Review of “Aestus: Book 1: The City”

I came across this book a few months ago after meeting the author on Twitter. The ideas that brought her to write the book intrigued me, so I picked up an ebook copy of it and its followup novel, which I immediately jumped into after finishing book one. I had recently finished reading Frank Herbert’s epic novel Dune when I saw the review of another reader of Aestus who had compared the world of this book to Dune. I had to investigate.

The book series title “Aestus” does not appear in the text of the story, but upon googling the term I realized how it related to the tale. The Latin word means heat, or fire, a reference to the setting of the story in a post apocalyptic subterranean society which is hiding from the heat of the daytime temperatures of Earth’s out-of-control, post-war climate. The story begins with the main character Jossey, who is an engineer of solar technology. She and her team are descending into the dark tunnels leading to their underground city at the end of a night of working on the surface. The underground city protects them from the heat of day and the frightening creatures that are the nemesis of the city dwellers.

The first chapters introduce the reader to a dark underground world of tunnels and the Onlar – frightening creatures who pursue the main character Jossey and her team of engineers. At first I thought this book would just be a sci-fi horror tale of monsters and fear of the dark, but as the story progressed, I found the author was building a much larger mystery with complex characters and a much deeper plot.

The incremental revealing of new characters, their motives, emotions, and back history is very well done. Understanding of who they are and their intentions is given slowly and steadily to the reader over the course of the book. I especially found the emotional interactions between several of the characters to be very intriguing, realistic, and well written. The ever growing and changing characters present a mystery to solve as Jossey decides who to trust while discovering that some things in her underground city are not always as they first appear.

This first book has a number of well presented plot mysteries for the reader which are paid off throughout the course of the book. I loved how unknown aspects of the city and the overall story are revealed with many surprising revelations. Some I saw coming, but many surprised me. The plot twists don’t feel contrived either. They’re subtly hinted at for the reader. Many “ah-ha” moments are experienced making the growing plot even more interesting as the tale expands.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the adventure and fascinating characters in this story. While there are a few editing related issues that I think could have tightened up and possibly strengthened the tale, the storytelling was still the overriding strength of the book. Replacing some of the “LY” adverb use with more hinted-at sensory and emotion-based imagery might have given an even deeper feeling of “being there” in some spots. (I guess I can’t break from reading as a picky editor! Others might not find these stood out as much as they did to me). Possibly a few more editing passes could make the writing a little stronger, but in the end I overlooked these minor issues since the story and characters drew me further and further into an intriguing tale.

This first book ends with a new understanding of the plight of the characters and their perception of their world, but not all problems are resolved. Many payoffs for mysterious characters, motives, and plot lines are wrapped up at the end of the book, but since this is a multi-book story, the ending presents a major unresolved issue, obviously intended to make the reader press on into book two.

At first I was unsure if this uncompleted plot issue felt unsatisfactory to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I liked where it left me as a reader. The first book has a number of huge payoffs, establishing a new playing field for book two. The unresolved plot issues at the end of book one were exciting enough to make me want to immediately jump into the second book right away – which is not something that has always happened for me in other series novels.

I believe this is the author’s first published book, so yes, I think there is room for growth in writing as her personal style and “voice” develops over time, but this story was much more intriguing to me than were other loudly lauded “new amazing authors,” whose books I have read in the past year. S.Z. Attwell’s storytelling brought to life wonderful characters I cared about and made me willing to follow along to see their next exciting adventure.

I highly recommend Aestus: Book 1: The City.

Discounts for the Holidays!

Just for the holiday season, my fellow authors and I who wrote the fifteen stories in the “Nine Streams of Consciousness” science fiction anthology, have discounted our book at Amazon.

The #scifi #anthology Nine Streams of Consciousness is on sale.

Kindle E-book is nearly 30% off
Paperback is 9% off (about as low as Amazon lets us go – I wish it could be more).

Get it as a gift for someone or, just get a copy to enjoy for yourself!

United States
United Kingdom

If you read it, please be sure to leave a rating and/or review on Amazon or It helps our visibility on Amazon a lot if people leave us reviews and ratings!

The Twitch Anthology – A Creative Stream

I began watching Drew Wagar’s Twitch stream on its second episode. He started out by teaching viewers the basics of good story telling, and his personal process of writing. Through his weekly streams I rediscovered a love for writing which I had set aside years ago. Soon I began to consider the personal challenge of writing a novel myself, but that seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Drew Wagar – Host of “The Twitch Anthology” – the Twitch stream that spawned a group of new writers who are about to publish a sci-fi anthology on Amazon entitled “Nine Streams of Consciousness”

Drew decided to offer a new challenge after we had gone through most of the basics of good writing. Rather than learning in a lecture / question and answer style presentation, he suggested we could collaborate on a sci-fi anthology. We could learn what it takes to create a book by participating in it hands-on. That was an easy choice for me. I was all in. The idea of contributing a short story or two, supporting each other under Drew’s guidance, and assembling and actually publishing a book was an exciting, reachable goal.

“The Twitch Anthology” Stream – Mondays 22:00 – 21:30 (UK time)

We began by brainstorming, envisioning new worlds, and creating a timeline of events into which our individual stories could be grounded. The goal was to write a series of independent short stories, told in our own personal styles, that could stand on their own – yet be interconnected in a grand plot.

Some of Drew’s high tech graphics and humor (or humour) is always showing as he encourages us to “Write On!”

We began the process of individually writing our first drafts. I read and re-edited my initial story over and over. Edit after edit, revision after revision, would I ever rid it of the flaws that popped up like weeds? We each experienced the challenge of critical review before our peers. It was a vulnerable feeling, but we realized the critiques came from someone who had our best outcome at heart. We learned to edit and integrate our stories together, to bridge the gaps, and connect them. We learned how to work together.

My favorite part of the creative process was seeing ways that we could insert references of events, places and characters into our stories, tying them together into a complete adventure. When we finally got them all assembled, we had a novel-length book.

Those of us who were new writers had no idea how much effort it would take. However, as I look back on what turned into a year and a half long project, I’m proud to have seen it through to completion. I know I have personally grown from the experience, and so have my fellow authors (wow, we can call ourselves authors now!) I worked with a great group of strangers from across the globe, strangers whom I now consider good friends.

Thanks Drew, for the inspiration and the willingness to share your gifts and skills.

Drew’s Author Website.

Shattered Worlds: Shattered and Rebuilt

I finally had my short story critiqued by someone who knows how to write novels, and well… He said I have a good story and did my conversational text well, but my story was doing a lot of TELL and not SHOW in many places. I knew about this concept but somehow I was blind to it until Drew went through it with me and showed me where I was doing it and how I could make it better. Now it seems so obvious to me. I am surprised how I didn’t realize it before.

So this week I did some major revisions to “Shattered Worlds”. I added a lot more character dialog to replace the boring telling I had let creep into the text. I added more physical description of character actions SHOWING what they were feeling and pulled out the plopping down of overt motivations and emotions which I was just TELLING the reader.

I am sure it is not done yet, but I am feeling a lot better about it now, and I think this short advice that Drew gave me really brought some new life to my story. Really appreciate your “brutal review” @drewwagar.