary Accord.
The Interplanetary Accord. No spoilers, but that’s a reference to something mentioned in the text, and something I totally forgot about (to be honest). I better keep this in mind for future novels! 🙂
In any case, thanks to everyone who has left a review and know that your words of encouragement are what is making ths all worthwhile.

The Cronian Incident Named “Best of the Year”!

The Cronian Incident Named “Best of the Year”!

Good news, folks! First off, I apologize for the tardiness of this post. I meant to write about this days ago, but unfortunately for me, blogging about writing seems to take a backseat to actually writing. But I digress…

Heather Archuletta, a member of NASA’s Flight Simulation Research program, a STEM education advocate, creator of Pillow Astronaut (Pillownaut) and sci-fi geek (among other things) recently gave me the best review of my life! As she says in a Tweet posted on Dec. 8th, The Cronian Incident was the best sci-fi book she read this year.

Gifts! ADULT SCIENCE FICTION BOOK: Best I read and reviewed this year was “The Cronian Incident” by Matt Williams . Awesome hard sci-fi on multiple planets, with plot twists, available at Amazon.

Needless to say, I am very humbled and honored. I was also feeling pretty smug when I got this news to be perfectly honest! It certainly made me feel more motivation to get the sequel done too, which has just surpassed 70,000 words. For those looking to follow up on The Cronian Incident, the second installment – The Jovian Manifesto – it will be available in the New Year!

Eight (or Seven) Reviews and Counting!

Eight (or Seven) Reviews and Counting!

That title needs a little explaining, I realize. Since it’s release in September, The Cronian Incident has been accumulating reviews. And I”ve been monitoring them pretty closely. These days, Amazon.com and Goodreads are kind of the gold standard for online reviews. And between them, the book has eight reviews on one and seven reviews on the other.

The book has done far better on Amazon, where it has accumulated an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. I tell you, you can get greedy for 5-star reviews when that’s what the first few are. But so far, I’m very glad that no one who’s reviewed it on Amazon has rated it lower than four stars. Sure, there was some constructive criticism here and there, but that’s what’s good about a decent review that offers some pointers. You know that they liked it, but were still able to offer some suggestions on how it could be improved.

On Goodreads, things have gone a little less well. With seven reviews to its name, my book has accumulated an average ranking of 4 out of 5 stars. I’m still very thankful for that much, but you kind of get slammed when some people don’t like your work and say so! In this case, one person gave it a 1-star review and that brought the overall ranking down. Not going to name names, but I did look up what they had to say and found out that they didn’t like the book because it was: Cursing, icky vilence, slow.” (that typo is all them).

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36117087-the-cronian-incident

Hmm. I wish they had said “Cursing, icky violence and sex”. That one bad review would have sold a thousand copies! And, from what I understand, as soon as I reach ten reviews on Amazon, advertisers will apparently start taking me seriously. So if you’ve already read the book and have not found the time to make a review, that would great!

 

Another 5 Star Review for The Cronian Incident

Another 5 Star Review for The Cronian Incident
The latest review for The Cronian Incident is in. And it was both detailed and pretty favorable! It comes courtesy of

The Cronian Incident (The Formist Series) (Volume 1) by Matthew Williams is a slow-paced, contemplative science fiction story that fans of The Expanse will really enjoy. When a high-ranking member of a Formist family disappears, Jeremiah Ward, a former detective serving a hard labor sentence on Mercury is called to act as private detective. In exchange for Ward’s services, his sentence will be commuted, but it may be more than he bargained for.

Out of the gate, Ward has his own self-imposed obstacles to overcome. He’s guilt-ridden over the events that landed him in prison, and seems to accept his fate as if he were on death row. When Ward is given his “golden ticket” of a task as a private detective, it seems like the best of all worlds. Of course, nothing is ever so easy as all that, and Ward finds himself going deep down the rabbit hole of conspiracy and danger.

Williams injects a realism into this splendid science fiction story that is reminiscent of some of the best in the genre. The Cronian Incident offers a unique view of the future-imperfect through the eyes of the flawed by likable character Jeremiah Ward. Fans of the genre will definitely want to pick up the slow-boil science fiction mystery and tuck in for a good read.

5 Star Reviews for The Cronian Incident

5 Star Reviews for The Cronian Incident

The first reviews for my recently-released novel have come in. And they are admittedly pretty good! If there’s one thing a new author who has just released a book will suffer from, its that pins-and-needles feeling that comes with waiting on the first reviews. Good ones will help attract new readers and fans to your book, while bad ones will cast a stink on it which will be hard to shake! So as you can imagine, I was really happy to see these!

The first was posted on Amazon, where JJ Clayborn (a fellow SF writer) wrote the following:

“Mr. Williams delivers an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.”
The next two were posted on Goodreads, where users Scott McGlasson and Cyber both gave it five stars.

And of course, there was the lovely advanced review from Professor Abraham Loeb himself:

“An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”
So far, so good. Fingers crossed the readers continue to think nice things about this book. Every positive review makes me that much more eager to get the sequel done!

Advance Review for The Cronian Incident

In preparation for the release of The Cronian Incident, my publisher sent out Advanced Reading Copies (ARC) to a number of influential people that I just happen to know. The first one came in not that long ago from Professor Abraham (Avi) Loeb. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of speaking to him a few times as part of my job with Universe Today. So when the opportunity arose to get some professional opinions on my book, I naturally thought of him.
He graciously accepted, and wrote the following:
“An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”
Not only is Prof. Loeb the Chair of the astronomy department Harvard University, he’s also the Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation, a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the chairman of the Breakthrough Foundation’s Advisory Board. Basically, he’s part of the organization that is mounting the largest SETI effort to date, and plans to build a laser sail-driven nanocraft that would make it to Alpha Centauri in 20 years.

Total Recall (2012)

total_recall_farrellRemake season continues for me, this week with the 2012 remake of the 1990 original movie Total Recall. Back when it came out, I was seriously questioning what the hell was going on in Hollywood, as this was just another remake in a summer that was packed full of them. But as the saying goes, “put up or shut up” – i.e. if I’m going to complain about the tide of remade movies, I might as well know what I’m talking about.

And much like last time, I figure that a review of this movie should start by paying a little lipservice to the original (which this remake did in spades!)

Total Recall 1990:
total_recall1The film is set in the not-so-distant future, where a man named Douglas Quaid is haunted by dreams of Mars and a mysterious woman and seeks an escape from his humdrum life as a metal worker. He learns of a memory-implant service named Rekall which he believes might be the solution, since they can provide a simulated adventure that he has always wanted – to go to Mars and live a life of adventure.

He then goes to Rekall and selects a package that includes a simulation where he is a special agent on a top-secret mission. However, things go terribly wrong when he begins acting out his secret agent character before the company has even had a chance to implant it. They sedate him and put him in a car, hoping to wash their hands of the incident. But when he wakes up, his friends and wife try to kill him, claiming he is not who he says he is.

https://i0.wp.com/www.fmvmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Total-Recall.jpgHe is given a briefcase by a former associate which contains a recording, in which he is telling himself that he’s really a man named Carl Hauser, and that the governor of Mars (Cohaagen) erased his memory because of a secret he carries. Quaid/Hauser then goes to Mars, retracing the path his old self has given him, and finds his way to Melina and the resistance. She then takes him to Kuato, leader of the resistance, to unlock his memories.

They help him recover the secret he’s been carrying – which involves the discovery of an alien artifact under the surface of Mars – but the base is then found and overrun. He and Melina are taken prisoner, and he learns that Hauser was never a double-agent, but a mole working with Cohaagen all along to lead them to the resistance. They strap him and Melina into chairs and try to force Hauser to recover his old self.

total-recall-originalHowever, Quaid and Melina escape and enter the alien artifact. Cohaagen tries to stop them, claiming its a doomsday device that will destroy the planet, but Quaid manages to activate it before the three of them are sucked out onto the surface. The reactor turns out to be an atmospheric generator that turns Mars’ icy core into breathable air, which then pours out onto the surface, saving Melina and Quaid and making the planet livable.

Quaid kisses Melina, still not sure if what he has experienced is real or a dream.

Total Recall 2012:
TotalRecall2012PosterAt the end of the 21st century, the world has been devastated by chemical warfare, rendering all but two regions unihabitable. Whereas the wealthy live in the northern hemisphere – in the United Federation of Britain (UFB) – and in the Colony (former Australia). Tensions between the two are high due to the latter demanding independence, and a series of terrorist bombings attributed to a man named Matthias.

Enter into this Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who makes the transit between the Colony and the UFB every day on a massive subterranean lift called “The Fall”. At night, he dreams of fleeing for his life with a woman, and then being taken captive. He attributes these dreams to feeling trapped in his dead end life, and then hears of the memory-implant service known as Rekall.

https://storiesbywilliams.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/0e021-total-recall-movie2b252882529.jpgAgainst his friend Harry’s recommendation, he goes to Rekall and requests a memory in which he is a intelligence service agent. The chief technician reveals that any duplication will cause problems, and then stops the process when he learns that Quaid really is a secret agent. Federal agents then break in and shoot everyone and try to take Quaid prisoner. However, he kills his captors and escapes.

Coming home to his wife Lori, he tells her of what happened and she tries to kill him as well. After escaping again, a pursuit begins, and Lori is told by UFB Chancellor Cohaagen to bring Quaid in alive. Meanwhile, Quaid is told by a former coworker to find the “key”, and a hidden message in the call leads him to a safety deposit box containing fake IDs, a holographic disguise, and a recording in which he explains what is happening.

https://i1.wp.com/www.fxguide.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/08/TotalRecall_TwoWeeks.jpgApparently, Quaid is actually a man named Hauser who worked for UFB intelligence. He was given the task of infiltrating the Colony’s resistance until he met Melina, who convinced him to change sides. He is instructed to go to the UFB and find it, but upon arrival, he is found out and forced to flee again. He is then rescued by the woman he keeps seeing in his dreams and escape Lori for the second time.

Together, they make it away and Quaid takes them to his old apartment to hide. Here, he finds the “key”, which is a recorded message on his piano that tells him that Cohaagen has been behind the bombings, and that he is planning an invasion of the Colony with an army of synthetics so he can level it and rebuild it as a new living space for the UFB. Luckily, Hauser discovered a kill code for the synthetics, which he must get to Matthias to stop the invasion.

https://i0.wp.com/www.thewallpapers.org/photo/59772/Total-Recall-013.jpgAs they attempt to leave his apartment, they are interrupted by Harry, who claims Quaid is still at Rekall and that he is an implant there to help him wake up to reality. Quaid chooses to shoot him and save Melina, and they are once again pursued by Lori and once again escape. They travel via the Fall to the Colony, where they meet with Matthias to hand over the memory that contains the kill code.

Unfortunately, the memory proves to be a recording of Cohaagen telling them they’ve been had. He then shows up with Lori and several security forces, kill Matthias, and take Melina away. Hauser is told he was given a false code to lead them to the resistance, and that a backup of his memories that predate his betrayal will be restored. Hauser realizes his old colleague is with them, has left his restrain undone, and escapes.

https://i2.wp.com/www.themaninthemoviehat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/caps-total-recall.jpegA fight takes place aboard the Fall, and Hauser and Melina plant a series of bombs on the rails. The Fall arrives and the synthetics begin to deploy, and Hauser begins fighting it out with Cohaagen and his forces. Hauser and Melina defeat Cohaagen and then detonate the bombs, which causes the Fall to begin falling backwards towards the center of the Earth where it explodes.

Hauser loses consciousness and wakes up with Melina inside a medical vehicle. He realizes it is actually Lori wearing his holographic disguise and they fight again, and he finally kills her. He and Melina are reunited, and they stand together and hear how the Colony is now expecting full independence. He sees a Rekall signs and has a moment of doubt, but ignores it and kisses Melina.

Summary:
Once again, I am forced to give this one to the original. Whereas the remake had some signs of quality, which included decent enough performances from Farrel, Biel, Beckinsale, and Cranston. But unfortunately, some decent sets, a whole of lot of chase scenes and big budget special effects were not enough to save this movie from a relatively weak plot and a whole lot, too much CGI, and a whole lot of borrowing.

We-Can-Remember-It-for-You-Wholesale-Dick-Philip-K-9780806534459First of all, why did they do away with the whole Mars plot? The story which both the original and the remake are based on – “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K Dick – centered on Mars, though it did not take place there. Including it in the plot seems like a no-brainer. But for some reason, the writers of the remake wanted a story focused on Earth and the dangers of chemical warfare and rezoning.

Second, the story did away with a crucial element this time, which was the good old fashioned mind-fuck of the original. In that version, not only did we not know for certain whether or not Quaid/Hauser was dreaming the whole thing, we truly thought he was a good guy up until they showed otherwise. The plot involving replacing his memories was a ruse by Cohaagen in order to get Hauser past Kuato’s psychic detection.

https://i1.wp.com/filmesegames.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/total-recall-comparison-trailer-thumb-550x295-94147.jpgIn other words, in order to infiltrate the resistance, he had to believe he was an actual traitor. Thus began the convoluted process of making the resistance think he was genuine by erasing his memory and dumping him on Earth, then leading him to retrace his path and find his way to Kuato. Though the information he had about the Martian artifact was real, it was just the bait they dangled in front of the resistance’s nose to get them to give up their location.

Which brings me to item two in the weak plot front. The fact that Quaid/Hauser was actually a good guy in this version made me respect the plot way less. It was cool finding out the hero was a villain, and then seeing him chose to remain with his implanted identity rather than allow himself to be turned back into his old self. It was a big reveal, added a solid twist to the plot, and even raised an existential question or two.

https://i2.wp.com/img2-3.timeinc.net/ew/i/2012/08/02/TOTAL-RECALL-RED-PILL.jpgAnd then there was the key moment where Quaid/Hauser has to decide what is real. In both versions, this takes the form of someone telling him he’s still dreaming and has to do something he won’t like in order to wake up. In the original, it involved Quaid being handed a pill which the man from Rekall says is a symbol of his desire to wake up, but could just as easily be a sedative. He realizes the man is a fake by the way he’s sweating and shoots him.

In the remake, it takes the form of him being confronted by his friend Harry who tells him he’s dreaming and to shoot Melina, a figment of his imagination. He chooses to shoot his friend Harry and accept that what he is experiencing is real because Jessica Biel begins to cry. But isn’t that be exactly what a fantasy woman would do in that situation? Seemed like quite the gambit there.

https://i0.wp.com/img576.imageshack.us/img576/8643/totalrecallf.jpgAlso, the “secret” that Hauser had stumbled upon in this version was really quite lame. In the original, it involved an alien artifact, which is oodles more interesting than than Cohaagen planning to rezone Australia for more living space. Sure, the idea was laden with scientific inaccuracies – melting an ice core doesn’t instantly terraform a planet! – the ridiculousness of it could always be circumvented by arguing that it really was all a dream.

Last, but not least, there were the many parts of this remake that were obvious shout outs or references to the original. First, you had the three-breasted hooker, who was well cast and easy on the eyes. You also had key lines like – “If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?” “How would I know? I just work here.” And of course, the redheaded woman at the customs line. But these seemed a bit too many and obvious to be a simple wink and a nod.

https://i2.wp.com/iteenacgppesam.wikispaces.com/file/view/Total-Recall-Vilos-Cohaagen-Actors.jpg/493570572/Total-Recall-Vilos-Cohaagen-Actors.jpgAlso, Bill Knighy had barely any screen time at all, and only really comes on to paraphrase what Kuato said in the original film. And the bad guys? No comparison! While Kate Beckinsale was believable enough as a villainess, Brian Cranston simply did not hold a candle to the original’s Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside. Those two were perfectly cast as the evil, somewhat over-the-top bad guys, the perfect counter to Arnie’s over-the-top good guy.

But getting past that, there’s the matter of what the movie kinda-sorta did right. The settings were all quite artistic, with the world in the Colony being gritty, crowded, dirty looking, and consisting of a great deal of cultural influences. By contrast, the UFB looked cleaner, brighter, and the design seemed singular by comparison. And the emphasis of shortages of space was summed up nicely by the massive, overlapping layers of structures.

total_recall_setsAnd the “synthetics” were artfully done and kind of cool looking. As were the flying cars, the aerial traffic lanes, and the three-dimensional elevator pods that crisscrossed the sky. And “The Fall” was a pretty neat idea, especially with the whole “gravity reversal thing”. But in just about all cases, these things have been done before. The sets are reminiscent of Blade Runner, with it’s gritty, crowded streets, signs in Asian characters, and the synthetic humans wandering around.

The robots also looked like a cross between Storm Troopers and the machines from I, Robot, and the flying cars called to mind another Philip K Dick adaptation, namely Minority Report. What can be said about a movie who’s set designs and concept art are quite impressive, but which borrow heavily from several other franchises? It’s like this movie is subtly mocking itself for a lack of originality – which makes sense since it’s a remake.

https://i2.wp.com/futuredude.com//wp-content/uploads/2012/07/total-recall-2012-reboot-robot.jpgAnd with all the special effects, things looked entirely too fake. People today might find the Kuato puppet and the molded plastic suits of the mutants to be outdated, but those showed a lot of heart versus the extensive use of CGI in this one. In fact, seeing movies like these make me long for the days of old-style effects where costumes, real actors and real sets were built rather than generating everything digitally. George Lucas, I’m looking at you as I say this!

I’d say its blatantly obvious at this point, but this one definitely goes to the original. And much like the Robocop remake, it begs the question: why redo a movie when the original got it right? Sure, the 1990 version of Total Recall wasn’t perfect. It had a lot of cheesy elements and some massive scientific inaccuracies, but it managed to both entertain and impress with the way it played with perceptions, twisted things around and kept people guessing until the end.

In this remake, there really is no mystery, the plot is simplified, the most important element (i.e. Mars) is dropped, some of the best elements are missing, and it borrowed too heavily from multiple sources – not the least of which was the original. So really, why was it even made? In this season of remake review, I find myself asking that question quite a lot! Not a good way to start…

Okay, onto new things. Which may, at this point, include The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles relaunch. No promises though 🙂