Review: The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove

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Publisher: Open Road

Publishing Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9781504009430

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.1/5

Publisher Description: David Fisher pushes paper for the EPA in a world that’s a lot like ours . . . only different. In this California—and throughout the alternate United States—all gods are real, science doesn’t exist, and magic rules everything, running imp-driven computers and creating anxiety-inducing bumper-to-bumper flying-carpet rush hours. 

Review: Since this was first published long ago and has had scads of reviews, I will limit my review to a paragraph. I had a good time reading this. It dwells more on the surface and emotes in a shallow field, but that’s ok. It is meant to render in a light hearted and often times funny/punny way. The downside is that the world building parallels our reality with an infusion of magic and assorted Laws, usually of the Demi-godly sort. Not real inventive but interesting in an expected presentation.  The novel also tends to drag on and on with internal dialogue.

 

 

Review: Tempted by Paul Micheals

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Publisher: Pupcake

Publishing Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9780989639514

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.4/5

Publisher Description: His father murdered, his mother looking to him for support, Alexi Gallo needs a job and he needs it now. Bribed into working for a corrupt family friend, the only bright light is the easy money and beautiful, vulnerable Traci. But there’s more to this new world than being a bag man and falling in love – far more than just being a kid trying to survive. Alexi is about to find out he’s a pawn in a deadly conflict between warring immortals.

Review: One of the curiously funny reviews I have ever read pertains to this novel. A reviewer stated, “So what’s the problem with portraying people this way?”. (Men portrayed as beasts and obsessed with sex). She goes on to say that this type of writing reinforces rape culture along with sexist micro-aggressive behavior.  Micro-aggressive sexist behavior suggests, for example: being touched without permission; condescension; unwanted sexual advances etc.  Rape culture is a purely feminist movement idea that gained traction due to some solid theory, yet collapsed under its widespread generalities, blame based approach and the contrary idea that rape is not a “culture” but a conscious choice made by perpetrators.

I guess writers can’t write anything anymore if it offends a persons justified dislike of the subject matter or their sense of “social justice”. Can you hear the jackboots? Well besides one reviewers addled form of projection coupled with irrational statements (defense mechanism), I will add my own less than cogent suspicions to the mix.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to wrest a storyline that is imbued with sexual obsession. Alexi loves a prostitute. No more and no less is implied. He doesn’t have sex with her, but defends her when she is getting beaten by a John. (Here is one reason that I don’t think the reviewer read the whole novel, but anyhoo). Like any young male, Alexi has big hormones made bigger by an injected cocktail of evil intent. His Uncle explains his obsessive malady by stating that young men are normally fixated upon girls but this has magnified his sense of longing.  The sexual trade where Traci makes a living is not a place that can be neatly explained away with “micro-aggressive behavior” and men a slave to their hormones. It is an ugly world that is oftentimes violent and delivers the worst of the human condition in all its forms.

This novel is a poetic rendition that combines an era without cell phones, fantasy in the form of mental powers and an otherworld entity that has a manipulative plan coupled with evil intent. Alexi is a solidly built character who grows along with the movement. The story line skips along the fringe of believability which was somewhat riveting yet tended to drag on a bit in places where it lacked pace. The culmination of events is anti-climactic yet is appropriate for the tenure of the novel. The best the novel has to offer is the writing. It is engaging and lacks the idiotic phrasing that so many have come to rely on.

 

 

 

American Badass by Jeff Chacon

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Publisher: Wooden Stake

Publishing Date: September 2014

ISBN: 9781940936048 

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.2/5

 

Publisher Description: Ron Watson wakes up one day to find himself dead. Yes, after an unplanned and unfortunate meeting on a Colorado highway with a semi-trailer truck carrying disposable diapers for orphaned babies, Ron Watson is now an everyday, run-of-the-mill divorced American zombie, with exactly two thoughts in his head: “Brains!” and “Vegas!”

Review: I almost gave this a DNF due to Ron explaining everything he is going to do and why he is going to do it and then questioning his own motives. He’s a zombie for fugs sake. Why all the inner ruminations? There was also this smug undertone, almost like the author is in love with his own humor and thinks everyone else should be too. Although some instances were witty, the novel tries to be funny all the time.  You may find yourself flipping pages as Ron has lengthy internal dialogues.

I liked some of the characters, just not the main ones. Ron’s love interest is a great character as is Ron’s friend whom provides a good amount of comedic relief. Ron’s daughter is a clichéd tough smoking teen rocker that can handle guns, men and zombies and has a hidden heart of gold. Fug. The author also finds the time, in a few instances, to ridicule conservatives. What this has to do with anything “zombie” is puzzling but could be a reflection of the authors internal myopia.  

I think this fails the zombie genre test but a good read if you like standing in line at the DMV and screaming babies.

Review: House of the Last Man On Earth by R.B. Marcus

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Publisher: Mockingbird

Publishing Date: May 2015

ISBN: 9781634158299 

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.4/5

Publisher Description: Convinced that his bizarre neighbor might be a part of a hostile alien agenda, college student Richard Johnson, along with his mathematics teacher and her brother, embark upon a soaring and treacherous journey through light-years of space and thousands of years of time to discover a terrible truth — mankind is being slowly and systematically exterminated.

Review: This novel had promise. Initially there was good movement, interesting characters and a good SciFi storyline ready to transport your imagination. Then the pace really drops off with Richard going back and forth through time in a befuddled state of wonder. Meanwhile his alien neighbor is trying to kill him with flying piranhas (or is he?), as he contrives to mess with human genetics.  

To make it semi-interesting, a hottie PhD candidate named Mrs. Summer Jacklyn is inserted into the story line as a feisty love interest to counter Richards cloying and insufferable demeanor.   Why Summer would ever consider Richard a partner is laughable. He is at once lacking in moral regard as evidenced by the slut shaming of his ex in order to take her Porsche. He wobbles in and out of inner turmoil and lassitude with this constant over-riding fixation on hooking up with Summer. His self-esteem scrapes the pavement yet he will turn on a dime to further his own interests. Psychologists might develop a new term to describe his malady. Something like “inferior egocentric priapism”. 

I really wished this novel would have taken a shit or gotten off the pot. Instead it exists in this narrative limbo, ping ponging back and forth through time without any real meaty events to garner interest. It attempts to be serious but really never reaches the core of what SciFi is about as it wanders in and out of glibness in tense situations. In the end you will not give a shjt about the characters or their “dire” circumstances as they are not developed along with the movement. Just the clenching of teeth, flashing of eyes and the ever redundant phrasing of he or she: “speaking/said/whispered/asked/replied/growled/repeated, softly”.

The foray into the future for an extended period does not exemplify cogent processes. When attacked by galactic invaders they all of a sudden find themselves stranded on a methane moon trying to fix their anti-matter drive. They are subsequently attacked by shadow beings and Mrs. Hottie loses consciousness. Yay. During this attack she plays the femme fatale with “Oh save me, I don’t want to die!!”. Then she becomes a martial arts expert AND just so happens to be an expert marksman with EVERY gun. She coincidentally has an apartment stuffed with enough firepower to outfit a SWAT team as well. Huh? So Ricardo Douche-Man gets a Glock 22 and leaves the safety on as he was a Marine and all. Only Glocks don’t have an external safety. Just pull the trigger and it fires.

Read this while trapping raccoons in your backyard.  

 

Review: The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee

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Publisher: Angry Robot

Publishing Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9780857664426

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.6/5

Publisher Description: 1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human. 

Review: Quite the fantastic read in all ways. Riveting characters that share their own singular voice and world building that takes you to unexpected places. This series will bind you with expectations.

 

 

 

Review: Linear Shift by Paul Kohler

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Publisher: Global

Publishing Date: April 2015

ISBN: 9781940740065 

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 1.3

Publisher Description: No one said time travel would be easy.  Peter Cooper, a widowed father of two whose life is crumbling around him—until a bizarre encounter with a desperate Army general launches him on a risky mission: to go back to 1942 and change a moment in time. 

Review: The first 30% is really slow as the “countdown” to departure nears. So slow as to be near maudlin in design. For instance, our two time travelers to be are whining about their training and are always seeking ways to go see people they shouldn’t. Of course they get caught at it, are reprimanded and that’s it. Cooper’s friends are abducted by the General because Cooper talked to them. Huh? If the General wanted to limit Cooper’s interaction to others once he was informed of a possible mission into the past, wouldn’t he have abducted Cooper’s kids as well? Why tell him the mission parameters in the first place? Get him interested first with the carrot (money), then sign a non-disclosure agreement (the stick), then brief him on the mission. If he says no then confine him to the base until the mission is over. But at no point during this process is he allowed to call or contact anyone. Additionally Cooper and Julie are given classified documents that they can take home and read at their leisure. Huh? The hiccups continue, when in 1942, Peter is able to break into the U.S. Mint and blackmail a guy into giving him some bronze pennies. Wha?

The story line was not that believable. The big question is why would Peter and Co. agree to go time traveling when there is no evidence presented that such a thing is possible? Additionally, the risk of losing his family is very high when he returns due to the temporal shift.

Even if you can get over the logic flaws in the story-line and the sometimes juvenile writing processes, the story line still moves sporadically and without tension. 

Read this while waiting to get a bot fly larvae removed from your back.

 

 

 

Review: The Undying Legion: Crown and Key Book 2 by Griffiths

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Publisher: Random House

Publishing Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9780345540485 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.4/5

Publisher Description: When monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane comes across the gruesome aftermath of a ritual murder in a London church, he enlists the help of magician-scribe Simon Archer and alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther. Studying the macabre scene, they struggle to understand obscure clues in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the victim’s heart—as well as bizarre mystical allusions to the romantic poetry of William Blake. One thing is clear: Some very potent black magic is at work.

Review: This follows quickly in the foot prints of “The Shadow Revolution” with the same cast of main characters. Kate is an even more insufferable character what with her prudish and headstrong demeanor coupled to a sandpaper like personality. Simon is his usual unflappable self, courting a dismal skirt when he could have anyone. Malcolm is back with his scathing attitude, yet you can’t blame him for not liking Simon and Kate as they both have big sticks up their arses. 

This installment heads down the macabre road of graphic skinning rituals and blood soaked altars. A direct departure from the created Homunculus’ and Werewolves that terrorized kittens in the first novel.

The fight scenes are once again, unbelievable. As the first scene unfolds Super-Kate and Penny Dreadful take out 8 Werewolves in a dark cemetery with nothing but a gun, some alchemical vials and their witty charm. Yawn. The fight scenes do not play out in cogent fashion as to be taken with any seriousness. The timing and positions of the players just doesn’t make any sense as to the scripted outcome(s). 

Penny is a great addition to the team as she not only provides relief from the relentlessly frenetic mind of Kate-doody but claims an important role in the supply of interesting mechanics. More of the steampunk side of this fantasy relic. I still found myself reading this all the way through without skipping pages which says something good about the technical side of the writing. Additionally the fight scenes packed a little more punch than in the first novel with a compacted design.

So why a lower score than in the first novel? I just got tired of the same old high brow buffoonery exhibited between Kate and Simon. They never change. Gold sovereigns, tapping canes, wild auburn hair, clenched teeth, The “Anstruther Family” (dun, dun, dun) and Kate’s constantly churning stomach over Imogen really wore thin. The slow budding love affair between these two asshats will waste your reading time as well.

A good read with practiced ambivalence.