Book Review — Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

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7thson

Today I’m reviewing Hank Garner’s latest novel, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I’m a big Hank Garner fan, but not just because of his writing. He has definitely been emerging as a talent and its hard to deny it when people like Nick Cole rave about his writing. But, lately I’ve been taken so much by his Author Stories Podcast. Hank has been running his podcast for a little over a year now, putting out a weekly interview with an author. Many of the authors are indie up and comers, but lately he’s had HUGE interviews with Andy Weir (The Martian), Matthew Mather (Nomad), and Hugh Howey (WOOL). I love listening to these things and I get a lot of encouragement and motivation from them each week.

But, when you come back from his podcast page, check out his latest book. Here is my Amazon review:

When I read Hank Garner’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, I kept loving it, seeing Garner’s growth as an author with a fantastically creative novel. The first thing I read of Garner’s was Mulligan, and while it was good, there were a few pacing issues that sometimes could keep the reader distant from the action. In Seventh Son, Garner has amped up the action and keeps his characters moving with a clear motive and momentum throughout the book. Even the characters are not always who we think they are and their actions go against the grain at times, adding to the intrigue.

I remember first hearing about Garner’s book when it was tied to the Apocalypse Weird series, but somewhere along the way, Garner separated it from that universe. It is clear Garner’s book can stand on its own, with a full realized backstory going back thousands of years to set up the action that takes place simultaneously in 1865 as well as the present day.

Our main protagonist, Oliver, is the title character who is tasked with being the secret keeper for his family’s legacy. The main problem is that the life he was destined for arrives when he least expects it and the secrets he protects are even a secret to him. As he tries to figure out what he is meant for, and who is actually is, the reader is taken on a great ride of ancient sacrifices, futuristic travelers, and secret organizations.

I loved Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and look forward to the next book from Mr. Garner.

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David Bruns Reviews The Immortality Chronicles

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We’re getting some AMAZING reviews in for The Immortality Chronicles, but one thing the authors featured in the book cannot do is review it ourselves through Amazon. I’ve been mentioning the past few weeks how I felt about many of the stories, and fellow author David Bruns has taken it upon himself to write up his own review of sorts.

So click on David’s face to be taken to his blog where he shares his thoughts on the book.

David author pic - cropped-minhttp://davidbruns.com/2015/09/the-immortality-chronicles/

Book Review – Dark Beyond The Stars

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A couple weeks ago, I finished a wonderful new science fiction anthology. Dark Beyond The Stars is a star-studded and potentially ground-breaking collection of stories all set in space in one form or another. The authors and piublishers haven’t made a big deal out of it, but I believe the fact that women make up the entire line-up from cover to cover is significant. When I’m looking for role models for my daughter, I can positively look to these authors as bold, confident women who aren’t afraid to write science fiction in a field where their gender can sometimes be controversial in itself.

I already wrote a fairly comprehensive review of the anthology on Amazon and I’ll share that here. The book is officially out on Kindle today and for a couple more weeks, they are selling the Kindle version for 99 cents, so if you haven’t gotten your copy yet, now is the time.


darkAmazon Review:

For the past year and a half, I’ve fallen back in love with short stories. It was seeing the anthology From The Indie Side, edited by David Gatewood, that brought it all back. It reminded me of the collections of science fiction short stories and novellas I devoured as a teenager. I didn’t always love all the stories, but each one resonated in some way the more I read them, and I slowly learned that huge ideas can be vacuum-packed into a smaller word count.

So I eagerly leapt at a chance to read the latest anthology edited by David Gatewood, Dark Beyond The Stars. Again, I can’t say I fell in love with every story, but the collection featured story after story that reached something deep inside and pulled me along until the page count finally ran out. Dark Beyond The Stars takes readers on an epic journey through space, rewarding them with tales guaranteed to entertain as well as elicit tears.

I also don’t think I can address the quality of the book without mentioning a unique fact about the anthology — each and every writer is a woman. I hope to someday live in a world where this note is unnecessary, but that day is not today. There are some out there who will refuse to read a collection that features only women writers. There are some who may cling to the out-dated belief that science fiction is a men’s game. There are those who wouldn’t even give a each of the writers a chance based on their misogynistic thinking.

Those people would be wrong. These women prove that science fiction is a poorer field without them in it. Dark Beyond The Stars is a rich and full universe of stories that, I believe, benefit from a woman’s perspective and voice.

Now, as I analyze the volume, I’m not going to go into detail on each and every story — other reviews have taken care of this and readers can find those details in those reviews — but I’ll highlight a few of the pinnacles of the book for me.

First off, the choice of Susan Kaye Quinn to start the anthology with her story “Containment” is a sure-fire winner. While Quinn sets the story firmly within the universe she’s established in her latest novel “The Legacy Human,” the story stands securely on its own. As with many of the stories in the collection, the point doesn’t become what happens, but really what does it all mean? In this case, we meet an artificial intelligence who works as the manager of mining on Thebe. As the story slowly develops, we peel back layers of the onion to discover our A.I. is more than what he is allowed to be. The themes of A.I., wealth inequality, and slavery are prevalent throughout the story and make it one to remember.

Another story I loved was Ann Christy’s “Lulu Ad Infinitum” and consequences of a horrific accident on a colony ship headed into space. One of the passengers, Lulu, is left alive, and is confronted with the fact that the only way to continue is with help, and the only way to get help is by cloning. As the mind wanders over decades and generations, what does the ship look like and who is Lulu after all this time?

In the same themes of a colony ship, Theresa Kay’s “Protocol A235,” takes the view of disaster happening in space to the extreme. In contrast to Christy’s Lulu, however, Theresa Kay pulls a slow burn as the first-person protagonist slowly finds out what’s happened, and the life that she has in front of her. The horror of the situation seems a little more apparent to the reader, but watching it play out makes her story one of the gems of this collection.

And the heartbreaker of the bunch had to be Jennifer Foehner Wells “Carindi.” Those familiar with Wells’ “Fluency” know the intricacies of the alien ships, operated by octopi-like beings, but commanded by a different species entirely. Ei’Pio is one of the former, resigned to a fate where she cannot move after a plague wiped out the population of her ship. She discovers a lifeform in the aftermath, one confined to a stasis suit who will be her companion for years. The story plays out until a decision must be made and they must leave their area of space or die. Just as I loved “Fluency,” “Carindi” adds a greater depth and history to Wells’ universe.

Ultimately, David Gatewood succeeds in editing another premier anthology, but he is merely the pilot ship for an armada of warships made up of supremely talented writers. I loved Dark Beyond the Stars and hope that there is more to come from this group.

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 – 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 – 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.