Die and Stay Dead expands upon the elements introduced in the first book. Where Dying Is My Business introduces the mystery of Trent’s Die and Stay DeDie and Stay Dead expands upon the elements introduced in the first book. Where Dying Is My Business introduces the mystery of Trent’s Die and Stay Dead looks towards answering that mystery more directly. Kaufmann leans heavily on several misdirects throughout the second novel in this regard though none were quite enough to keep me from guessing the truth. Where Dying is My Business set up the prophecy of the Immortal Storm, Die and Stay Dead seems to bring it to fruition; much to the utter dismay of our heroes and the population of New York. Kaufmann once again demonstrates an adept ability to insert wonderful character-driven moments into the middle of huge epic scenes of magic and mayhem. All in all Die and Stay Dead doubles down on the action of the first novel going so far as to end on a bit of a cliffhanger that seems to promise a third novel that pulls out all of the stops. If you are looking for a new urban fantasy series to try I highly recommend giving Nicholas Kaufmann’s Trent novels a shot. I can’t wait to see how events play out in the third novel....more
I first encountered Nicholas Kaufmann’s fiction reading Chasing the Dragon a wonderful novella put out by the fine folks over at Chizine; it’s a wondeI first encountered Nicholas Kaufmann’s fiction reading Chasing the Dragon a wonderful novella put out by the fine folks over at Chizine; it’s a wonderful little fantasy allegory about addiction that I highly highly recommend. When I spotted Kaufmann’s latest series of novels about a man who refuses to stay dead I pounced on them and devoured them wholesale back-to-back. Starting with Dying is My Business Kaufmann introduces readers to Trent. Trent works for Brooklyn crime boss doing odd jobs, particularly retrieving odd valuable objects. He has no memory of who he was beyond waking up in an alley several months ago. It turns out that Trent doesn’t stay dead. Every time Trent does die he wakes up minutes later healed of every wound and the person nearest to him sucked of all life. Dying is My Business lays out these details nicely opening with Trent waking up from one of these deaths. It’s a nice little in-media-res opening and Kaufmann does a great job of hooking you in the beginning then quickly outlining the, admittedly scant, details of Trent’s life.
While the mystery of Trent’s origins and his strange power is a huge part of the novel it is obviously a long-term plan and Kaufmann doesn’t offer many details in Dying is My Business. Kaufmann sketches a simple plot that leans heavily on the fact that Trent know’s so little about his life. It’s obvious from the get go that his boss Underwood is stringing him along and Kaufmann’s every description of Trent’s living conditions and the way his boss treats him reveal that he is seen as something more like a pet than an employee. It isn’t long until one of Trent’s jobs sees him encountering people whose experiences in a similar retrieval-based line-of-work illuminate the stark differences in what it means to be part of team and part of a family. Kaufmann easily plays Trent’s encounter with Bethany and Thornton against his desperate, perhaps subconscious, need to connect with people. The same encounter also reveals a deeper world of the supernatural which in an amusing turn the seemingly unkillable Trent has difficulty swallowing.
Trent’s connection with Isaac, Gabrielle, Phillip, Bethany and Thornton marks an interesting shift in character for Trent. Maybe that isn’t entirely accurate. It is perhaps more that Trent’s connection with this group reveals the falsehood of Trent’s life with Underwood and his cronies. Dying is My Business is full of action from your standard fisticuffs to a huge chase scene as Bethany, Thornton, and Trent flee the mystical Black Knight through the crowded streets if Manhattan. Dying Is My Business is an excellent introductory novel, laying out the mysteries of Trent’s existence while simultaneously establishing the rules of a supernatural world where the Guardian of Magic has gone missing, turning magic into a volatile corrupting influence, and where the other Guardians remain aloof and enigmatic....more
Nick Cutter, the pseudonymous author of The Troop, will release his second novel The Deep on January 13, 2015. In The Deep a strange disease called thNick Cutter, the pseudonymous author of The Troop, will release his second novel The Deep on January 13, 2015. In The Deep a strange disease called the ‘Gets has ravaged humanity attacking peoples’ minds forcing them to forget things until even their most basic abilities to function disappear. With no cure in a sight a special research station deep within the Marianias trench, the Trieste, offers the faintest glimmer of hope. Luke, a veterinarian, has been called to this research station since it his brilliant scientist brother Clayton who is spearheading the research deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Luke must descend into the dark depths of the ocean, into an alien landscape, in order to find his brother and discover what type of cure has been dredged up from the depths.
The Deep is a novel that excels at creating a cloying sense of claustrophobia. Cutter masterfully conveys the sense of alien-ness in the depths of the ocean. There is a blatant wrongness to the human presence in the bottom of the ocean; the sense that we are the invaders that all the strangeness occurring within the cramped corridors of the Trieste is a result of our intrusion into a place where humanity was not meant to tread. The constant threat of death, the notion that the only thing keeping our characters alive is the thin walls of the research station, is accentuated throughout the novel by the constant sounds of the tremendous pressure working on the walls; often characterized as the creeptastic pitter-patter of feet scurrying above the characters heads.
Memory is also an important theme that runs throughout the novel. Obviously there is the strange disease called the ‘Gets but Luke is an extremely introspective character and a significant portion of the narrative is given over to his memories. Memories that are not only of his own past growing up with his sociopathic brother under the thumb of a sadistic mother but of the events surrounding his own son’s disappearance and the collapse of his home life. Luke’s descent into his own memories and the way the pressures of the past influence the way he interacts with the world is a thematic mirror of the descent into the ocean’s depths and the literal pressure of its presence outside the walls of the Trieste. Luke’s seemingly involuntary retreats into the labyrinth of his own memory plays strongly into the overall feeling of both claustrophobia and paranoia that pervades the novel.
Luke’s familial issues, with his brother, his estranged wife, his missing son, and the ghost of his mother lend the novel a bit of an unfocused air particularly when combined with what feels like the almost vestigial addition of the ‘Gets. Cutter has managed to craft a near pitch perfect tone of the novel and it is unfortunate that the plot doesn’t quite bear the same weight of attention. Obviously memory is important to the novel but The Deep isn’t a novel about resolution which makes the novel’s conclusion both unsettling and at least a little unsatisfying. The role of the ‘Gets in the novel doesn’t necessarily feel like it needs to be there. As an excuse for having a research station on the ocean floor it mostly works and it certainly ties into the importance of memory throughout the novel but the weight of the disease doesn’t really carry throughout the novel; especially given the degree of other horror that Cutter tosses into the mix as the novel progresses.
The Deep was a bit of miss for me though it was a near one. There are aspects of the novel I certainly thought were evocative but in the end rang hollow. Plot and tone never quite seemed to meld together. In the end I was left feeling like The Deep could have been more than it was. The book is still an enjoyable, albeit occasionally oppressive read that horror fans should definitely give a spin....more
When Christopher Sinclair takes a walk one night in Arizona he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange land gripped by a freezing winter. SinclaWhen Christopher Sinclair takes a walk one night in Arizona he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange land gripped by a freezing winter. Sinclair is quickly quickly finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the titular Bright Lady as her consort, the God of War Marcius, offers an exchange: Christopher’s help in dealing with the the threat of war for Marcius’ help in returning to his wife and home. From its initial layout Sword of the Bright Lady there is a sense of familiarity to the tale that reminded me a bit of the Thomas Covenant or even A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court series but hearkens back even further to the old fairy stories of mortals wandering into strange in new lands full of magic and water.
Sword of the Bright Lady stretches credulity with Sinclair coming off a touch like a Mary Sue. He knows a bit too much to be able to survive in a pre-industrial society as he is able to bring techniques and technologies to bear in order to improve the quality of weapons and armor. Similar his prowess with a weapon, though below that of the native in the novel, is a bit too good for someone from our world. The world of Sword of the Bright Lady often feels familiar, particularly to anyone who has played a video game or enjoyed a session of Dungeons and Dragons. Magic-users are measured by rank and their power is increased by taking on the energy of expired lifeforms, particularly other ranked individuals. It comes off a little corny and a bit derivative but I none-the-less found myself enjoying the loosely explained narrative context for “levels” and “experience points.”
Sword of the Bright Lady isn’t a particularly great novel but it is an entertaining diversion. Planck leaves the mystery of the Sinclair’s journey between his world and the magical world largely in the dark. It’s something I’d like to have seen explained a little more. While the novel lacks depths it makes up for that lack with some excellent action scenes and the pure entertainment value of watching a headstrong, independent-minded American butt heads with a rigid feudal society. If you’re looking for a fun, goofy read Sword of the Bright Lady is worth a shot....more
Chris Evan received some buzz for his Iron Elves series and in 2013 released a nonfiction title Bloody Jungle: The War in Vietnam; a photographic histChris Evan received some buzz for his Iron Elves series and in 2013 released a nonfiction title Bloody Jungle: The War in Vietnam; a photographic history of the Vietnam War. It is this last title that leads most directly into Of Bone and Thunder a novel which reads as a sort of fantastical reimagining of the Vietnam War. There are many aspects of Of Bone and Thunder that work and when the novel is firing on all cylinders it is an entertaining and enthralling read that stands toe to toe with much of the military fiction (both fantastical and not) that came before it. However, it also a novel held back by the aspects that don’t quite work.
My primary concern of Of Bone and Thunder is its lack of focus. There are roughly three main threads of the narrative that of the patriotic Thaum Jawm Rathim, the soldier Carny and his squad, and the Thaum Breeze and the Rag driver Vorly. While the broad focus on these three narratives helps to increase the scope of the novel and provide a more complete picture of the different aspects of the war they also make it difficult to form an emotional connection with the characters. While Evans details the war effort from the ground, from the air, and through Jawm indicates the perception of war on the home front the focus remains on the experiences of the characters in the story and readers are only ever privy to what the characters know never more. So while Evans does hint at bigger currents running through the military and political landscape of the novel those hints never truly mature into anything. The weakest part of the story for me was the tale of Carny and his squad. It was perhaps the most familiar part of the story and the Vietnam analogues were perhaps a bit too on the nose. Evans’ attention to Jawm’s patriotic idealism and its slow degradation over the course of the novel felt a bit more solid and while not necessarily fresh ground still felt like more fertile ground for the story. This is doubly so for the Dragon (Rag) driver Vorly and his new sorceress (Thaum) co-rider Breeze. Evans hits it out of the park with the Dragons in this novel walking a thin line between the notion of dragons as beasts of burden and as so tough as to be sort of machine-like; their maintenance and upkeep not dissimilar to planes or helicopters. The relationship between Vorly and Breeze is also handled nicely as the use of magic as a communication method between Dragons is new. It provides an interesting complication and Vorly’s struggle to adapt to the presence of not just to a thaum but a female thaum make these chapters easy to engage with. Evans even manages to work into a bit of a relationship triangle once Jawm steps into the mix. The characterization of Jawm, Vorly, and Breeze just felt more original than the sort of stereotypical roles and personalities that were assigned to Carny and the squad.
Of Bone and Thunder is an interesting novel that stands well on its own. I’m not clear on whether it is the start of a series or not but I’d definitely be interesting in seeing more. Of Bone and Thunder is by no means a perfect novel but it succeeds far more often then it fails. By and large Evans tells a massive story that manages to transport the reader into a jungle hellhole and walk them back out again; though not unchanged. Of Bone and Thunder is a stand out novel that fantasy fans looking for something a bit different should definitely give a shot....more