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.

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Sneak peak at DEAD SIGHT

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For NaNoWriMo, I’ve been working on Dead Sight, my sequel to Dead Sleep. I just passed 20,000 words. I decided to reward my readers with a sneak peek of the novel. If you’ve read Dead Sleep, this will make a little more sense, but you may get a sense of how this novel will operate. I’ve had fun writing this one so far and I’m hoping to continue my NaNoWriMomentum and pound out a lot more this week. 

Well, without further ado, the Prologue to Dead Sight. (Bear in mind this is very rough and NO ONE has seen this yet except myself. I hold every right to change or discard anything you see before the book is finished). 

 

PROLOGUE

Thomas Hendrikson braced himself against the door frame between the dining room and kitchen of his home knowing his time was limited.

Within a few years, he would be sent off to war. War hadn’t yet been declared by the United States government, but it was only a matter of time. The signs were on the wall each time the newspaper came and with every radio broadcast. If that wasn’t enough, Hendrikson knew that once the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor in five months, the U.S. would be thrust into the war it had tried to avoid since Hitler began rampaging all over Europe.

For Thomas, death was almost certainty to meet him head-on in late December 1944. On a muddy battlefield with a gun in one hand and a letter to his wife in the other, he would breathe his last. When that moment came, the epiphany he felt while in his Midwestern kitchen wouldn’t matter at all.  There was almost nothing he could do to avoid his fate. The fear – not of the unknown, but of what was certain – controlled Thomas. It had entered through the backdoor and drifted through the house until it found him, about to enter the kitchen after a long day in the fields. It was fear that kept him rooted to the dark-stained oak floors as sweat stained his white, button-down, cotton shirt in the July heat.

Thomas’ wife, Julia, had left that morning to see her mother in Hurdsfield. Julia and Sue Ellen, their two year old daughter, packed for a week away from home. His mother-in-law was just 10 miles away, but he didn’t expect them back for seven days – possibly more. He didn’t mind Eleanor White, his mother-in-law, but he had other things to do. As a farmer in the middle of North Dakota, there was always work to be done. Even with rain on the horizon, there was plenty for Thomas to keep himself busy at the farm.

Taking a step back, Thomas found the desk in the adjoining room. Julia had always wanted the dining room to be just that – a dining room, with the clean formal table, lacy tablecloth and china cabinet. She’d put all that in the room, but Thomas insisted on keeping a desk in the corner for his personal space. Their home was spacious for a North Dakota farmhouse, but he liked to be near the kitchen while Julia was cooking. She didn’t like it, but she allowed it.

Rummaging through a few bills and invoices stacked together on top of the desk, Thomas found some blank sheets of precious white paper. Nearby, a half-sharpened pencil was ready for his use. He grabbed it while the thoughts that were tormenting his mind were still at the surface, ready to boil over. He needed to get these memories – his memories…or is it his future?… on paper before he forgot it all for good. Some of the images he saw were clear, recognizable – understandable, but most of the thoughts swimming around in his brain were beyond any comprehension he could muster. Thomas had always strived to be a progressive farmer, including the latest technology and techniques on the farm, but what he saw – what he knew to be true – was so unbelievable that the city folk of the 1940’s wouldn’t even understand his visions.

Without Julia on hand to nag him about cleaning up before sitting down to the table, Thomas straddled a chair at the solid cherry table in the dining room. He and Julia had purchased the immense table the year before in Fargo on a trip to see her sister. If Julia had been in the kitchen, she would have yelled at him to sit at the desk. That’s what he’d put it in there for after all. Somehow he knew that he’d need more space than the surface area the desk could provide. 

Thomas Hendrikson collected his thoughts. He was used to farming. The consistency of the annual plantings and harvests. The daily grind of milking the cows, feeding the livestock, and checking on his fields. Wheat, corn, barley and sunflowers. He tried out some oats last year, but it didn’t go as well as the salesman promised, so he went back to the basics and was determined to stay with them as long as they worked for him. He knew what worked in the fields of North Dakota and what didn’t.

This? The words and images that flashed through his head were foreign to him. He had no concept of how to handle this. He didn’t plant these seeds. He didn’t know how to harvest this crop.

All he could do – all he could even think to do – was to put pencil to paper and hope to rid himself of the confusion rattling around in his head.

But, when he finally had the pencil at the top left corner of the paper, he was at a loss. How would he start? What would he say? He knew the words he would write tonight and the next few days would affect his great-grandson and hopefully any great-great-grandchildren he might have. To ensure the continuation of the family, he began to write:

 

Dear Jackson Ellis,

At some point in time, you will be lost. You will not know what to do. The future will be blocked from you and the contents of this letter and the subsequent writings will be vitally important to your survival. As I write to you, the date on my calendar is July 14, 1941.

My name is Thomas Jackson Hendrikson and I am your great-grandfather. I already know that I will be long dead by the time you read this. You see, I share the same ability as you – I can see the future. I’ve known about my ability for some time, but only tonight was my destiny revealed to me. 

My future is destined to end on a battlefield in Europe in a few years, but your destiny is still wide open. I don’t want these letters to end up in the wrong hands, so after receiving this, there will be some tasks required to find the others. I believe in you, after all, you are my great-grandson. You are the only hope of keeping the family legacy.

Here is what you need to know right now…

 

Thomas Hendrikson wrote deep into the night, stopping only when the radio in the living room stopped playing its nightly variety of music. Waking up the next morning, he paused to eat breakfast and then continued, a man on a mission, possessed of the need to protect the child of his own grand-daughter. He continued writing, using up all of the plain white paper in the house. When that supply was exhausted, he used the scraps of paper left on the desk – old invoices, receipts and bills. Somehow his penchant for saving anything and everything over the years came in handy when the future most depended on it.

After that, he sealed the envelopes and made the arrangements that would need to be carried out over 70 years in the future. He couldn’t control the future – it was out of his hands – but the farmer knew he’d done what he could for Jackson Ellis, his great-grandson. 

Behind The Veil — an announcement

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So the other day, I did an interview with fellow author, Carol Davis. Carol has three stories available on Kindle Worlds and just released her first non fanfiction story, an original short story about werewolves, called Blood Moon. She asked the questions and I answered them. You can find the complete interview here

I did want to expound a little upon one of my answers — about my Silo Saga story, The Veil. Here is her question and my answer:

6.  Many of the Silo Saga entries, and much of the original fiction inspired by Hugh Howey’s Wool novels, are multi-part stories, prompting readers to keep buying each new entry.  For the people reading this who are most familiar (and comfortable) with reading a complete work – how would you encourage them to buy a piece at a time, with the promise that more will follow?

Well, my work, The Veil, is a stand-alone piece. But, as I was finishing it, I had some fantastic (I hope) ideas for a sequel. Does the story stand on its own? It sure does and that’s what I intended. But…is there a place I can go in a sequel? Oh yeah.

I think, ultimately, authors need to make sure the story works by itself. Readers can deal with cliffhangers, but tell a story in the process. For me, as I’m writing my two sequels to The Veil, I plan on having a cliffhanger of sorts at the end of Part 2, but the main story I’m telling in that book will be finished at the end, leaving another complete story to be told in Part 3.

 

The Veil was always intended by me to be a stand-alone story. I really wanted to tell my own stories, but I also wanted to honor Hugh Howey and his influence on my writing career, so I planned a self-contained silo story. But, as the story told itself, I found myself thinking of ways that I could extend the story. I still finished The Veil, but my in the days immediately following the release of the book, I began to think of different storylines that I could go down for any possible sequels. 

Image…and so i’m going to officially announce the sequel to The Veil, entitled Behind The Veil. I had written the first chapter a month or so ago, but different projects took me away until this last week. I’ve made some good progress and like where the story is heading. Parts 2 and 3 (Beyond The Veil) will be more connected than Parts 1 and 2, but the main characters from the first book will definitely be recurring in the back part. I’ll liken it to The Matrix and its sequels, except my budget is significantly smaller. 

The protagonist (antagonist?) of The Veil was Mary Welcher, ordinary resident of the mids caught up in  her own circumstances. For Behind The Veil, the main character will be Ari Green, the Head of IT in Mary’s silo. 

There is no release date yet for Behind The Veil, let alone the third installment, but I’ll keep everyone posted as soon as I know more specifics.

Thanks for reading!