Review – Unfair Advantage

Richard Skinner

First, the “minimal spoilers” review — then I’ll have a few more comments, both related and unrelated.


Unfair Advantage coverGeorge McIntyre has a problem.

He caught a nanotechnological disease that turned him into a ten-foot-tall monster. He has scales, fur, horns, big teeth, claws, a face like a pony and a barbed tail. He got an upgrade in strength, speed and intelligence that is so profound it is terrifying him. But that’s not his problem.

He’s been shot, stabbed, blown up and thrown in jail. But that’s not his problem.

He’s created an intelligent robot assistant. But while she is proving to be a lot more than he bargained for, she is not his problem.

There is an alien machine that is trying to turn every human alive into a mindless, remote controlled zombie. That’s his problem.


I have been cudgeling my brain on just how to categorize this novel. For quite a while, now, ever since I bought it for the main purpose of encouraging a fellow “newbie” writer. I still haven’t succeeded; so, I am going to have to just place it into the category of “Immensely Satisfying and Fun.” (Amazon, are you listening? This SO should be a category!)

The author has placed it as Action and Adventure Romance — which it certainly is. But that is an extremely wide river in which to float. For instance, “harem” adventures find their way into that category — but, despite a multitude of absolutely gorgeous, deadly dangerous, and highly oversexed female characters (did I just say “multitude”? More like a reinforced regiment…) — you will not find the obligatory dozen explicit sex scenes in this book. Romantic, but not “Romance” as the genre is defined.

Mil-SF? Well, science fiction, and the descriptions of weapons both existing and hypothesized, as well as the combat scenes, are well-nigh perfect. Battle tactics, however, are, uhm, HIGHLY unconventional.

I’d be tempted to put it into the same place as some of the John Ringo and Travis Taylor books — what I call the “good ol’ boy with advanced technology” group. Except that the protagonist is a Canadian, living in the highly cosmopolitan city of Toronto — and not once does he utter the phrase “hold my Labatt.”

First Contact, definitely. Okay, a much used and abused plot element — but so deftly done and simply explained that you simply say “of course,” and move on with the fun.

Sigh… All I can say in the long run is to buy this book. Click the “Follow” button for the author; there are undoubtedly great things coming (I do know that the second book of the series is nearing completion as I write). Take a few hours out of your day to laugh a lot, cry a little, and enjoy a highly pleasurable read.


STOP HERE — if you haven’t read the book. If you haven’t read the book, get thee hence, hand your silver over to the Amazon, and read it! I’m a patient guy, I can wait… What follows is the somewhat more “technical” review, which does have a few semi-spoilers.


Before I dive in, let’s get a couple of things straight. When a writer reads someone else’s work, unless they are one of the lucky few that can switch off that part of their brain at will, they are simultaneously analyzing the text flowing beneath their eyes. We can’t help it — like any other professional, we are constantly looking for help with our own efforts. What doesn’t work here, and how do I avoid it? What is a beautiful, shiny piece of prose, or scene, or entire chapter, and how do I make mine look so good?

It’s an uncomfortable feeling — and sometimes a dangerous one. We can lose sight of the forest for the trees, people. We have to cultivate an ability to step back and look at the work as a whole — that is what makes a good (or bad) piece of work, not a few blemishes or a few shining passages. The whole work is what matters in the end — and, as you can see from the “mass market” review, “Edward” (aka “Phantom” to many of us) did an excellent job, in my very honest opinion. This being made clear, now I’m going to enter the forest and examine some of the trees more closely.

The main thing is that there is no problem whatsoever with the writing! Oh, the few (very few) typos; only really visible to my rather anal sensibilities. The plot is kept plausible for the most part; the implausibilities are only where they are necessary to get the story going — and to keep it fun — which is the objective. As noted, the military and combat scenes are spot on. No unmodified Glocks with a safety. No relativistic rail cannons that somehow avoid devastating a vast area around them when fired. The hand-to-hand martial arts are real, and the characters performing them are actually capable of doing so. The sex scenes (such as they are) occur in “reasonable” circumstances — i.e., unlike all too many “harem” books that I have read, not in places and/or times such that the protagonists should have been dead several times over. Emotional passages that work for the characters, none of whom can be called “cardboard.”

My critical thoughts? The blasted thing is way too hard to find! The typical Amazon book consumer is very unlikely to come across it while browsing for their next read. The algorithms are against it in two very important ways. The writer “Edward Thomas”? The top is a rather obscure poet. Page after page after page that is NOT this book. The title “Unfair Advantage”? A miscellany of NOT this book — spy thrillers, MMA novels, marketing “secrets” books. Again, page after page… In fact, I could not page far enough to even find this book. (Advanced Search, for some reason, does work. Although that might have been because I already have it in my Kindle library, and was logged in at the time.) Unless the book is mentioned in someplace other than Amazon, and a direct link is provided, the visibility is atrocious. (Yes, that is a direct link above. However, if you are willing to do a tad more work, head here: I don’t have an Amazon Associate account, but Sarah does, and spreading the wealth is a good thing.) The first problem, the pen name, cannot be fixed now — and I am doubtful, after another look at Amazon, that the second will be with the title of “Angels, Incorporated.”

A somewhat smaller obstacle to discovery is that the book is marked for the “16-18” age range. I would have marked it as “16+” myself. (Actually, “12+,” as that is about when Male Hormones tried to dance with Ultimate Nerd for me, resulting in the inevitable emotional train wreck, as happened to poor Jimmy — but that would undoubtedly attract Mrs. Karen Grundy to savage it.) I read this while simultaneously trying to stare down my sixth decade (which wasn’t intimidated in the least) and still enjoyed it immensely. (My optometrist says my eyes are a decade younger, but I’m quite positive that the brain is well over 18. I remember that year, much as I would like not to…)

I am taking this as a lesson, and others should, too — before releasing a book, put the Amazon search functions through the metaphorical wringer. Proper choice of category and keywords is also important, but even the best of books will not do well when it is not visible to as many discovery channels as you can possibly think of (and influence).


Unrelated stuff. I am trying to get back on the horse of writing. Despite two days in a row, that doesn’t mean much for this blog; I am still likely to stay in the running for “least well maintained blog on the interwebs.” But I will be pushing to write something every day, and that something will, on unpredictable occasion, appear here. I have a rather lengthy list of things that I want to write about, including at least one extremely long series concerning this latest installment in what the Prophet Bob (PBUH) so aptly named “The Crazy Years.” If traffic indicates, and work with at least a chance of paying off permits, I still plan to rework it around September (poor thing looks like a homeless shack out in the desert right now…). When/if that does happen, it will also go “paid,” as in I’ll pay WordPress to stop annoying your ad blocker. We’ll see, stay tuned…

I Can See Clearly Now

Richard Skinner
Fireworks and Lightning

Literally. I do so love it when I can properly use a word that has taken such enormous and undeserved abuse!

You see, in early June (the 11th, to be exact), the frames for my glasses finally disintegrated beyond repair; no amount of inventive language or copious applications of Superglue and/or duct tape could revive them. Thanks to my own parsimony, that prescription was at least twelve years old, and thus no longer valid. New eye exam required. (The “backup” glasses were an even older prescription — although the frames were just barely wearable.)

So, off to the cheap* mall place for an exam, and a new pair of spectacles. Two new pairs, actually, as I needed one for “computer distance” and one for everything beyond that (I’ve had bifocals for years, but finally realized that they were actually causing a fair proportion of my chronic neck pain as I wobbled my head up and down.) Off to the mall, that is, on the last day of June. Everything has been backed up, including optometrists. I count myself fortunate that the idiot in the State Capitol did not shut the malls down again just the day before; apparently he didn’t make quite such a mess in his pants this time around.

Which is a rather long-winded lead-up to what I’m actually blogging about today. As I was walking out of the mall to my car, an old song — one from my childhood in 1972 — began playing in my head.** “I Can See Clearly Now”, by Johnny Nash, a joyful reggae number about overcoming obstacles and seeing clearly now that the rain is gone. As usual, my mind wandered off to find “meaning” in the lyrics.

Well, I thought, the rain has been falling heavily on our Republic for some months now. Still is, as a matter of fact — the clouds are still very dark, no blue skies visible anywhere we seem to look, no rainbows appearing. The year started with a gaggle of politicians LARPing on the stage of Impeachment Theater. Then the “We’re all going to die!” pandemic. Then “peaceful” riots, looting, and burning. Add in media bias, political corruption, a terrible economic downturn…

Every so often, I watch a podcast (TimcastIRL), with three young people — okay, the eldest is 34, but that is still just barely out of the whippersnapper range for me. Lately, it has been nearly all doom and gloom. The Republic is done for; only a bleak tyranny lies in our future; the Grand Experiment that is our nation is over and done with.

Pardon me, but BULLSHIT!

One advantage of having lived to my age, plus a study of history (especially United States history, far more than is ever seen in even graduate schools these days) is that I have seen this before. Many times. Both long before I was born, and during my own lifetime.

There have been attempts to subvert the dream, ones which started even as our Constitution was being drafted. There were those that seriously advocated replacing King George III with King George I.

There have been horrible and immoral Supreme Court decisions handed down (very few of which have ever been corrected by that elite bunch of would-be oligarchs — note that Dred Scott was not reversed — it became moot only when the Constitution was changed under them).

Abraham Lincoln did assume the powers of a dictator — one can argue that his actions were necessary, but never that they were Constitutional, as applied to the “insurrectionists.”

Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt; only the worst offenders in the quest for absolute dominance over the body politic. Barack Obama was a piker compared to those two.

In my own lifetime, for God’s sake…

The year 1967 was the original “Summer of Love.” The hippies descended upon San Francisco to create their “collective utopia” — one based upon the “equality” of Marx and his vile successors. Yep, violent crimes skyrocketed in that neighborhood; rapes, theft, violent assault, massive drug abuse.

That year was also the year of the “Long, Hot Summer.” When urban centers across the country erupted in violent “protests,” with the usual attendant looting, burning, and more general criminality. Incidentally, fomented by agitators — both black and white — just like today. Except that they were Black Panthers and white college dropouts that were “anti-war.” The latter were about as organized as Antifa — which allows the “historians” of the period to pooh-pooh their existence, just as the apologists do today.

But we have a pandemic, too! Well, yes. The year 1967 didn’t see the quick “one-two” punch that we are reeling from right now — that other punch was delayed until the next year, when the Hong Kong flu struck. Which, incidentally, definitely killed one million people, perhaps as many as four million. The death toll from CoViD-19, hyper-inflated as it is, has “only” reached slightly less than 425,000 — and new deaths are rapidly dropping. (These are global figures.) There were some riots in 1968, but less widespread, even though they actually had some better justification in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Economic troubles? Were you around when another power hungry politician (yes, a Republican again, as though that ever made a difference — see above) took a page from FDR and decided that he could “freeze” prices and wages (twice — they were removed briefly and then reimposed five months later when the real world reared its ugly head once more). Jimmy Carter was responsible for most of the “malaise” that ensued, but Nixon laid the foundations for his later idiocy.

Okay, historical rant over. The TLDR is that we’ve seen this before. For some reason, the Republic, battered and bleeding, came back. It seems that Mother Liberty smiles upon us, even when we are at our stupidest. We’ll come back yet again. When? No idea, quite honestly, but those blue skies will reappear, and we’ll assess the damage, figure out where our roof went off to (as my poor neighbor did a couple of summers ago; big chunk of it sailed right over my house and landed in the back yard — perfectly between the picnic patio and our above-ground pool), and start to rebuild. We still have the foundations, and they are sound. There will be weeds to trim back down, leaks to plug once again, and application of chainsaws and hammers.

In the meantime, rib eyes were on a “gonga sale” again this week, so, on this Fourth Day of July, in the Year of Our Lord 2020, I shall once again follow the ritual of Man, Meat, and Fire and make my smoking offerings to the Goddess Libertas. Following which, the Marine Son shall treat family and guests to a display of colored fire in the sky, in remembrance of the defenders of Fort McHenry at another time in our history when the future looked bleak.

As a “blog friend” of mine (Sarah Hoyt) says constantly — “Be not afraid.”


* I suppose a $450 total bill is “cheap” these days, but I’m at the age where I grumble more and more about “In my day…”. Ah, well.

** Thinking on it, I believe that the mind track that ran was the cover version of the song by Jimmy Cliff; the one used in the (VERY fictionalized) 1993 Disney movie “Cool Runnings.” I do prefer that version, after listening to both of them again just today.


Image credits:

“Blue and Red Brocade Fireworks at Night” – photograph by Laziii Codar, downloaded from Used under Creative Commons CC0 license.

“Lightning Jolt During Night Time” – photographer unknown, downloaded from Used under Creative Commons CC0 license.

As usual, the rather hasty composite image created from these two is entirely my responsibility, not that of the photographers.