Book Review Round-up!

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I like to include my Amazon reviews over here as well, and there are a few that I missed lately. I am so impressesd by so much that I see coming out of the indie publishing scene — so many great and new ideas and great voices to showcase their works. Without further ado, here are my reviews for Stefan Bolz’s Apocalypse Weird entry Genesis: The White Dragon, the latest short story from Carol Davis entitled Being of Value, and a great novel by Travis Mohrman, Humid.


aw-genesisStefan Bolz has a unique style to his writing that I have yet to see duplicated. Even as he destroys the world in his Apocalypse Weird story Genesis, there is a hope and an optimism that is still visible. But, while that hope is there, that sometimes makes the violence all the more brutal knowing the end may not be pretty for everyone.
In Genesis, we follow Kasey Byrne on the day she turns 18 years old. What should be one of the best and most joyous days of her life takes a dramatic turn in the opposite direction very quickly. She watches in horror as hundreds of dolphins turn up en masse to commit suicide on the beach, then is helpless as her mother commits suicide, and is stuck with an insane police officer who is about to murder her and her boyfriend in cold blood. And that’s just the first couple hours.
What’s great about Bolz is that he presents a Young Adult Apocalypse Weird tale. The immediacy of Kasey’s actions are all the more intense as we follow her life from the graduation party on the beach to the end when everything changes. The emotions and inner turmoil of teenagers is so much more intense, then say a 35-year-old man. We sense that not only is it the end of the world, but it’s also the end of everything Kasey knows. Everything is ripped from her as the forces of evil search for something only she would have.
I loved Bolz’s take on the apocalypse and if any is due a sequel, it’s this one. Bolz bold and memorable characters are prime for the next chapter in their lives and I know his fans will eat up the story Bolz has up his sleeve next.


being-of-value-smallIn Carol Davis‘ writing, the reader can almost always get a clear picture of the drama and action. She has a definite style that lends itself towards visualizing the story on the screen, whether as a movie or TV show. Her latest sci-fi short Being Of Value is right there as well, putting the reader in an unfamiliar environment, but making the story so palatable and palpable you can picture it immediately.
As is the case with so many great A.I. stories, the protagonist of BOV, Matthew, makes you question what it really means to be human. Is it just flesh and blood? Is it an organic mind, born from a lifetime of experiences? Or…is it something else? Is human even something to aspire to? The tale moves along at a good clip, but the questions of ethics, of right and wrong, of whether humanity is defined by our morals continue to haunt Matthew and the reader along the way.
Davis’ background of writing with the sci-fi TV screen in mind definitely plays a part in this story. There is a general positive futuristic vibe to it, almost a Star Trek related theme of sorts when we see Matthew host some foreign dignitaries in the Dome — a Holodeck of sorts in a contest between man and android. Although androids have advantages of a body and mind that never tires, the contest ends up more than he was counting on.
I enjoyed the story and could definitely see a continuing series with Matthew as he continues to discover who he is in relation to the human universe and what that means.


humidEver since I read Travis Mohrman’s book Singular Points, I’ve been excited to see what else he had up his sleeve. In many ways, Humid is a spiritual successor to SP as we see Mohrman’s signature style on full display with a flair intense sci-fi action.
What happens when all of a sudden, the weather patterns stop, the humidity gets cranked to levels off the scale, and water all over the earth no longer stays on the surface, retreating to the atmosphere? That’s what everyone wants to know, including our hero, Wendy, a meteorologist living in St. Louis. Wendy is tasked with being the lone researcher left at a weather station as the humidity continues to ramp up, destroying modern society in its wake.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but Wendy encounters interesting characters along her journey to discover the truth of what is happening to the planet. Eventually that truth leads to a confrontation between her and the cause of the entire planetary disaster. I liked the characters, and was constantly looking for what Mohrman had up his sleeve next.

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Book Review – Brother, Frankenstein

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BookSized_Frank_SmallOne of the best things about the Indie Book Revolution is that readers have the chance to read stories that never would have seen the light of day under the previous model of publishing. Compelling, interesting, and engaging stories that would have been shunned by the New York publishing houses. Yet thanks to the digital revolution, we get to enjoy these imaginative tales for ourselves. We get to be the Gatekeepers.

Michael Bunker’s newest book Brother, Frankenstein is one of those books. Of course, we don’t know for sure, but it is too daring, too out of the box, too…Amish…to be a traditionally published book. We like our Amish in neat little romance books. A girl in an apron on the front cover, clutching a bouquet of flowers, and a covered wagon driving away in the distance. There’s too much risk to allow the Amish to mix with sci-fi in the way Bunker does in Brother, Frankenstein.

But in that risk, in taking a leap of faith that readers can cope with “out of the box,” Bunker has achieved a wonderful book that transcends many of the books you would be able to find on the shelf of Barnes and Noble today.

In a way, this was always meant to be. The simple life of the Amish, combined with the world’s first truly science fiction story – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The moral dilemmas that Dr. Frankenstein encountered and dealt with in the groundbreaking novel are presented here as well. In Bunker’s work, Dr. Chris Alexander has a military grade robot body that is just in need of a heart and brain. The donations come from an autistic Amish boy who was dying anyway. Dr. Alexander believes he is giving the boy a gift. Another chance at life…in a body that can wipe entire towns off the map with the firepower contained within.

As Dr. Alexander goes on the run with Frank, the government sends in an agent who is as ruthless as he is skilled at his job – Cyrano Dresser. Dresser approaches the search for Frank and the Doc as his own White Whale, and has no problem in running over whoever gets in his way. He is a special type of evil villain and I can totally see the character on the big screen.

So, with the government hunting them down, where do the fugitives go? Amish country of course. There they fit in (as best they can), and Alexander works to contain Frank’s emotions. Emotions aren’t Frank’s friends – that’s because when he gets mad, he transforms into a Voltron-type robot capable of mass destruction. Not quite Amish.

In the end, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and Bunker’s best work to date. Pennsylvania was a Bunker’s previous attempt at “Amish Sci-Fi” but he’s refined his style and his pacing in Brother, Frankenstein was much improved. The stakes are high for Alexander and his experiment, and the emotional payoff for the reader and for Frank is worth it.

Book Review – Hugh Howey Lives

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hh livesWhat a beautiful tribute, not only to the namesake author Hugh Howey, but also to the art of writing. Daniel Arthur Smith has written a wonderful book that explores a future where writing and art are not only rare, but obsolete. In that future, we see life exist with books written by machines, but a few books may be written by Howey, who has become a legend at this point.

There are moments in this book, where I could place myself exactly in Kay’s shoes. Kay and Tia are on a boat, searching for the elusive Mr. Howey, even though it’s set 160 years from today, when Howey would be roughly 200 years old. As the title of the book implies, yes, Hugh Howey Lives, but of course there is so much more than that.

Early on in the book, Kay, an aspiring author, is talking to Tia about Howey, and seemingly every other word out of her mouth is about the reclusive author. As a indie author myself, I can sympathize. I have written fiction set in Howey’s WOOL Universe, and have spent one of my birthdays reading one of Howey’s books that had been released that day. I have worn off the ears of loved ones with my praise and admiration of Howey as a writer and a source of inspiration for independent publishing. At one point, I have been Kay, and my wife was Tia, putting up with me, but not always understanding. To read the first half of this book is understand the mid of a writer and is a cast metaphor for how indie writers have put Howey on a pedestal over the past few years.

Smith could have ended the story there, but takes it in a different direction. When I was younger, I remember a short story by Isaac Asimov where a man’s computer slowly learns to be his own word processor, and eventually, writes just like him. That’s a huge part of this story, which is actually somewhat inspired by a blog posting by Howey last year (hence the tribute). What happens when computers write all the stories? The wave of originality from a human becomes all the more important.

I loved this story and look forward to more from Smith. Well done. On behalf of indie authors, thank you.

Book Review – Tales of Tinfoil

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tinfoilWhen I think of tinfoil, I think of leftovers. Day-old pizza, a cover for a bowl of soup, you know…tinfoil. At least, that’s what they want to you to think.

You know who I’m talking about. Could be the government (which one? Take your pick.)…maybe its the Masons…the Illuminati…maybe whoever is covering up the truth is so skillful we have no idea as to their identity.

We’re all a little desperate to uncover the real truth behind the whitewashed truth we’re given in the media. We all believe something we might call a conspiracy theory. Because of those beliefs, David Gatewood’s latest short story anthology, Tales of Tinfoil, has a certain ring of truth to it, but also a whole lot of crazy.

I won’t go through all the stories, but suffice it to say the whole collection is a great addition to the world of indie publishing with some amazing stand-outs.

Now, you should definitely read past the first story, but the highlight of the collection for me was Richard Gleaves’ Under The Grassy Knoll. I debated for a while of whether the story was as good as I thought since it covered the ground of perhaps the biggest conspiracy theory of them all — JFK’s assassination. As I went back and forth, I realized that the original theory itself was partly what made this such an outstanding story. So many people have theories as to what actually happened that day, and Gleaves certainly showcases how own in the story.

Chris Pourteau’s story The French Deception is another treat, taking a look at another presidential assassination — this one of our nation’s 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

And just to prove not all conspiracies surround presidents or moon landings, Ernie LIndsey’s story The Long Slow Burn surrounds the creation of a light bulb that will last forever. If one was built, would it ever see the light of day, or do so many jobs and money depend on the continuation of light bulb replacement that it would just get swept under the rug?

Tales of Tinfoil is a wonderful collection of 12 stories all devoted to conspiracy theories. Each one is a wild ride into the secrets we hold, or like to think exist behind the curtain. I would recommend the collection, not only to those with interest in conspiracies, but also to just anyone who loves a great short story.


Tales of Tinfoil: Stories of Paranoia and Conspiracy is available on preorder now and will be officially released on April 17.