Book Review – The Legacy Human

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legacy humanSusan Kaye Quinn has a winner on her hands with The Legacy Human. It is compelling, exciting, and a fine example of intelligent fiction. Susan doesn’t dumb it down for her audience, instead trusting her readers to challenge their ideas of what it means to be human as the story unfolds. If the next books in the Singularity series are anything like this book, I can easily see teenagers swapping The Hunger Games or the Divergent Series for her books. In a heartbeat.

Our hero is a 17-year-old artist named Eli, who craves one thing — to ascend. Eli is a Legacy Human, kept because of his genetic code. Once he ascends, he can join the elite group on the planet, ones that don’t age because their consciousness now inhabit bodies of metal. And, his ascension will bring his mother along with him, thereby curing her of her debilitating sickness. Unfortunately for Eli, that ascension can only come after he competes at the Olympics — an event not known for sports in the future, rather for the arts, such as writing, dancing, and painting. Eli isn’t good enough on his own to compete and win at the Olympics, until he goes into his “fugue” state. One painting done under these conditions catches the eye of one Ascender, Marcus, who sponsors Eli at the games.

Once Eli and his friend Cyrus get to the Olympics, they find the competition deadly fierce, but not always between the competitors. The Ascenders themselves have their own political games to play, and the Legacy Humans are just pawns in their eternal games. They also meet competitors who bring out the best in Eli — a dancer, and a writer who both challenge his way of thinking. The world suddenly expands for Eli, all while it seems to close in around him.

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to have a soul? Can a machine possess a soul?

Eli struggles to answer these questions, all while striving to figure out his own abilities leading up to the climax of the competition. There are secrets at play, many of which Eli doesn’t even know are there, but finding them out could change his life forever.

I really enjoyed The Legacy Human. I can see similarities between The Hunger Games and Divergent for sure: the games, the separate groups the teens get placed into, the grand machinations going on behind the scenes. The story has a very intimate feel, focusing on Eli and his role in this world, but the scope is so much larger than he could have possibly imagined. In another way, I really got a Ready Player One feel from this novel as well. There was hope even in the midst of a human dystopia and a lot of other slight ways I could connect RPO to Legacy Human.

I would definitely recommend this book to any lover of Young Adult thrillers and look forward to Quinn’s second book in the series. Well done!


Note: The Legacy Human will be available for purchase on Monday, March 2. 

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Book Review – Where Dragons Lie

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41MGayjgjJLThomas Robins made his first foray into Fantasy with his story Where Dragons Lie and the effort totally works on many levels. The tale is a simple, yet complicated character piece, using a common aspect of Fantasy stories — dragons — to push the narrative, ultimately leading to a climactic showdown between the protagonist and the dragon he hunted for nearly the entire book.

Told from a first-person perspective, Robins nails the unfamiliar tone, showcasing his imagination in a new genre. The story description is very simple, but yet the execution leaves the reader impressed with the results. At the beginning of the tale (or is it tail?), our protagonist recalls a moment very early in his life when a dragon visited his small, lonely town. One man came and promised to defeat the dragon in exchange for the fairest girl in town. He comes back bearing the dragon’s horn, a sign of the victory.

As times goes by, that victor claims his spoils, but stays in the village, choosing to use and abuse his privileges of besting the dragon on that night so very long ago. His daughter becomes the new prize to be won — but only by someone brave enough to conquer a dragon of their own. That’s what sends our hero out on his quest — a desire to win her hand, and a journey to find and slay a dragon.

In the end, Robins delivers a fantastic story, with enough fantasy and intrigue to pull the reader along. I quite enjoyed the story and think Robins could do quite well writing in this genre again.

Note: Where Dragons Lie is up for Preorder on Kindle and when purchased will be downloaded on your device on Feb. 27. I was given the opportunity to read an Advanced Reader Copy. 

Book Review – The Serenity Strain

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tssChris Pourteau is a perfect author for the Apocalypse Weird series. While the other novels give us explanations and grand statements about the end of all things, Pourteau straight up delivers an action-packed thrill ride in his book, The Serenity Strain.

Pourteau centers his story around Houston, a large city in its own right, but specifically hones in on a broken family. Mark works for the traffic management company for Houston and has already broken his marriage vows with a co-worker, Iris. Meanwhile, his soon to be ex-wife Lauryn and daughter Megan are trying to make it in a poor excuse for an apartment. When hurricane after hurricane after hurricane pummel the southeast coast of Texas, the three find themselves thrust back together, trying to survive a disaster exponentially bigger than Hurricane Katrina.

So what about the title of the book? The Serenity Strain? That is the brainchild of Dr. Eamon Stavros, a man who believes he can “cure” homicidal maniacs. He has given the serum to six individuals at the nearby prison with early promising results. However, in typical AW fashion, the serum backfires just as the hurricanes are making a mess of the city. Head of the “Serenity Six” is Peter Marsten, a serial killer who is now even more dangerous with Serenity focusing his thoughts. He breaks the six out of prison and they proceed to terrorize the city, acting as the precursors to someone even worse.

Out of all the AW books so far, the character of Marsten is the most evil, most gloriously psychopathic villain yet. One scene in particular is NOT for the faint of heart as Marsten really discovers who he is and the power he now yields.

Of course, Mark, Lauryn, and Megan are on a collision course with Marsten and his merry band of misfits with terrifying consequences. There are few moments of respite in this book and it makes for the quickest read out of all the AW books by far at this point because of that. Each moment acts as a springboard to the next with little fat in between.

You’ll love the Serenity Strain if you love great thrillers. In a very Dean Koontz-esque novel, Pourteau has given the Apocalypse Weird universe a wonderful and frightening tale.

Book Review – Reversal

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Reversal_FT_FINALHow to describe Reversal?

Take a Clive Cussler sea thriller, add a Lee Child Reacher murder mystery, combine it with a creepy supernatural Dean Koontz story, shove in a little bit of Stephen King’s The Stand along with March of the Penguins, and you’ll be close. Jennifer Ellis has pulled off a remarkable book that keeps you guessing at every turn with a mixture of sci-fi, supernatural, and good ol’ fashioned thriller.

I first became familiar with Ellis when I read the time travel anthology Synchronic. Her story “The River” was a fascinating and out-of-the-box time travel tale. Lucky for us, Ellis took the same tack when it came to her first entry into the Apocalypse Weird universe. It would have been easy for her to destroy a major city like L.A. or New York, or even something more familiar to any reader, but instead she took on the North Pole.

No Santa Claus here, but instead we are talking about the magnetic north pole. Instead of zombies or autoimmune diseases, Ellis supplies her apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. The death toll is probably lower than any of the other AW books (except for the penguins. RIP penguins…) but the carnage is implied as the reversal of the magnetic pole causes GPS systems to go haywire, and the environmental disasters involved could potentially devastate the entire planet for years to come.

Our hero is Sasha Wood, a researcher at the International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island. She’s there with a handful of other scientists, including the station caretaker Soren Anderson. The trouble starts on the second day of the story when everyone wakes up blind (a common event to each of the AW books). Ellis really paints the picture of the Blindness really well, amping up the tension in the first few chapters and never letting it slide.

And that was one of the things I liked best about Reversal. The book never gives you much rest. There are a few “down” times, but even in those moments, Ellis tosses in bits of important information that relate to the causes of the event, Soren’s complicated history, or more and more craziness that is bound to happen next.

All throughout the book, Sasha and Soren have to deal with problems unique to a polar expedition. Instead of taking a car on the highway, they must travel via snowmobiles. Instead of having dogs for pets, the dogs are important survival tools. The accuracy to real polar research is amazing and a nice touch.

I really can’t say enough about Reversal and I hope Ellis gets a chance to play around in her polar playground once again.

Book Review – Immunity

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ImmunityCoverWhat if those experiencing the end times in the Apocalypse Weird stories could look at why it was happening? What if they were able to take a look at it all from a purely scientific basis and figure out what exactly was going on, and better yet – where it all originated?

That’s what we get in the form of E.E. Giorgi’s Immunity. We’ve seen the world get torn apart in Nick Cole’s The Red King, but in Immunity, we really take a look at why.

The story is told from the perspective of two protagonists – Dave, a computer specialist, and Anu, a genetic researcher. Together at a lab in a remote part of New Mexico, they work to solve the so-called “zombie flu.”

Being one of the first books written by someone besides Nick Cole, we find a different pace and a different style, and that is certainly welcome (and with Reversal and The Serenity Strain, we get two more diverse voices contributing to this crazy universe as well). Giorgi brings her background as a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory into play with convincing results.

What I probably enjoyed the most was seeing this remote laboratory – supposedly far away from the reaches of the strange apocalyptic events around the rest of the world – getting “infected” during the Blindness that had its tentacles everywhere.

In the end, we find that the virus that is a threat to so many has its roots deep in Anu’s past, and she may hold the secret to unlocking the virus and its deadly effects.

I really enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing more out of Giorgi in the future. Well done!

Book Review – The Dark Knight

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Dark nightWith his hand solely responsible for two of the Apocalypse Weird novels thus far, and half of another, it’s safe to say Nick Cole is guiding the direction of the AW stories. With The Dark Knight, Cole ups the ante even farther, introducing new characters we can’t help but root for, and a startling aspect that no one saw coming.

Out of the six AW novels complete so far, Cole’s The Dark Knight (releasing Monday, Feb. 23) is the first sequel in the ranks. Because of that, there is little stage setting for the main group of characters we met the first time out. But, Cole gives us a new character – literally the title character of Cory, who goes as Batman (or The Dark Knight). I’ll come back to him in a moment. The sequel gives Cole a lot of freedom to push the boundaries of his existing characters (which he wasn’t afraid to do back in The Red King anyway) as well as smash the expectations of a sophomore effort.

Back in TRK, Cole gave us the shady figure of Holiday, along with the steady Frank, and the mysterious Ashley. By the end of the book, we find Holiday refusing to accept reality, diving back into his drunken ways, and almost killing his friends along the way. In his wanderings, he finds new survivors and brings them back (and they’ve got their own issues and mysteries as well), but Frank swears Holiday off. The two men who depended on each other and survived due to that trust are done. Frank will not give Holiday any measure of trust, no matter what Holiday does to try to become the hero the group deserves.

While that is playing out, we wander outside of Frank’s newly-built castle and meet Cory. Cory is special. Cole doesn’t ever say what it is that makes Cory special – Down’s Syndrome, Fragile X, or whatever – but it’s clear a person like Cory wouldn’t survive long in a post-apocalyptic world without help. So where has he been the past few weeks as zombies terrorized the city? That’s a twist I’m not going to share, but suffice it to say, I didn’t see it coming. It adds an entirely new dimension for the AW world to explore and I loved it.

Cory is searching for his father, a police officer, who inspired Cory to become Batman, costume and all. Whether searching for diabetic supplies for his neighbor at the nearby pharmacy, or trying to survive a world gone mad, Cory’s safety and security lies in his alter-ego.

I am Batman.

I am the Night.

Cory becomes the Night and survives the horrors of Apocalypse Weird, only to be discovered by Ashley, setting up some potentially exciting scenes in Cole’s third book, already named The Lost Castle.

There is a great story in this book, but at the same time, Cole is teasing us. He is setting the chess board. The titles aren’t coincidental – The Red KING, The Dark KNIGHT, The Lost CASTLE (otherwise known as a ROOK). Cole has a master plan up his sleeve and isn’t willing to tip his hand just yet. There are more moves to be made, some by him, perhaps some by other writers.  I can’t wait for the third book, and frankly every book to be put out under the AW banner in the future. The world is being destroyed and I’m having a great time in the process.

Book Review – Texocalypse Now

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A few weeks ago, I had my first taste of the wave of Apocalypse Weird novels to be released next week in the form of Nick Cole and Michael Bunker’s Texocalypse Now. The book has some great moments and sets up a lot, but I was really unprepared for the quality of stories I would find in the other three AW stories not written by Cole or Bunker. The following is my review for TN, but over the next few days I’ll share reviews for Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal, E.E. Giorgi’s Immunity, and Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain in addition to my thoughts on the first sequel in the AW Universe — Nick Cole’s The Dark Knight. 


tex nowThere have been some early comparisons between the Apocalypse Weird series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of us are familiar with how Marvel is expanding their comic books with tales on the Silver Screen in the form of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy. While that familiarity may not be present in the Apocalypse Weird series, the analogy is appropriate nonetheless, especially when it comes to the Nick Cole/Michael Bunker novel, Texocalypse Now. And that familiarity will come in time if the quality of the stories in AW continues like it does in this novel.

A huge part of constructing the Marvel movies is telling an engaging story while advancing potential threads that can branch off into different plotlines for future movies. For example, Captain America’s shield was seen in Tony Stark’s lab in Iron Man 2 and Thanos was seen in a post-credits scene of The Avengers – both of which helped to set up future stories and villains.

I don’t think many would say The Avengers didn’t deliver as a stand-alone movie, yet it laid the groundwork for potentially dozens of future movies. That’s because Marvel went in with a plan and made sure certain threads were maintained and manicured throughout the editing process.

The same is true of Texocalypse Now. After The Red King, it serves as one of the next in a wave of AW stories to be released in February, and by being in that wave, it needs to serve two functions – be a wicked-awesome story (check), and further the overall mythology of AW (check).

We’ll get back to the overall mythos in a bit, but let’s take a look at what Cole and Bunker did here.

It’s an apocalypse story, so we need at least one apocalyptic event, and the authors take care of that with the Blindness — a moment when the entire world went dark, causing madness in most people. Combine that with zombie hordes who scour the earth after taking the weight-loss drug, Slenderex, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster and Mad Max-type scenarios.

In the wake of this, a family comes together. Not one of blood, but of circumstance, that has a bond forged by violence. To save themselves, they turn to a series of tunnels under the ground — tunnels put there years before for a different purpose (which is a fascinating side story that deserves a book of its own). As the book progresses, the action ramps up, powered by an evil figure: Mayhem.

Even as all of this happens, Cole and Bunker make sure to plant seeds for future installments of Apocalypse Weird books. Not all of those seeds are blatantly obvious, but just like in the Marvel Universe, they are important and play a key role in the proceedings.

Texocalypse Now stands perfectly on its own and is an exciting, powerful book. But, when you look at it as part of the AW series, it works tremendously well and will be an important book to read for anyone interested in the Apocalypse Weird novels. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cole-Bunker collaboration and hope to see more from the two in the future.