File Size: 627 KB
Print Length: 341 pages
Publisher: F.W. Fife (Zharmae); First edition (August 20, 2015)
Publication Date: August 20, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Timberwolf had me with its cover image of its eponymous hero puffing on a stogie. I have to tell you, watching environmentalists and "Moms against Smoke" and every other social nag and bureaucratic Bossy Boots faint, whine, and pass stupid intrusive laws when someone puffs on a bit of tobacco while simultaneously hacking huge clouds of unfiltered pot smoke into their lungs while beginning the inevitable cycle of stupid giggles and jokes that are only funny to the temporarily mentally impaired is painful. Timberwolf would throw the whole lot out the airlock of a spaceship first thing and wouldn't that be grand!
Here's a bit more macho musing for you. One of the great things about Heinlein's Star Ship Troopers series was that wussy little girly boys weren't welcome. Johnny Rico was there to kick Bug and Skinny ass and he enjoyed doing it. If someone from Code Pink had shown up before a drop, they'd have been fed to the aliens alive as a diversionary tactic. That's MY kind of fighting force!
Another thing I love about Timberwolf is attitude. In Sci-Fi, Earth has recently become a dumping ground for every second-rate group of interstellar under-achievers and delinquents. Ok, Ok, I admit that Earth as Pantywaist started with H.G. Wells and War of the Worlds and that evil meanies from outer space conquering all Peoplekind (I bet Timberwolf would say "Mankind" cuz that's how he roles) remains a very durable plot line, but I think the zeitgeist has moved too far recently in the direction of political mush and PC. It's time for a corrective.
Timberwolf Velez is the corrective. He's what you'd get if Dirty Harry and Ripley married and had a son. In his future, EARTH is the dystopia, and we've become very good at dishing out pain and punishment to misbehaving aliens. It's not only the military that's in on the action. The Church (the denomination is not made clear in the novel, but it feels like what you'd get if the Catholic Church started going to the gym, bulked up with 'roids, and started using those chalices not to drink wine but instead dent the heads of vicious off-world scum and teach them who's boss. I have a feeling if the current Pope reads Timberwolf, he'll faint) is also in on the fun and a key player in the tale.
The plot of the novel takes place in an expansive and action filled universe in which humanity has moved out to the stars and fought with great success a series of wars with alien species. Driven by religion and xenophobia, it appears we've solidified our role as Galactic Apex Predator until we confront the Arnock, a species of giant intelligent spiders who are also telepathic and no pushovers. During the conflict, Timberwolf has the misfortune to meet the enemy up close and personal, and ends up with an evil-alien-giant-spider persona permanently implanted in his psyche. Ah, but is everything what it seems? Just how evil are those spiders, really? And as the action unfolds between Church, Arachnid, and Highland, an entire world constructed for an AI, the lines between good and evil become increasingly blurred.
At least till Timberwolf Velez begins handing down some hard justice. Even if he has to do it with that damn spider still stuck in his head.
There's plenty of slam-bang action writing in the novel that will keep the pages turning. Some of the best scenes involve "Wrath," a bio-mechanoid warrior who's almost as dangerous as Timberwolf. Wrath is what you'd get if you crossed "Alien" with "Predator" and the resultant hybrid joined the Catholic Church down at the gym for its own killer workout.
Here's one early scene of Wrath doing what he does best:
The guard emptied his weapon on Wrath, but the plasma bursts deflected harmlessly away. The beast approached closely, scanning the door, the guard struggling to reload. Wrath absently slashed the guard down as he examined the lock. Then with his shoulders flexing, he turned the wheel on the door until its gears snapped and spun free. Bayonets extruded from over his forearms and he dug into the lock mechanism. He peeled the door outward, tearing it off its hinges. He tossed it away as two guards on the other side unloaded their weapons on him.
Wrath lashed out with his razor-tipped tongue, taking one guard’s head clean off. His plasma clip empty, the other man just stood there, terrified and unable to make a sound. Wrath backed up, dropped his head and drove his iron-crowned skull into the man’s chest, smashing him against the wall. The guard crumpled like a rag-doll.
Wrath and author Tom Julian are just warming up at this point.
OK, I've said enough. Now, you maggot, go pour yourself a long pull of a good bourbon, light up a smooth maduro, and sit down to enjoy a classic Earth-Kicks-Alien-Butt tale with just enough humanist subtlety and angst to allow you to escape accusations of Terran Nativism.
In sum, Timberwolf is fast paced, dynamic, and a blast to read.
Tom Julian works days at an insurance company and nights and weekends as an author. He enjoys traveling, long-distance cycling and waking up early to brew the perfect cup of coffee. He's an unabashed beer snob and native of Trenton New Jersey.
Timberwolf is Tom's first novel. His lifelong love of writing was cemented after pitching story ideas to Star Trek DS9 and Star Trek Voyager in the 90's. Tom is the father of Izzy and Liam and husband to the lovely Brenda-Lea. He writes while warming his feet under Maggie May, his Bernese Mountain dog. Favorite movie/book/food = O Brother, Where Art Thou?/Sirens of Titan/Trenton Style Tomato Pie.
File Size: 1311 KB
Print Length: 189 pages
Publisher: Solstice Shadows (August 28, 2015)
Publication Date: August 28, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Sold by: Bookgoodies
Bears are perhaps literature's most widely employed animals in myth and story telling. Members of the species who've enjoyed major literary attention include Goldilock's nonplussed three bears, the New York-themed Yogi, the pantless Winnie the Pooh (I always found Winnie a bit disturbing), Baloo from Jungle Book and many others. In Sci-Fi, the most recent major ursine sightings were the grim polar bears of The Golden Compass. The roles assigned to bears encompass many different emotional states, from childlike to fierce. But I have never seen a bear portrayed as "ridiculous." They are far too powerful and imposing.
Camille and the Bears of Beisa-Drafnel is composed of four pirmary narratives interwoven throughout the story.The core story takes place in the here and now and focuses on Camille Matahari. We first meet her as she's moving into her new Manhattan apartment with several friends. The writing in this section is very contemporary and accurately reflects the self confidence of young urban women who feel they're on the cusp of great things and fully in control of their personal destinies. (I've met this class of female in the person of my daughter and her friends. As a father, part of me admired their unrelenting sassiness and optimism while another gritted my teeth at their naivete. It's all part of your Fatherhood training.)
Soon, however, it becomes apparent that there's something more inhabiting their cozy apartment space (and I'm not referring to the pervasive cockroach community that is a permanent fixture of the New York tenement scene). Unseen forces are attempting to communicate with Camille and at this point the book's narrative shifts to our second heroine, Camille's "Gram," Catherine.
The scene's describing Catherine's sojourn in Jamaica are the strongest section of the book. This narrative begins when the young girl, along with her brother and sister, is sent from India to live with her "aunt" in Jamaica, an evil character cast in the same mold as Mrs. Reed of Jayne Eyre and on a lighter scale, Aunt Petunia of Harry Potter.
The aunt is secretly renamed "Ugly Red" by the young Catherine and over the years imposes a regime of deliberate cruelty and suffering on Catherine and her two siblings. I found this description of Ugly Red's murder of Catherine's only friend, a small pet chicken, particularly heartbreaking and horrifying:
One day, Ugly Red trapped Taw under an old dirty bucket after discovering our playtime and friendship. Ugly Red wrung Taw’s fragile neck with a brittle crack. On her final breath, Taw’s head sagged to the side.
Ugly Red sniffed Taw’s dead body and then tied her feet to the clothing line so that she hung upside down. I watched, horrified, as all of the blood drained from Taw’s tiny body. She then proceeded to boil Taw and pluck all of her beautiful feathers. Afterward, Ugly Red laughed, licking her lips, as I cooked and fed her my only friend.
That's a bit of writing that stays with you a long time.
As the story progresses, Camille's hidden powers begin to manifest themselves and the four different worlds and times the book tracks begin to intertwine across the aeons. We discover the bears of the story's title are a cadre of protective guardians sent to protect Catherine and her ancestors from the forces of darkness represented by Ugly Red and her minions.
As I noted earlier, the other two narratives of the book revolve around a "present" and "future" Narvina, where much of the mystery surrounding Camille and Catherine is explained. However, since Bears is the first in a trilogy, I expect to see these other aspects of her universe expanded and fleshed out with the rich prose she is capable of writing. The story deserves it.
A word about the book cover art. I found it lovely and moving, a bright visual blend of pathos and primitivism, and very reflective of author Simone Salmon's Jamaican heritage.
Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a Jack Russell terrier.
Simone is still working on her exit strategy from Corporate America, but in the meantime she writes novels, poetry and expands her multisensory perceptions. She is also a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness.
Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things.
Folks can look for upcoming events such as giveaways and book signings on my website: www.ssalmonauthor.com.
The Cerulean's Secret by Dennis Meredith
Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: Glyphus LLC (February 2, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
Purchase on Amazon
OK, first things first. I have found rather late in life that I am a cat person. I've always liked cats, but didn't have strong feelings about the species until my daughter "gifted" me Hunter, a black cat who was being kept in a foster home until my daughter adopted him to be her college companion. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, Hunter came to visit my house and ended up staying.
A few years later, Hunter was joined by Daphne, a muted-calico dumpster kitty my daughter, who was then currently at law school, removed from the front of a bodega where the animal had set up a regular begging station. Judging by the kitty's weight at time of pickup, this strategy was not working well, so Daphne was whisked home to my budding law student's studio apartment, which was apparently too cramped to accommodate six pounds of cat. Daphne soon joined Hunter at my house, where the relationship between the two can be best be described as "polite." Hunter like to rough house and Daphne does not, leading to occasional fits of loud hissing and cat screams when Daphne feels her dignity being impinged upon. She likes to take revenge by sneaking up on Hunter and whacking him on the back of his head with her paw when he's not watching. Both of them feel it is their inalienable right to walk all over me when I'm laying in bed, then snuggle up to my side (Hunter left, Daphne right), and take a nap.
Thus, when I was asked to review The Cerulean's Secret, a story of a cat genetically altered to possess bright cerulean blue fur, I said yes. Also, the color plays a role in my new novel Selling Steve Jobs' Liver, so that was another inducement (the blue cloud on the cover is cerulean). Finally, much of the book's action takes place in a Bronx milieu set 50 years in the future and having grown up and lived the majority of my life in the burrough, I wanted to see what it would look like in a few decades.
This book was not presented to me as a YA title, but after reading it, that's how I'm classifying it. As I say in the submission guidelines, I'm not the best fit to this type of book, but I went ahead and read the novel and it's a fun, though flawed, experience.
Cerulean is about the adventures of Timothy Boatright, who works as a NYC cabbie and dreams of becoming a writer. He becomes embroiled in the "catnapping" of the Cerulean, a genetically altered cat who because of its color (and other characteristics I won't discuss in the review), is worth a fortune. Powerful forces in this future society have created this cat and powerful forces want it back and are prepared to leave no pile of kitty litter unturned until the Cerulean is returned to their control.
From a Sci-Fi standpoint, I enjoyed author Meredith's speculations about how genetic engineering will enable us to one day create exotic animal chimera's and how their presence will impact society and future markets. We're at the dawn of the age of direct genomic manipulation of pets and other animals, but we can all see that some very different creatures are going to be barking, woofing, and chirping at us in the future.
Much of Cerulean's writing is also crisp and interesting. Here's a sample of what I mean:
It all started on a day I drove my cab like always, and New York stunk the way I liked New York to stink, with the sharp tangy aroma of electrics, the fumes from the gas cars, the aromas of sidewalk food, and the general rich, organic funk of people and the city. As it got hotter, all the great smells just sort of cooked themselves together like a steamy bubbling stew. Everybody immersed in the stew busied themselves acting the way only New Yorkers do. The drivers inched along in bumper-to-bumper Manhattan traffic, cabbies cussing and big traffic -scarred trucks double-parked, with everybody trying to squeeze in on everybody else.
That's pretty good stuff and reminds me very much of Manhattan in August. Of course, being a native New Yorker and speaking of pets, when I was a kid I remember another sort of odor that was baked into the city streets and it wasn't very fragrant. But then the pooper scooper came along and things are better these days.
However, in certain respects, The Cerulean's Secret suffers from the curse of YA plotting. The Bad Guy of the book is a dastardly English ne'er do well who takes control of the company that has engineered the Cerulean from its benign creator, Rozoff. It's a bit hard to take this part of the book seriously when Timothy is able to look up this bit of information about the story's resident Snidely Whiplash with almost no trouble:
I called up Talbot’s bio, and it wasn’t flattering. Boy, it sure wasn’t! His history showed him to be the black sheep of an upper-crust British family, which was ironic considering the animal-making business he’d gotten into. He’d squandered most of his inheritance on drugs, gambling, and expensive yachts. Then he tried to get it back by drug-dealing. Not just nickies, but the really bad stuff.
I mean, just how did the job interview for Talbot go?
Interviewer: So, Mr. Talbot, it says here on your resume that you're a drug dealing Limey mobster. What makes you think you're a fit to the culture here at Rozoff, Inc?
Talbot: Uh, I drowned a kitten when I was twelve?
Interviewer: You're hired!
You can get away with that kind of clunky exposition in YA, but that doesn't cut it for adults. At least not this one.
If I were giving this book stars (which I do not do), I'd give The Cerulean's Secret 3.0 stars as an adult read, 4.0 as a YA title. For the teen in your life, a fun, enjoyable afternoon's read.
Nighthawks at the Mission by Forbes West
File Size: 558 KB
Print Length: 302 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Brontide West; Third Edition edition (July 23, 2015)
Publication Date: July 23, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
There are four main perspectives used in writing novels. The first person, the second, and the third (the most popular). Third can be sub catgorized into single, POV, and the omniscient, but I'll save my schoolmarm shtick for another day.
In the first person, you share the protagonist's thoughts and feelings, becoming in a sense their best friend for the length of the story. In the third person, you view the story and become part of an intimate audience. In the second person, you become the protagonist. Writing in the second voice is the trickiest task in writing, because your story must be compelling enough for your reader to be comfortable in the skin of the character they're going to be inhabiting. Think of the second person as "The Thing" of novel writing.
Both of my novels (Rule-Set and Selling Steve Jobs' Liver are written in the first person and my future literary itinerary calls for me to write one in the third. I'm not sure I'll ever write one in the second. There are a few examples of recent successful books written in the second voice, including Bright Lights, Big City and A Prayer for the Dying. In Sci-Fi, Ray Bradbury liked to experiment with the second person, but I don't think any of his novels use it.
This brings us to Forbes West's Nighthawks at the Mission, which is decidedly written in the second person. So, the first question we must ask is: Does he pull it off?
The answer is yes. West creates a compelling, cracked world that's fits the peculiar power of the second voice beautifully. The novel reads like what would happen if Jack Kerouac's On the Road took a left turn into Mordor at some point and ended up employed at a meth lab run by the Dark Lord. Visually, the world the author creates "feels" (and I use that word because Forbes West's prose has a very visceral quality) as if someone had poured a Dali landscape into a de Chirico street scene.
The plot of the story revolves around Sarah, who departs Earth via a refurbished Queen Mary, for The Oberon, an "off world" destination that is reached not via space ship but by passing through a dimensional portal located in the Pacific Ocean. The book does not explain the origins of The Oberon nor why thousands of people are emigrating to a place whose senior executive is called "The Witch-Lord," but never mind. You're on your way and will just have to puzzle it all out while you learn how to survive. The drugs, alcohol, and side trips to ancient structures that are described as "temples" but feel like long abandoned shopping malls, now infested with ancient insane human vampires, shoppers who stayed picking over the Blue Light Specials a bit too long while all the stores were being shuttered, will help keep boredom away. If by chance you're chased by one of the vampires, you can pray to survive, but don't recite from the Bible while doing it; those are illegal in The Oberon.
The following passage gives you a sense for the book's style and ever evolving weirdness:
You and Guy come upon a massive hallway with statues of two-headed men and of otherwise normal-looking women with fangs for teeth. The ceiling stretches upward, the vaulted roof and
tiled floor separated by a hundred feet of air. You feel like you are in one of those documentaries about the Vatican due to the Urncalles’ ancient and positively Greco-Roman look. Farther along is a corridor where purple water travels quickly upward on a slant with nothing supporting its trajectory, just open air.
A few young men and women in bathing suits and equipped with those ring-shaped life preservers are jumping into the pool and shooting upwards, disappearing into some area beyond in a rush of ever continuing water. A Ni-Perchta man, tall and imposing, guards the entrance to the water arc with a whistle tied around his neck.
I imagine this is the type of water park attraction Milton's fallen angels might have created while laying down the foundations of Hell.
Looking for something different? Want to kick your mind onto a very different plane? Tired of the same old, same old?
Nighthawks at the Mission and The Oberon await you.
Review Submission Guidellines
Want me to review your book? You must join the Rule-Set mailing list and contact me at email@example.com. Do NOT use the contact form for a review request; for press and publishers only. Your book can be a proof but ready for sale within 60 days.
Scifi/-fantasy only at this time. Make sure it's been professionally copyedited. If it's not, I'll know in about five pages and will reject the book. I don't mean to be a hump about it, but approximately 40% to 50% of the books I've received have had far too many typos, comma splices, misuse of dependent clauses, etc. (No, it doesn't have to be perfect. Most books have a few typos, including ones coming out of "traditional" publishing.) Your book cannot succeed in the market with such flaws and it's not fair to ask reviewers to read it in such a state.
I'll take a look at YA, but I'm not the best fit to that audience. PDF, Mobi, print all fine. If you have an author website you wish me to link to, please provide the URL. I don't charge and I also don't guarantee a good review!
Please note comments on blog posts are limited to 5K characters. System limitation.
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