Extinction: Did Not Finish

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsExtinction by B.V. LarsonExtinction by B.V. Larson

Extinction is the second novel in B.V. Larson’s STAR FORCE series about professor Kyle Riggs who was picked up by an alien spaceship and now captains a fleet of ships that are protecting earth from other aliens. I called the first book, Swarm, “a silly, but exciting, male wish-fulfillment fantasy.” I wouldn’t have moved on to book two, but the audiobook publisher sent it to me for a review, so here we are.

Extinction takes place soon after the events of Swarm. Kyle has made a deal with the bad aliens. He promised that if they’d leave the Earth alone, he’d supply them with trained troops to help them fight their other battles around the universe. He needs to get those troops ready before the aliens come to collect. He also needs to figure out how to make more spaceships because the aliens have kidnapped a bunch of them, along with their captains, so they can use them to fight elsewhere. Meanwhile, Kyle is also dealing with the U.S. government who wants to get its hands on the technology that Star Force is using.

I read about 1/3 of Extinction before giving up. It’s just too cheesy and juvenile. All of the characters are shallow, but the worst is Kyle’s coed girlfriend who is there only to look hot and provide unromantic sex on the beach at random moments. The plot is ridiculously unbelievable and the writing style offers nothing to admire. This series might be exciting for an adolescent male, but for the rest of us, it mostly feels like a cheap SyFy movie.

Why is the STAR FORCE series getting such high ratings at Amazon and Goodreads? Because it was self-published and initially offered for free or very cheaply at Amazon. Compared to most of the stuff that’s published this way, it holds up pretty well since Mr. Larson can, you know, actually write complete grammatically correct sentences and get his plot across clearly. Thus, it gets 5-star ratings from people who read cheap books and then Amazon notices and sends it over to its sister companies, Brilliance Audio and Audible, who put it in audio format. That’s how it ends up in my mailbox (and if they read this, they’ll probably blacklist me). Don’t let these 5-star ratings fool you. STAR FORCE may compare well to whatever other cheap stuff these Amazon reviewers are reading, but compared to the literature that readers who visit FanLit want to read…. well, let’s just say it doesn’t compare.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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5 comments

  1. Actually, the author probably did the audio. Amazon has offered us the ability to contract out with various firms and add audio. The books are then available via Audible. I don’t think they are “picking up” authors and doing it for them. You can choose one of Amazon’s partners to do the audio or you can do it yourself and upload the audio.

    When Amazon does offer something through its publishing arm, they actually act as the publishers and the books go through edits, usually get a new cover and so on. They do pick up books that sell well enough and that they have looked over, etc.

    • Hi Maria,

      This wasn’t ACX at Audible, this is Audible Frontiers/Brilliance Audio and it’s done with professional narration just like their other titles. Brilliance Audio sent this to me. They do pick up authors who are self-published and rating well at Amazon (I spoke to one of their publicists about this).

      I think you’re right that they do some editing, at least I think their 47North imprint does. I’ve been getting a lot of 47North titles from Brilliance Audio and most of them average nearly 5-stars at Amazon and GR. If you sift through the reviews at either place, you’ll see many reviewers who say they got the book for free or 99c on Kindle before the price went up when it was acquired by the Amazon imprint.

      I think this system is terrific for independent authors who have a great product and need to get noticed. The problem is that MOST of these products are substandard and since the people who are reviewing them are mostly choosing what to read based on price, we have a selection bias in the ratings. The ratings are not representative of readers who are reading more broadly.

  2. All true, although the one time I spoke with an audio company, they were not interested in reviews–they were interested in sales. This was before indies could go “free” and I would assume that free “sales” wouldn’t count if a company was really looking at an author. Reviews these days (for sites that require them for ads or for reviews) are “going down in value.” I used to get coverage from sites if I had 5 reviews. Now the minimum in most places is 10 and on some sites it is as high as 100. Of course, if I have 100 reviews, I’m not exactly certain how much value there is in getting that one hundred and first review from a review site that has such a qualifier, but that is besides the point.

    The problem with ‘picking’ a number is that if you tell any author “get x reviews to qualify” they will go out there and get those reviews. These are not generally going to come from people who had a heartfelt moment and just had to share thoughts about a book.

    Of course, we all know reviews can be gamed and to some extent, as you point out, 99 cent sales can create an interesting nuance in that game. :>)

    • Maria, you are probably right that it’s sales more than reviews that go into the formula. I think what happens is that they give the book away or for 99c and then the reviews start flooding into GR and Amazon saying “this is amazing!” because it’s being compared to other free stuff. The good reviews drive sales up. I also think there’s a psychological effect of good reviews on the reader (psychological research backs me up). Good reviews probably tend to make readers think the book is better than it is while they’re reading it.

      I’ve complained a lot about this because I’m a reviewer. If I was an author, I’d absolutely take advantage of this. And I certainly know of a couple of successful authors who got their start exactly that way! For example, Michael J. Sullivan who now writes for Orbit. He was giving away copies on GR years ago.

  3. I completely agree with you on the psychological effect. I’ve seen books that weren’t that bad that started out with a couple of one or two star reviews…and no one will buy them or say, “you know this book was really okay.” Publishers know it too and that’s a big part of why they send out review copies early. They know they have a better chance of getting some timely and good reviews (it’s also been said that it’s hard to resist being nice to publishers/books when someone is sending you free copies. Not to say that reviews aren’t honest, but there is a subconscious reason to be nice to publishers/authors handing out free stuff.)

    I thought Sullivan’s book was okay, but it was a DNF for me. It just wasn’t compelling enough for me. Nothing really wrong with it, although it had too many POV for me. So nothing particularly strong about it either. Maybe I just don’t like reading epic fantasy as much anymore. Is it every bit as good as a lot of other fantasy out there? From what I read, yes.

    I think giving out freebies does generate both goodwill and more reviews. With some authors that is going to equal some staying power.

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