Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Tour for Shadow of a Man by Maria Hammarblad (Review)

As a sci-fi fan I'm excited to have Maria Hammarblad back today with her novella, Shadow of a Man.  Keep reading to find out what makes a good sci-fi story courtesy of the author, along with my impressions of her book.

In my opinion, there’s one basic premise that must be fulfilled to make an interesting story regardless of genre: it must make readers care what happens. Whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, a thriller, or something happening in a historical setting, the reader needs to be interested in the characters and their fate. 
The forest can be immensely dark and scary, the palace vast with marble floors and tremendous chandeliers, or the spaceship engines so clever they could almost work, but if there aren’t any people there, who cares? I might stay up at night to imagine my own interplanetary drive, but I’m not likely to stay up reading about someone else’s. The hero in great peril is a completely different matter. In that situation I have to know if the heroine will arrive in time to save him, and with the character’s life at stake, logic dictating two in the morning is past my bedtime doesn’t stand a chance. 
This sounds self-evident, but trust me, as a writer it’s really easy to get caught up in details. Also – in my opinion – this is where many science fiction authors stumble and fall headfirst. Sci-fi writers generally have a burning interest in science, the future, and space. If we didn’t, we’d be writing something else. This interest poses both a trap and an opportunity. 
I know exactly what the spaceships in my books look like, I know what the worlds look like, how big a space station is in relation to the hero’s ship, and I have a general idea of how I want the ships and worlds to work. Most of my readers couldn’t care less. They want to know if the heroine will make it back home in spite of being abducted by a crazy murderer. 
Here’s the thing though; whatever details about science and worlds make it into the finished story must be plausible. I’m not saying it has to be real or invented yet, but it must be somewhat credible. If nothing in the book sounds like it could be real, no one will believe it, and readers will lose interest without even knowing why they’re bored. If it does seem real, it can be both thought provoking and fascinating. 
Remember I said the interest in science/future/space is both a trap and an opportunity? The interest will drive writers to learn more and perform actual research. Incorporating elements of reality will make a better story. On the other hand, it will also tempt writers to put too much theory in there. Everyone’s different, of course, but unless it’s woven into the story, page after page with details about imaginary artificial gravity would bore me to tears. 
There’s much more to science fiction, of course. Many books offer provocative ideas, take readers to a dystopian future, show how new technology can impact our lives, or why not speculate in someone travelling back in time, changing history. The same basic ideas apply; whether gruesome or jolly, the story needs to be entertaining, and at least somewhat feasible. 
What do you think? What is important to you when you read?

There might be a place Theresa fears more than Borealis, but she can't think of one. The old and decrepit station houses all sorts of cruelty, and to make it better, this is where her husband Dominic was imprisoned, drugged, and tortured. He returned a mere shadow of his old self, scarred by abuse and Uudon withdrawal.
Borealis is the last place Theresa wants to go, and the only one she can't escape. Dominic's apparent madness does nothing to alleviate her fears. Her once sweet husband has turned into a womanizing monster, and will destroy anyone who gets in her way.
Geo, her faithful and all too handsome bodyguard, appears to be the only one on her side. He once helped rescue Dominic, and pays for the insurrection with a lifetime on the run. This might be a situation not even he can handle, and Theresa fears none of them will make it out alive.


Though this story is short on word count it packed a lot of action into its small package and kept me intrigued from start to finish.  It felt as though it was laying the groundwork for a more epic story and succeeded in whetting my appetite for more with its subtle romance and secretive mission.  Along with a compelling storyline is an intriguing cast of characters hurt by their pasts trying to do what's right but creating heartache with an unexpected ending.

Dominic has returned a changed man after being saved by Geo from imprisonment.  He's now a womanizing drunk prone to violence who's alienating his wife through his actions.  His actions have a bigger purpose though that is just hinted at here but appear to have far sweeping implications.  Theresa is the kind of woman to stand by her man no matter what but she's confused by her feelings for the two men in her life who are both trying to keep her safe in their own ways.  She's a bit naive about the harsh realities of the universe which puts her in danger while bringing her closer to Geo, whose job has been to guard her with his life.  Geo has a secretive past that had him physically altering his looks so returning to Borealis puts him in jeopardy but doesn't stop him from sticking close to Theresa, the woman he's become attracted to and who stands by her after a heartbreaking event befalls them.

There's only a hint of romance in this story, a love triangle sanctioned by a man who knows Theresa deserves better.  Considering how likable the characters are, even at their low moments, I wish we could've seen them on a more personal level.  I wish too that Dominic's plan were clearer as his actions speak of a man determined to right some very big wrongs.  Though this story leaves a lot of questions unanswered, the exciting and intriguing storyline has me wanting to revisit this enthralling world Ms. Hammarblad has created.

My rating for this is an B+

*I received this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Born in Sweden in the early 1970's, Maria showed a large interest for books at an early age. Even before she was able to read or write, she made her mom staple papers together into booklets she filled with drawings of suns and planets. She proudly declared them, "The Sun Book." They were all about the sun. She also claimed, to her mother's horror, that her being on Earth was a big mistake and that her alien family would come and bring her home at any moment. This never happened, but both the interest in space and the passion for bookmaking stayed with her.
As an adult Maria's creativity got an outlet through playing bass in a number of rock bands, and through writing technical manuals and making web pages for various companies and organizations. She did write drafts for a few novels, but the storytelling muse was mostly satisfied through role playing online on Myspace. It was here, while writing stories together with people from around the globe, she stumbled onto Mike. They started talking out of character, and she moved over to Florida to him late 2008. Today the two are married and live in the Tampa Bay area with three rescue dogs.
Besides writing and playing bass, Maria enjoys driving off-road, archery, and Tameshigiri.

Upcoming releases:  Borealis XII, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing November 2013

Fun Facts........
Favorite color:  Blue
Favorite food:  Chicken with cashew nuts
Doesn't eat:  Mammals
Favorite TV Show:  Star Trek TNG and Leverage
Favorite animal:  Border Collie
Quotes:  "Full Speed Ahead" and "Caffeine is good for you"

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