Some Decent but DNF Titles (#bookreview)

I seem to be in a bit of a rut lately, and I suspect it's because I've been reading too far (or perhaps just too much) outside my core comfort zone. I've been dabbling a lot in genres that I generally enjoy in small doses, and finding that you really can have too much of a good thing.

The following books are not 'bad' by any means - if they were, I'd politely shelve them away and never say another word - they just didn't work for me. Hopefully, by shedding some light on them, I can help them connect with the right readers.

Kafira is a novel with a great premise, but I found I stumbled over too many things in the opening chapters, and just couldn't find my way back into the book. John G O'Neill is a solid writer, and spins some really interesting plot threads here - political, sci-fi, and bio-terror included. Moon landings get me excited, and I've been a huge fan of plague stories, so this seemed like a good fit. Unfortunately, I had a hard time settling in with the style of the narration, and had trouble connecting with the main characters. It's a fast-paced thriller, with a good deal of imagination but, ultimately, just not for me.

Be Careful What You Wish For offers up a concept that intrigued me, but I just couldn't find the hook to keep me reading. Adam and the gang are well-established, evoking memories of the guys I used to play AD&D with back in high school, but I can't really speak to their development. While neither wishes themselves nor wishes for magic to be real are hardly new, Daniel Black's choice to place that magic in the context of a role-playing game is something different. As much as I wanted to like the book, however, I found the pacing a little too slow, and the mix of genres a little too awkward for my tastes. Urban fantasy fans will likely find more to appreciate here, as will hardcore RPG fans who remain closer to the game.

Having had the ARC in my possession since December, I took several stabs at The Darwin Elevator, hoping that I might eventually find my way into it. After all, there are several authors (Steven Erikson immediately comes to mind) who demanded patience and perseverance with that first book, but who have since become favorites. I must say, Jason M. Hough has a great imagination, a flair for intense action, and a knack for dark/witty humor, but it felt like this novel could have used a more ambitious editor. The characters didn't hold any appeal for me, which really drained the story of any significant source of tension. In addition, I really struggled to grasp some of the politics and societal rules, which just seemed rather backward. Ultimately, this struck me in much the same way as Control Point, but readers who found the appeal there will likely enjoy this.

Despite an impressive pedigree of authors, After the End: Recent Apocalypses suffers first from familiarity, and second from its recent competition. Paula Guran has collected a nice variety of tales here, but while I had read many of them before, none were memorable enough for me to realize it right away, and none were strong enough for me to feel the urge to read them a second time. As for the competition, I know it's unfair to judge one book against another, but there have been some stellar collections of original apocalyptic fiction lately, and this one does suffer by comparison. Likely a good collection for those who haven't read the stories before, or who haven't been spoiled by recent reads, but I simply ran out of patience waiting for something 'new' to surprise me.