Sunday, October 11, 2015

REVIEW: DAY OF THE FISH-ZOMBIES

INTRODUCTION
I've always been a fan of interactive fiction in terms of how it relates to video games. There are some that allow you to make a choice right at the end that deliver different outcomes such as Star Wars The Force Unleashed. There are some that have different endings depending on your actions during the game as with Bioshock. Then there are those that allow players to shape the story to their liking through a series of smaller decision points that help make the overall experience feel more personal - just about any Bioware game ever is a good example of this. One thing that I've yet to really get into however is interactive fiction within the context of literature. I've heard of and even played text adventures in the past and I am familiar with the concept of a choose-your-own-adventure book, but would definitely not call myself an expert in that genre.

When offered a free advanced review copy (ARC) of DAY OF THE FISH-ZOMBIES by the author, Tom Shutt, I gratefully accepted the chance to give interactive literature an honest chance.

HOW I RATED IT

 4/5 There were definitely a couple of things that tripped me up when reading/interacting with this piece. Some of it can certainly be chalked up to quirks of the genre/medium, but I really enjoyed my experience overall and I think this is a piece that has proven to me that interactive literature is something that can really be quite special and fun.

STORY
The story is sort of hard to talk about in just about every aspect, since I as the reader was the one that defined it. The basic premise is that you are at a movie that you probably shouldn't be watching. You are with your two best buddies and as the movie plays there are weird noises coming from outside the mall theater. As fate would have it, you find yourself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with weirdly fish-like zombies. All of this is introduced very quickly and throws readers immediately into the process of making life or death decisions. When I say "life or death" I don't use the term lightly. The first six or so paths that I took all led to an untimely end for me as the main character. This is a story where a great many of the threads end in the main character's death which sort of sets up a situation where the story is really meant to be read through over and over (albeit with different choices made) in order to get the full picture. The key aspect to this is that things that might have seemed like small details in one path may be attached to much larger plot points when a different set of decisions are made. One major example of this is that there was one session where the main character sees that he has a missed call from his mom. This little detail meant a lot more to me at the time that I read this because I'd already gone down a pathway where the call is actually answered and the mother plays a big role in a number of diverging paths afterwards.

What are perhaps the most interesting aspects of this work is how many paths there are to take and how different each path is from one another. There is a lot of variation to be had depending on your choices and a lot of different characters to be met along the way. Because of all these options and the consequences that they involve, the characters are not as fleshed out as I am used to when reading a book. This isn't really due to any weakness on the part of the way they are portrayed or how the dialogue is handled, it's just a consequence of this being a rather fast work of fiction. You simply won't get as much time with them as you would with characters in a linear novel and by consequence of this, you won't know them as well as you might like to. Ultimately there's nothing that the author could have really done better since the entire premise of this experience is reading short portions of text and making decisions based of your current situation. The only real solution might be to lengthen the amount of text surrounding these characters, but that's not really conducive to going through the story over and over whilst making different choices.

This is a story that branches in the most extreme of senses. One decision begets a multitude of different paths to take which then offer further diversion in turn. It was through taking a bunch of these different paths that I started to get a better sense of the larger picture of the events. The one thing that I did not get a good answer to however was how the zombies came to be, what they really were, or even what becomes of the world now that they are here. A large reason for this is that the story is really only centered on the main character's survival of this event. The possibilities become quite enormous, but upon reaching one survival outcome, readers will be informed that there are eleven letters which can be collected and used to unlock hidden bonus content on the author's main website. This means there are eleven total ways to survive, - I personally only experienced seven of them, but was able to guess at the secret code. I checked out the bonus content that is unlocked with the secret password and was pleased that I'd guessed the code correctly. The content that is available is also pretty neat and it seems like the sort of thing that will receive regular updates, so it'll probably be worth going in to see it more than once. And even without this fun scavenger hunt of sorts, I'd still encourage people to read through to discover different endings (or at least a bunch of them).

There is a wide range of ways in which readers might guide the main character to survival and a vast array of ways to see him die. One down side is that with so many options, there are of course some endings (both for death and survival) that are just  inherently cooler than others. It also makes seeing every possible outcome a rather big task to take on, but it is a perfectly enjoyable experience even without seeing each and every ending. It's hard to say too much more than that without spoiling these rewarding moments, but suffice it to say that there are a couple of deaths and survivals that are truly epic to experience.

CHOICES/INTERACTIVITY
One thing that immediately threw me off about this book was the way it makes use of choices. The author described this to me as a choose-your-own-adventure. While I have absolutely no actual familiarity with what that means, I have always been under the impression that it is a story where you as a reader can go down different paths which ultimately lead to a number of endings. Imagine my surprise then when I read through this story six separate times and died at each turn. At the risk of sounding ignorant (or just being wrong) I would argue that this is not a choose-your-own-adventure book at all, but rather a text adventure. There's just a lot more variety than I would associate with a choose-your-own-adventure and it is actually a challenge to come to a real ending (real meaning one in which the main character survives and the reader earns a new survival badge/letter). When I started, I actually got a bit frustrated with the book because I wasn't expecting to die so much. Upon walking away from it, I came upon the realization that this was far more like a text adventure, a game. Once I started thinking about the book as a game, I suddenly gained a new perspective on what I needed to do. I also became far more okay with failing to keep the main character alive and I eventually arrived upon my first survival ending. After that I was hooked and I had a much better understanding of mechanics which I did not initially comprehend.

To be clear, the process of making decisions is quite simple. I was not so inept that I did not understand that clicking one link resulted in a different outcome than choosing another. What tripped me up was that decisions do not always result in outcomes you'd expect and there is no real pattern to success. Selfish decisions in some situations might lead to the main character's survival while selfish choices in another might actually hurl him straight into the arms of death. The same is true for choices that involve generosity of some sort. There's also one set of paths where survival hinges upon the collection of an item. Without it, some situations that would have been survivable will actually end in death. This level of unpredictability made things feel like a bit of a guessing game in some ways, which is ultimately fine since some of the deaths are as interesting as the survivals. It should just be noted that all the random dying did annoy me until I finally won once. Another somewhat odd feature is that one of the most important decisions in the game is actually the first choice that you make since each option sends the reader down two very different paths which then branch out accordingly. In order to see all of the different possibilities, there are sections of the story that will be seen over and over again. This isn't so bad since the pathways are so different and the text is short enough where you can skip over it on future passes and just click the decisions you want. All in  all, I actually did enjoy the system. It's just something that I personally found to be an acquired taste which required a shift in how I thought of the work as well as overcoming something of a learning curve.

FORMATTING/PRESENTATION
Aside from some VERY minor typographical errors the editing here is wonderfully done. The worst I came across were things like "THe" versus "The" or "you" versus "your." Other than that, a lot of the visual presentation has really already been covered in prior sections. To summarize: the text in between decisions is always relatively short which allows readers to get right into the meat of this work which is the decision making mechanic.

There aren't any pictures or otherwise remarkable graphical elements to this piece aside from the way that the survivals are handled. Each one gets a "survival badge" which consists of a cute, ironic, or funny tag name and has a description below it that relates to how it was you secured the main character's survival. It's nothing super elaborate, but it was certainly a nice touch that made reaching a survival ending feel that much more like an accomplishment.

One thing that did feel a little off in terms of how the story is presented is that in some ways, it feels like a YA story-line, but in others, I'd consider it to be more of an adult work. The narrative features younger characters and is written in a way that feels decidedly more juvenile, but there are also aspects of it, namely the gore, that make it feel a bit less like something I'd consider to be YA. There's nothing super over the top here, but it's definitely something that's more of a high school and up type of thing.

CONCLUSION
Overall, I enjoyed this book a great deal. It didn't necessarily blow me away or change my life, but it did introduce me to a new type of fiction and provide me with several hours of good fun. My initial confusion with some of the genre-specific elements were honestly to be expected given that this is my first time exploring this type of literature. While restating that I'm no expert in this area, I felt that this was a technically strong piece that made the most of it's interactive nature and provided a lot of different incentives for readers to keep going back in and exploring different possibilities. It was even more enjoyable for me since I read this in the month of October, though this would be a fun read even outside of the spookiest month of the year. This is definitely an easy one for me to recommend whether or not you're someone who is a regular consumer of interactive fiction. Veterans will probably have a much easier time diving into the work and newcomers can certainly catch onto some of the nuances like I did. If you're in need of a good pre-Halloween read, or are just up for a zombie story where you get to make the bad decisions, then DAY OF THE FISH-ZOMBIES definitely has you covered.

DAY OF THE FISH-ZOMBIES can be picked up as an eBook on Amazon.

Monday, October 5, 2015

REVIEW: BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN


INTRODUCTION 
As part of my Batman Day eComic haul, I picked up BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN. I knew going into it that it was an older work and definitely looked the part, but I also know it's quite famous. I've heard it referenced by a number of people who are more up on the comic world than I am and I have played Batman video games where there are alternate costumes based off of this graphic work. Most notably was Rocksteady's ARKHAM CITY where players who have the Catwoman pack can play as her using the bright pinkish costume which she sports in this comic. Other than the visual side of things, I really didn't know much about the story at all, other than that it's famous so I figured I'd give it a shot.

HOW I RATED IT 

4/5 There are some things that definitely make this a little rough around the edges, but overall, it is one of the most compelling and engaging graphic works that I have read to date. I had a really good time with this and definitely understand why there is so much buzz around this wonderful collection.

CHARACTERS 
Obviously, the principal character in this story is Bruce Wayne/Batman. The Batman we get here is pretty much the batman that we'd expect and what little we get of him as Bruce Wayne was also on par with my general expectations. One thing that is a little different is that Batman doesn't really have any allies insofar as the "bat family" is concerned. There are some small snippets with his trusty butler, Alfred, but those come toward the end of the story-line and really just aren't all that significant. I'll admit that this is a bit of a disappointment since I love Alfred, but  his taking the back seat in this adventure does allow characters like Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent to have a bit more time center stage. Their relationship with Batman felt VERY similar to how these characters interact with one another in the Christopher Nolan films (I believe this work was one of his inspirations). As any Batman fan might expect, we do get to see the metamorphosis of Harvey becoming the villain Two-Face, but this is a very drawn out process which was nice since it let me get to know Dent as a DA. Both Gordon and Dent have families which are featured in numerous chapters of the work. Harvey has a young wife and is looking to get settled with her in Gotham City while Jim has a family that is well underway. It was really nice to see these hard as nails men in a more family-oriented scenario and getting a glimpse at this side of them made it all the more heartbreaking to witness Dent's decline.

On the more supernatural side of things is Selina Kyle/Catwoman who is not precisely an ally of Batman, but is also not strictly against him. There is even a relationship between Selina and Bruce outside of the costumed world, but they don't seem to know the true identities of one another (at least Bruce doesn't). Other classic villains make appearances like the Joker and the Riddler while more obscure foes like Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and Solomon Grundy round out the cast. All of these are really more of side-conflicts though since the real source of tension comes from the gang war between the Falcone and Maroni families. The majority of the plot is actually centered around this sort of mob warfare in a way that Fox's GOTHAM seems to have borrowed some pages from for their first season. We get the sense that the presence of super-villains is a relatively new development - one possibly born from the actions of the Dark Knight himself. Lastly, there is the villain known only as Holiday, but more on that in just a moment.

WORLD/SETTING 

The general setting of this piece is a fairly standard version of Gotham city. Batman isn't exactly new on the scene since he already has a relationship with Captain Gordon and the Bat Signal is a thing, but I did get the sense that this was still fairly early on in Batman's crime fighting career. We also look at the world largely from it's criminal underbelly. It's a real cloak and dagger atmosphere where Gotham's crime families go at it with some interference from Falcone's sister, a Chicago mob boss who has known designs for Gotham. It's a world where enemies act as friends and family members can't be trusted. Batman's only real allies are Jim and Harvey, but as mentioned above, one of these cops eventually betrays his trust. Both Batman and Catwoman get on Falcone's radar (aka hit-list) which gives them a common bond of sorts, but this relationship is a rather shaky one.

The real pull of this tale is the character known only as Holiday. He or she is called Holiday because they kill once a month, you guessed it, on a holiday. It all starts on Halloween night and continues for a year until Halloween comes around a second time. This means that each chapter brings readers into a different month of the year, more importantly to a significant holiday within that month. It was sort of like watching a television show that only consists of holiday specials. There's Christmass, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and a whole bunch more. I got the sense that there was a lot of different things happening in between each of these days, but that the main focus was always on trying to stop the Holiday Killer. The year gets dubbed "The Long Halloween" by the crime families since it is them who are getting hit the hardest by this illusive serial killer. By the end of this year of killings, the world is a rather dismal and dark place.

PLOT/TONE 
Batman stories sometimes struggle with the balance between darkness and light. Some iterations of the character are edgy, but don't cross a line such as with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movie trilogy. Then there are some that like to go a little overboard and could be considered a bit distasteful. Fox's Gotham has been a regular offender of this lately between the Dollmaker episodes last season and a more recent one from this current season where an alarming number of GCPD cops are unceremoniously gunned down by a band of psychopaths. Fortunately, BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN is just the right mix of dark and heinous deeds with daring heroic acts. The story is gripping and brimming with suspense. All of the villains are genuinely terrifying, especially in the unique art style that the book takes on that makes all the bad guys look extra creepy.

It's definitely a plot that takes its time to build. There are a lot of moving parts to it all and a lot of questions left out in the open until the very last chapter. Because of this, it is a little tough to really get into. I'd say about a third of the book really just lays the foundation and then things start to pick up. There was no point where I wanted to give up on it or anything, but I was certainly glad when all of the pieces started coming together and the intensity finally ramped up a bit. It was also nice to have a story that didn't really offer any kind of alternate version to Batman's origin. As a reader, I didn't really have to know a whole lot about that universe in order to enjoy this book. Every villain, big or small, is given an introduction of some kind. It probably helped that I know a LITTLE bit about it all, but I don't think said knowledge was totally essential.

THE ART:
Easily one of the weaker points for me, the artwork featured in this novel is a bit rough. It's definitely got a distinctively older feel to it, but it also didn't bother me as much as most older comics do. It has this surreal sort of vibe to it where everything looks a tad off. I think it's a look that definitely fits the overall tone of the piece and while I wish the visuals had a bit more polish and depth to them, there are definitely some shots that are very lovingly rendered. There's really not much more to say on this end. If this is one area that has you on the fence as a reader, then I'd just try a sample of it or even Google search for some images to get a feel for what you're getting into. For me, the story was well worth the less-than-perfect art.

CONCLUSION 
THE LONG HALLOWEEN is a tale that's sort of a standalone Batman plot-line. It's not so different from what some fans may already know and love, but it does take some familiar components and use them in new and clever ways. The story is one of the best Batman narratives I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing even with the older, less polished art style. I don't know if this is necessarily something that will appeal to everyone, but it's definitely worth giving a try, especially if you are a fan (even casually) of the Batman universe.

BATMAN THE LONG HALLOWEEN can be found on Amazon in eBook, Paperback, and Library Bound editions.

UPDATE: BOOK HAUL(S) - 10/5/2015

Normally I buy books 1 or 2 at a time and only do so right before I want to read them. I do own a couple that I have yet to get to, but I'm not typically one for "hauls." Recently I had two smaller ones, but these have added up a pretty decent amount of books (for me at least). 

BATMAN DAY eCOMIC HAUL

The 26th of September was National Batman Day (maybe international, who knows). I know this because I got an email saying so. In said email was mention of some contests one could enter for free, but also that a whole bunch of comics and graphic novels were heavily discounted, so I trucked it over to Amazon and these are the results.


Batman The Long Halloween 
(Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale)
I'd heard a lot about this one, but really had no idea what I was getting into other than the fact that it is an older and highly beloved work. I've actually already read this one and the review for it will be going up shortly.




Batman Arkham Asylum
(Grant Morrison and Dave McKean)
I've played the video game of the same name that was inspired by this work. I'm sure the story-lines are not an exact match, but I'm still excited to dig into the graphic novel that one of my favorite video games is based on.


Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls 
(Scott Snyder, Greg Capulio, and Jonathan Glapion)
I've been actively avoiding mainstream comics because of how confusing they can be. DC's New 52 initiative is supposed to make the world of comics more accessible to newcomers, but I've got to say, it's still confusing as hell. Half of the volumes I looked at during the graphic novel sale were actually story-lines that somehow springboard off of the main Batman New 52 thread and it's not always clear that a volume belongs to the New 52 such as with one called Batman Eternal.Basically, I'm giving it a shot and just starting with the most basic of basic volumes. I'll see how that goes. 


Batman: The Complete Hush 
(Joseph Loeb, Lim Lee, and Scott Williams)
I love Jim Lee's art style, but have never actually read anything featuring his artwork. I'm also intrigued by the character, Hush. Technically this is a collection of comics pulled from the main Batman comic series, but because it is packaged as a graphic novel, I am hoping that there is enough here so that I won't be terribly confused. 


BOOKTUBE SFF HAUL


The Goblin Emperor
(Katherine Addison)
One of the October SFF reads. I picked this up in hard copy thinking it was a much larger book, but it's actually printed on small pages so this may not be so tough to get through.


Sixth of Dusk
(Brandon Sanderson)
I wasn't sure if I could get two full novels in this month since both of them seemed quite long so I decided to go with a short fiction nominee for my second SFF read during this third and final month. 


Marvel 1602
(Niel Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove)
While I was picking up The Goblin Emperor, I decided to wander around the bookstore a bit to see what else they had and found this collection of comics by Neil Gaiman. I'd seen someone else's copy a little while ago and flipped through its pages. Ever since then I've wanted to pick it up since it probably doesn't require any knowledge of the greater Marvel Universe to enjoy and it has gorgeous art. I've also been exclusively reading DC comics despite my liking both brands so it was high time I read some Marvel (AND some Gaiman at the same time).

Sunday, October 4, 2015

REVIEW: UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES (Big Sigma Book 2)

INTRODUCTION
Sequels can be risky business no matter the medium. Sequels are inspired by various motivations. The FAST AND FURIOUS franchise continues to live on because people consistently pay to see the ludicrous stunts and zany criminal story lines that the movies provide. The Marvel comic and movie universes are going strong because there are so many wild adventures to be had and so many characters to get to know (not to mention all the money they make from them). Then there are some concepts that are simply planned to go on for a finite amount of time like THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy which is most definitely meant to be a three-book series. Any more than that and the story might be stretched a bit thin and any less would rob readers of some crucial details and moments. In all of these cases, one thing that remains constant is that there is an unspoken expectation that the next installment in a series will be better than it's last. The fact of the matter is though, that sequels can often be a source of disappointment when they fail to outdo their predecessors or at least advance the overarching plot in a meaningful way. Joseph R. Lallo's first installment in the BIG SIGMA trilogy (entitled BYPASS GEMINI) was a delightful throwback to science fiction of old and mixed in a bit of noir for good measure. It ended on a note which was quite satisfying but also left some space for future adventures. Because  I enjoyed the first so much (and read it for the low price of free) I decided to purchase the second book in this series.

HOW I RATED IT 
4/5 My sentiments toward this story are going to be a bit of a mix here. I had a generally positive attitude toward this work the entire way through, but there were definitely some things that threw me off about it which kept this from being a full 5/5 for me. While I will obviously be getting into the details of what I mean very soon, my overall opinion of UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES is that it is neither any better or worse than BYPASS GEMINI, it's just a bit different in some ways.

CHARACTERS
Easily one of the highlights from the first book - the cast returns for another mission with some new additions to the crew. Lex, our hero from the first novel takes the lead again. Well, for the most part anyway. Whereas we pretty much exclusively followed Lex around in BYPASS GEMINI, readers will find themselves switching between different characters of the expanded main cast. I'll get to why this is in a later section, but for now it's simply worth noting that Lex is not at the center of this book's events although he is still a major player. It is also good to know that the character development that Lex underwent during the first adventure carries over and continues in this one. Lex is still Lex, but he's a far less selfish and self-destructive version of himself than he was when we first met him. He still struggles with some of his old issues, but is simply far more likable here.

Michella, who was criminally underused in the first book, finally gets a lot more time to shine. Her fame from shooting footage of the Vector Corp. incident has sent her career forward at a blinding pace. While she loves the excitement and renown, her and Lex struggle to hold onto their renewed relationship. She sort of reminded me of SMALLVILLE'S version of Lois Lane in that she's daring, determined, and has a bit of a temper. I think overall, she's a very good character, but there were definitely some parts with her that felt a little forced and it was a little odd to have her be so closely comparable to another fictional character (she's even got her own Jimmy Olsen type of sidekick).

The maniacal Karter Dee makes his return. He's largely unchanged save for his dire circumstances, but honestly, I wouldn't change a thing about him anyway. His AI companion, Ma, also makes a return, but she goes through quite a bit of change throughout the course of the quest to liberate Karter from a cult of anti-government fanatics. I won't say any more on that topic, other than that I can almost guarantee that you will love every second you have with her.

There are also four brand new individuals who are introduced slowly over time so I'm not sure how spoiler-y talking about them is. In the interest of not ruining surprises, I'll try and keep things a bit vague. First up is Commander Purcell who serves as this book's primary antagonist. While Lex and the gang are still facing off against a very large organization, having Purcell be such a featured character gave this terrorist organization a lot more weight. One of my major issues with the first book was that it had no real central villain to connect with. There were certainly some named bad guys, but Purcell offers a way more prominent face to this book's source of conflict. Along with Purcell there is a mysterious figure who is never fully revealed and will likely be featured in the third and final book in the series. Then there are two mercenary types which team up with Lex and Ma both of which are very different in that they are physically lethal, but their vibrant personalities fit right in with the existing cast.

All in all, this is one area where the book really shines.

WORLD/SETTING
As with the first book, the locations visited in UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES are varied and exotically colorful. Previously visited locations like Lex's urban home planet and Karter's high-tech lab return, though only for brief segments. There is the terrorist space station which has a feel that is distinctively reminiscent of the Death Star. Several, more inhospitable locations are explored which offer some arguably grittier sequences than anything readers might have seen in the first book. There is also a lush, affluent world where Michella spends the majority of her time due to a reporting convention which is taking place there. Combine this with some of the spacecraft interiors and there  is more than enough to make this feel like a truly epic galactic journey.

The universe itself does have a different feel to it, though. Because of all the character switching, more areas can be explored at once and the story space overall has a much bigger feel to it. In the first novel we were following Lex as he fled from the insidious Vector Corp. until his eventual head-on confrontation with them. The galaxy seems to have accepted that only a small, deviant sect of the organization was actually engaging in anything unseemly so life has mostly gone on without much disturbance. On one hand this is a little disappointing since the events of the first book were so intensely grandiose. On the other, it felt very true to life that the ebb and flow of society continued on without much consequence while individuals (mainly Lex and Michella) still feel the impacts of the event be they positive or negative. This calm really just opens the floor for a brand new crisis, one which has far more reaching consequences. This means that the stakes are even higher this time around.

PLOT/TONE
It is in this area of the work that I felt there were the most differences from the first book. BYPASS GEMINI was a tightly composed novel with noir suspense and corporate corruption. The only real respite from the high octane chase was a pit stop at Karter Dee's mad scientist lair. UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES felt dramatically more relaxed in it's pacing, which in some ways might be good, but in others it was definitely a hindrance. One key area that bugged me was toward the earlier chapters when Lallo feels the need to heavily recap information that was already provided in the first novel. I didn't need a full explanation of who Ma was or a summary of Lex and Michella's tumultuous relationship. The extent to which I as a reader was reminded of some of the basic plot points from the original felt a tad insulting in that I was not trusted to remember that information. This made for a rather slow opening, but even after the endless stream of summaries is finished, Big Sigma Book 2 still takes on a drastically different tone overall.

A lot of this likely stems from the fact that we are no longer following just one character. There are three distinct story-lines which run concurrently with one another. There's Michella's investigative work, Ma's quest to launch a rescue mission, and Karter's explosive interactions with his terrorist captors. All three threads are equally interesting, but it is still worth noting that there is far more content addressed here than what readers will probably expect after having finished Book 1. Ultimately I found that while it was a fine enough story, it was just a lot less focused than the first and it lacks a lot of the urgency that made me want to race toward the end of BYPASS GEMINI. I liked that there was more content, I loved that the stakes were a bit higher, and the expanded main cast really added a lot to the narrative, but the tale definitely meandered along at it's own pace and I felt no great hurry to rip through it's pages.

One other thing of note is that I felt as though there was a bit more tangents to be found in this installment. Sometimes it is Lallo explaining the finer points of a piece of technology, sometimes it is an deep explanation of a location followed up with a series of shorter explanations that restate what I already knew about that place. Examples of this could definitely be found in the fist story as well, but it seemed to me that this issue was far more pronounced this time around, probably because there is a wider swathe of the universe which is covered in this adventure.

FORMATTING/PRESENTATION
By and large, the book as a product itself is mostly the same as the first book in the series. The cover is stunning once again, and the editing is air tight. Scene breaks are still denoted with the single, boring "#," but I noticed far less spacing issues this time around. Most of these elements are so well done that this is barely worth mentioning, I only bring it up because of some of the minor presentation-related gripes I had with the previous installment.

CONCLUSION 
In the end, Lallo has managed to deliver another marvelous science fiction space odyssey. The larger scope and expanded main cast, while good in many ways, do slow down the pace that was set during Book 1 and will undoubtedly throw readers off if they came in expecting a similar tone and feel. Even without looking at this book in comparison to its predecessor, it still has some flaws that keep it from reaching the peak of excellence, but it provided a great deal of entertainment value all the same. It is a sequel that certainly does not outdo the original, but it also doesn't get lost in its shadow either. It is no better or worse, only different. I'm certainly interested to see what the third book in the trilogy brings since Books 1 and 2 are so different. It seems to me that there are some much larger ideas presented in this installment that are yet to be fully closed off so I anticipate that Book 3 will continue the trend of telling a story of wider breadth. If you enjoyed the first book in this series, then you should definitely continue since UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES is a very worthy follow up, albeit one that will probably not meet some of your expectations in terms of what kind of adventure you are actually getting yourself into.

UNSTABLE PROTOTYPES is available as an eBook on Amazon.