This is one of the best sites I’ve come across, and thanks to Crotchety Old Fan for pointing the way.
The site is set up by Harper Collins, a (British?) publishing company, for unpublished or self-published authors to get their work out there in the public eye. The idea is that the public at large will read and review the works, and if they really like them, will add them to a personal “bookshelf”. All the bookshelves are monitored and the more bookshelves a work is on, the higher it is ranked. Then some of the highest ranked works are selected every month to be reviewed by the editors at Harper Collins to see if they want to offer a publishing deal. I daresay once this gets established a bit more (it is still in beta right now) other companies may start taking a look as well.
So, the idea is fabulous. Now for the books.
So far I have read 2 works, one an incomplete manuscript called Seeing Red by Patty Jansen. Not a bad book, although the lack of formal editing is obvious. Also, I was irritated that it was only a partial manuscript (this was clearly marked, I just got overexcited about my first trip to the site and didn’t read all the how-to’s). It is a sci fi work, complete with aliens and advanced technologies and space travel. It is definitely worth finishing if she ever posts the rest, but then I would finish almost anything just to avoid wondering if it got any better. Ok, that is unfair. It really is not bad, but the main character is this relatively young, idealistic diplomat caught in the middle of a huge interplanetary conflict where humans are accusing aliens of murdering the President of the Nations of Earth. So far, so good. But he is just so naive and it takes him so long to realize that everything is falling apart around him, and just perhaps there may be sinister motives in unexpected places, it becomes almost painful. I do like the picture she paints of the alien cultures and people, and the way she does it. She uses alien words in the story, then has her main character (our young diplomat) explain them in context. I did put in on my book shelf, but I have a feeling it will be displaced quickly.
The second book, Sim by Jak Brienhead, was phenomenal. I stayed up all night reading it, because there was never a good place to put it down, and I really wanted to know what would happen next. I will loosely classify it as sci fi even though there is not a lot of technology in it, because the capabilities certain people, known as Path, have are due entirely to mental abilities and at no point is magic mentioned. Brienhead starts you out with a screwed up kid on a very screwed up planet–at first it is not clear whether or not it is Earth at some point in the future (you find out later that it is not). This kid is the unfortunate product and victim of a genetic experiment to determine if nature or nuture is more dominant in determining intelligence and success. He is given every genetic advantage as an embryo, then placed with the worst possible parent, an abusive addict surrogate mother who only wanted him as a payday in the first place. Then, when he still shows signs of being exceptional, the experimenter (who you never meet) hacks into the apparently global and all controlling computer system to falsify his test scores so that no matter what he does he can never score higher than 27%, which he (duh) reacts badly to. All this leads into him being labeled a high probability for criminal behavior, and ever increasing abuse from his mother and his two older siblings. Eventually he snaps, and uses mental abilities he didn’t know he had to escape from house arrest. This brings him to the attention of authorities who notice something odd going on and uncover the whole experiment. They send him to another world to give him a fresh start and allow him to be trained to use his abilities, because he is apparently the strongest Path in generations and he scares the bejesus out of everybody.
I won’t go any farther than that because to do so would start to give away plot spoilers, and I personally don’t like book reviews that give away too much. (I want just enough in a review to tell me whether or not I would like the book, not ruin the ending for me!) Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book and would like to see more from this author, maybe more about this character (a series perhaps?). I also highly recommend you check out Authonomy at http://www.authonomy.com/. They have works in all genres of as far as I can tell, so even if you (shudder) don’t like science fiction, you will surely find something you enjoy.