I wish I could give this four an a half stars. It's a very very good book that sends up Star Trek without ever mocking Star Treks fans. The reason itI wish I could give this four an a half stars. It's a very very good book that sends up Star Trek without ever mocking Star Treks fans. The reason it loses half a star (or a whole one int he case of Goodreads) is there's a moment at the end of the main story, right at the very end, which kicks out of the book totally. It was needless, and if the rest of the book hadn't been so damn good it would have been worse.
With that said the follow up codas are very sweet, fun and worthy follows to the main narrative and I think Redshirts would have been less without them. So if you can cope with one almost awe inspiring moment of WTF? in an otherwise awesome book, I highly recommend Redshirts.
Irregular Creatures is a collection of short stories from self described freelance pen monkey Chuck Wendig. Each of the stories features a different sIrregular Creatures is a collection of short stories from self described freelance pen monkey Chuck Wendig. Each of the stories features a different strange creature, including (but not limited to) flying cats, mermaids, aliens and radioactive monkeys.
You heard me.
My favorite was the first story Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story). It’s an excellent example of balancing the weird (flying cats, flying cat demons) with very human, very relatable characters and Wendig handles it perfectly. I found myself buying into the weirdness of the story (and all the stories in fact) because the human side of the tales were so grounded.
Even the very short, amazingly gory A Radioactive Monkey has a relatable protagonist. Briefly.
Even though Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story) was my favorite, there’s no drop off in story quality. All of he stories are worth a read, and I whiled a way a very pleasant afternoon indoors, reading Irregular Creatures on my iPhone (I’ll get on buying an e-reader or an iPad as soon as I can sell a kidney*). Some of the stories are disturbing, and if you can’t cope with violence in you literature then you’re not going to enjoy this as much as I did.
I should probably warn you that there’s a story that features a toothy demonic vagina. It’s a very good story though, so don’t let that put you off.
Considering it’s only three bucks, I think Irregular Creatures should be on every genre fictions e-reader. It’s by turns weird, inspiring, disturbing and awesome.
Night Shift is Urban Fantasy gone hardcore. Protagonist Jill Kismet runs and guns her way through so many of Hell’s denizens you wonder why the HellbrNight Shift is Urban Fantasy gone hardcore. Protagonist Jill Kismet runs and guns her way through so many of Hell’s denizens you wonder why the Hellbreed ever stick their heads above the ground at all.
Jill is a hunter, a human trained to lay the smackdown whenever the supernatural starts messing with the normal world. She’s also chock full of demonic power thanks to a pact she made with a demon called Perry.
The entire book could have gone wrong at that point as a super strong, quick human protagonist high on demonic power could have gone cheeseball very quickly, but Saintcrow manages to walk the line between making Jill too awesome and too tragic and produces one of the few true anti-heroes I’ve seen in urban fantasy.
Jill is hard to like at first, and Saintcrow has the character push her luck far more than is healthy considering how often she seems to annoy the powers that be, but as the book goes on Jill evolves naturally into someone just as hard-ass, but far more likable.
I think Jill Kismet could still have been too awesome for words if it wasn’t for her demonic benefactor lurking in the background every time she uses her power. Perry (Pericles) is the demon giving Jill enough juice to fight the forces of darkness. He makes the story far more tragic, as no matter how much good she does, she’s damned by the power he gives her. Perry himself is extremely well written, and often feels far more of a threat than the main bad guys.
This isn’t a happy book, Jill is very aware of how much shit she’s in, and she doesn’t always react well to the knowledge, but this makes her, and Night Shift surprisingly well rounded for what could have been a pure popcorn novel.
* One caveat, if you can’t cope with violence on the page, this isn’t the book for you. ...more
Unholy Magic is the follow up to Unholy Ghosts, and part two of Stacia Kane's urban fantasy series. I thought City Of Ghosts was excellent, everythingUnholy Magic is the follow up to Unholy Ghosts, and part two of Stacia Kane's urban fantasy series. I thought City Of Ghosts was excellent, everything an urban fantasy should be.
Unholy Magic is better.
The plot follows Church debunker Chess Putnam as sh attempts to balance a career as a Church sanctioned witch/fraud squad with being a very unsanctioned drug addict.
Addiction plays an even stronger part in this novel than it did in Unholy Ghosts, and there is a withdrawal scene about halfway through which is downright harrowing. If you ever need to scare the bejesus out of a kid in regards to drugs get them to read that scene.
One of Stacia Kane's strengths is that no matter how strange things get with the surroundings (sex magic, ghosts, movie stars and fake hauntings) she keeps the book centered on its characters. While there is a wide cast of miscreants to enjoy the focus is usually on either Lex, Chess's on again off again drug dealing boyfriend, and Terrible, chess's on again off again enforcer friend and occasional lust mate. Terrible in particular is a joy to read, and seeing his character switch between fearsome killer to actual human being is one of my favorite parts of the series.
We also get to see more of the Church than we did in Unholy Ghosts. Stacia Kane shows more of the Church's absolute dominion over humanity as well, and she leaves it as a gray area as to whether or not it's a good thing. She also shows more of the afterlife, including the Church run spirit prisons (read: torture chambers) that the Church uses to enforce post mortem punishments on the souls of the dead.
It's hard to discuss too much more of the book without giving away plot points, but rest assured that the ghosts are scary, the characters interesting, the violence and drug use both necessary and affecting and the sex scenes smoking.
It’s actually quite difficult to review a book you absolutely love.
Pithy one liners are much easier to come up with when you want to bring out the kniIt’s actually quite difficult to review a book you absolutely love.
Pithy one liners are much easier to come up with when you want to bring out the knives. I’ve been sitting here for the last twenty minutes trying to think of a good one liner to describe 7th Son Descent, but I liked it so much I’ve got nothing pithy for you.
So instead let me tell you that 7th Son: Descent is well worth your time, money and evangelical support.
J C Hutchins brings the characters to bear on the story quickly, and from the moment you start reading to the last page7th Son: Descent will kick your backside every step of the way. The main reason for this is that no one character is safe. You get attached to the clones (yes there are clones, trust me, it works) and their individual personalities, but every chapter Hutchins makes sure you know that they’re at risk from the main bad guy, John Alpha.
Incidentally, John Alpha could be anyone. Your high school gym teacher, your Grandma, anyone. Hutchins took an interesting route away from making John Alpha a demi god of a serial killer and instead gives readers a genuinely smart, dangerous antagonist with real motivations and issues. If you’re a writer you could do a lot worse than looking at John Alpha as an example of a well rounded antagonist. Yeah, he’s eeeevil but you can really understand why, and you have to wonder if you wouldn’t choose the same path if you were subjected to the same influences.
Speaking of which, 7th Son: Descent jumps ahead of the pack of well written sci-fi thrillers by becoming a very in depth study on the idea of nature vs nurture. If you take seven men, literally identical clones, and subject them to different lives, so they turn out the same, or will their lives dictate who they are?
I know this review is a little vague, and it has to be because I don’t want to spoil any surprises for you, but rest assured 7th Son: Descent by J C Hutchins is one of the best books of the year. You can check out JC Hutchin’s website here where you can try the books free as a podcast, get extra 7th Son: Descent goodies for free and look at JC’s other work.
The Handbook of The Writer Secret Society is, not to put too fine a point on it, a secret handbook for writers.
If you write, then you already know hoThe Handbook of The Writer Secret Society is, not to put too fine a point on it, a secret handbook for writers.
If you write, then you already know how solitary the business of crafting fiction is, it can be very easy to feel like you’re alone against a blank page. What The Handbook of The Writer Secret Society postulates is that not only are you not alone, you’re already a member of a secret cabal of scribblers who lurk in the shadows at parties, people watching for story ideas.
Actually that last part might just be me.
The Handbook of The Writer Secret Society isn’t a how to book. There’s nothing on prose, or character development in there. What it is, is a shot in the arm for anyone who feels their writing confidence flagging, or that they’re the only one out there struggling with their creative impulses.
The writer’s handbook also has some excellent little illustrations in it, which adds to the feeling of the book. Even though at the moment it is e-book only, you can just imagine you’re handling a well loved secret tome that was given to you by a dying man.
I don’t want to give too much of the contents away, as a big part of the joy of reading this book is in discovering the clever ways in which the contributors have crafted a secret society out of whole cloth. With that said, make sure you read the section on writer’s luck twice.
I know I’ve found a good book when I’m two thirds of the way through the book and I don’t know who I want to win. Dan Well’s I Am Not A Serial KillerI know I’ve found a good book when I’m two thirds of the way through the book and I don’t know who I want to win. Dan Well’s I Am Not A Serial Killer is an excellent read, made all the better by a protagonist who might just be your next door neighbor.
Yes that neighbor. The one who collects knives.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is told from the point of view of fifteen year old John Wayne Cleaver as he attempts to navigate a new high school, the mysteries of the opposite sex and family difficulties. Big deal, you might say, why don’t I just rent High School Musical instead? The thing is John Wayne Cleaver is a sociopath. Intelligent, obsessive and almost completely without empathy, John would like to see what your made of.
Preferably by spreading your guts out on a table.
It’s an unusual choice for a protagonist, but John is surprisingly easy to like despite his tendency to make macabre jokes and lack of social skills. I am Not A Serial Killer gives John an interesting problem. Sure he’s a sociopath, but what if there was something else out there that was even worse. What would he do then?
I read through I Am Not A Serial Killer in one sitting. I got the book this morning and, ignoring all the other stuff I should be doing, finished it about ten minutes ago. While John Wayne Cleaver is an excellent protagonist, his opponent is both horrifying and sympathetic at the same time. I could have rooted for the bad guy despite every evil act he commits.
While this is a Young Adults book, it’s definitely for teenagers and up, there is a lot of violence. Dan Wells never wallows in the blood unnecessarily; every drop of plasma serves its purpose, there are just as many deaths as you’d expect from a serial killer book (with a few extras thrown in for good measure).
If you know your serial killers, there are some extra nods and references strewn throughout the book that you might get a kick out of.
American Gods is one of those books I almost don't need to review.
People love this book. Some people still think it's Gaiman's best work (debatable. TAmerican Gods is one of those books I almost don't need to review.
People love this book. Some people still think it's Gaiman's best work (debatable. Trying to pick your favorite Neil Gaiman book is like trying to pick your favorite ice cream; possible, but they're all awesome).
The story follows Shadow as he learns about what happens to gods when the world catches up with them. So much has been written on the plot, characters and minutiae of this book elsewhere I'm not really certain I can do it justice talking about it here.
Lets just say that I've read it eight times, and every time I get something new out of it.
I might not be able to pick my favorite work of Gaiman's, but if you woke me up in the armpit of a bad night and demanded I tell you my favorite book at gunpoint, this would be my answer.
Jack Wakes Up could easily have been called Jack Kicks Ass. Seth Harwood’s ex-movie star tough guy Jack Palms roars through this action novel, cool asJack Wakes Up could easily have been called Jack Kicks Ass. Seth Harwood’s ex-movie star tough guy Jack Palms roars through this action novel, cool as… well as cool as a guy who drives a 66 Mustang Fastback.
Written in present tense, Jack Wakes Up hits the action quickly, giving us enough detail about Jack’s past life to make the reader curious but not getting too bogged down in details before the real action starts. Jack, somewhat down on his luck after kicking Heroin is running out of money. He’s offered a slightly dodgy job by a very dodgy friend and ends up agreeing to escort a gaggle of Easter European drug dealers (read: lunatics) around town while they hash out what should be a relatively simple cocaine deal.
Jack Wakes Up could also have been called Jack Makes a Poor Life Decision.
Seth Harwood takes a relatively simple set up and spins a tale of destruction around his main characters that boggles the mind. Blood flies, teeth get knocked out, people get stomped on and so many rounds of ammunition are expended that you could use the spent shells to make a full sized statue of the author.
The writing in Jack Wakes Up is excellent. Normally I find present tense hard to read, but Seth Harwood’s ninja grip on the characters dialogue makes the story fly past. He also does an excellent job of making some very unlikable people into the kind of guys you’d like to hang out with, although you might not let them know where you live.
While we’re on the subject of characters, the storyline and its subplots are fairly straightforward, but the characterization is so strong it doesn’t need to be any more complex than it is. Jack Palms himself is written so well that I never once disbelieved that a guy like him would act in the way that he does. He’s an ex movie star, not a Navy SEAL. Sure there are some great action sequences, but Jack gets through trouble by acting like Jack Palms, not James Bond.
Jack Wakes Up’s supporting cast also get their own lives. In particular the various shady types that form the rouges gallery feel like they have their own lives and goals. It’s nice to see bad guys who don’t just step into frame to twirl their mustaches. Seth Harwood also makes strong use of San Francisco, going beyond the tourist brochure to involve San Francisco as a character in its own right.
I really enjoyed Jack Wakes Up. If you can spare the time, it makes for great reading all in one go. You can buy Jack Wakes Up, and check out Seth Harwood’s other projects at www.sethharwood.com.
**spoiler alert** Horns was very easy to read, but surprisingly tough to review.
The reason being is that it’s hard to give you a feeling for Horns wit**spoiler alert** Horns was very easy to read, but surprisingly tough to review.
The reason being is that it’s hard to give you a feeling for Horns without letting out some story spoilers, so if you’d like to read Horns by Joe Hill unspoiled then all you need to know is that it’s good, and worth your time to read it. You should also stop reading now.
Horns by Joe Hill, is the story of Ig. Iggy to his friends and Ignatius on his birth certificate. Ig wakes up one morning with a dreadful hangover, some fuzzy yet blasphemous memories and a pair of horns growing out of his forehead. The horns aren’t a metaphor; they’re made of bone and firmly attached to Ig’s skull. The horns give Ig the ability to get people to tell him their darkest secrets and desires.
Unfortunately the horns can’t make them stop telling Ig their darkest secrets and desires, no matter how much he’d like them too.
No matter how much grief the horns give Ig though, he has even bigger problems. The entire town thinks he raped and murdered his girlfriend Merrin. Ig didn’t do it, but thanks to the horns he quickly finds out who did. What follows is a bloody, sometimes funny tale of revenge and pointy beards.
Horns is easy reading. Despite its length I finished it in two days. Granted, I finished it at 2am, but that’s beside the point. I think the book’s greatest strength is in its main character, Ig. Despite the fact hat Ig is quite literally becoming a demon, you can’t help but root for him, no matter what he does. Part of that is in the fact that the terrible things Ig does to people are often richly deserved.
The other part of rooting for Ig is that his antagonist is legitimately scary. All too often in supernaturally themed books the more mundane bad guys are dog food the moment the hero gets their first power. The bad guy in Horns never acquires any metaphysical abilities, but Joe Hill writes him as a straight sociopath and gets across how dangerous someone with zero empathy can really be.
I enjoyed Horns and it’s slotted itself into my top five of the year for 2010. I’m looking forward to seeing what Joe Hill does next....more
I have two reviews to give for Philippa Ballantine’s book Geist.
The first is the short review. The cave man version, as given by my slightly hairier CI have two reviews to give for Philippa Ballantine’s book Geist.
The first is the short review. The cave man version, as given by my slightly hairier Cro-Magnon alter ego Thag: “Geist good! Thag like! You buy!”
Thag is a man of few words.
The second was a lot harder to write, simply because writing a really good review that sounds honest is a lot harder than writing a man one. That’s my excuse for taking this long to write a review anyway.
Make no mistake, Geist is good, really good. Ballantine has found a way to make Ghosts scary again. As I mentioned in my review of Unholy Ghosts, ghosts usually play second fiddle to something far uglier, but the geists of Philippa Ballantine’s world are entirely nasty enough without being cheesy. While of course there is more going on than an infestation of the undead, I never felt like a geist attack was something the characters could brush off.
If you haven’t read Geist already, then you might be unprepared for Deacon Sorcha Farris, Geist’s hard drinking, cigar smoking, ass kicking and ghost banishing protagonist. I say protagonist rather than hero because when you first meet Sorcha, you might not actually like her that much. Stick with her though, and you soon see there is far more to the deacon than her exterior would let on.
Balancing Sorcha is the junior deacon Merrick, who backs up Sorcha’s abilities at banishing with his own ghost sensing powers and a far more (at least initially) laid back approach to life. Merrick serves as an excellent foil to Sorcha and as a team they are a very believable (not to mention extremely readable) ghost fighting team.
Raed, known as the Young Pretender, is a pirate captain who rounds out the narrative from his perspective. Raed has a curse laid on him that had to have been thought up at 3am on a starless night, and it serves as a backdrop to his part of the story before becoming a part of the story in its own right.
Geist works on several levels. If you’re looking for an excellent fantasy novel with plenty of action and some sex scenes that will leave you in dire need of a cold shower (or a willing partner) then Geist is your book.
I really only have one criticism of the book, and that’s I would have liked to know more about the Order that Sorcha and Merrick belong to. She hints at an extremely rich and complex society within the larger society and I’m hoping the sequel Spectyr will show me more.
I was once lucky enough to interview Philippa and we talked a lot about Geist. She described it too me as “three days of sex in a blimp”, but I think Geist is a lot more than that. She has taken several fantasy rotes and turned them on their ear, giving readers something entirely fresh that carves out its own niche in the fantasy genre with a blend of steampunk, fantasy and paranormal romance.
Ghosts are scary again. For a while now ghosts have been the poor cousin to plotting demons, rampaging werewolves and vampires who seem to spend a lotGhosts are scary again. For a while now ghosts have been the poor cousin to plotting demons, rampaging werewolves and vampires who seem to spend a lot of time wearing very little.
Along with Philippa Ballantine's Geist Stacia Kane's Unholy Ghosts brings back ghosts as a real threat to humanity. In fact in Unholy Ghosts the jealous spectral jerks have wiped out a decent proportion of humanity, and only the intervention of The Church (with a capital "C") has saved humanity from extinction at the hands of the dead.
This isn't the church your Grandma went to (unless she was a very unusual lady...). Kane's Church Of Real Truth is more like a cabal of mages who suddenly found themselves the saviors of humanity, and have agreed to keep all safe from the spooks...as long as they get to be in charge. Much as I liked the ghosts, it was the set up of the Church that really hooked me on Unholy Ghosts. It's a very complete character in its own right, completely believable right down to the petty rivalries that plague every organization.
Working very hard to survive in this version of our world is Church trained and sanctioned witch Chess Putnam, who works as a combined exorcist and debunker. She also does drugs, lots of drugs. Kane manages to make Chess's drug addiction both utterly harrowing and somehow ordinary, as if it's a normal part of the world she's in. Even if you like your heroines pure as driven snow, I;d still recommend you check out Unholy Ghosts because Chess is still one of the good guys despite having a few bad guy habits.
As you would expect from any good drug addled protagonist, Chess gets herself in over her head with her drug dealer and ends up being coerced into doing a job off the Church's books. From there things rapidly start turning to custard for Chess.
Unholy Ghosts is a fun ride, with some extremely clever (occasionally disturbing)twists. The heroine is compelling and the good guys and bad guys all exist in shades of gray rather than being stereotypes.
This was one of the best books I've read this year, and I highly recommend it.