Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Coffin Dodgers: A Sci Fi Horror Book by [Adams, Tom G.H. ]

What would happen if THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME was set in the future, on an alien planet? What if instead of one person set loose in the wilderness, it was a team of competing extreme athletes?

That’s the simple premise behind the latest from Tom G.H. Adams, the aptly named COFFIN DODGERS. A group of extreme athletes and thrillseekers, here designated T-types, are sent to a newly discovered world, there to compete for a fat cash prize.

Soon, however, they discover that they are competing for more than money as they are being hunted and killed in a sadistic hunt. As I’ve come to expect from Tom, he leans way in on the horror, sometimes seeming to bring the gore for gore’s sake, but never ignoring the impact it has on his characters. While I do feel the motivation for his villain(s) is a bit over the top, I can appreciate how he worked the interplay of sex and violence into his text. He does an excellent job of getting into some of the characters heads, and I will say for villain of the piece, that was an insight I did not rightly relish.

Tom does an excellent job of setting up the tension between the hunters and the prey, and while there are elements of the chase I wish he would have explored more (how were the hunters tracking the other contestants? why didn’t the contestants realize something was fishy about the “contest” sooner?)

The novella did fall a little short for me in places. Given how it is set in the future, I would have appreciated a more diverse group of characters. All of them come from Earth, with no real delving into how a Mars colonist might compete. Some ethnic stereotypes are given broad strokes as well (the Australian pilot being the most glaring example). The planet as well, while interesting, relied heavily on it being an Earth analogue, albeit one still going through its own prehistoric development… complete with creatures that looked an awful like what you might find in Jurassic Park. I would have appreciated creatures perhaps a bit more alien, or at least flora that was less benign than what our contestants encountered here.

Overall, for a quick read, it is very enjoyable. 3 and a half stars.

You can pick up your own copy here on Amazon, and you can check out Tom’s website here.The book is releasing Feb 2nd.

Beasts, Brutes and Abominations by [Adams, Tom]

This collection of short stories and penny dreadfuls is a great addition for any aficionado of horror. Most of the stories are told from a first person point of view, inviting you to dive into the perspective of characters whose heads you might want to otherwise avoid, forcing you to confront the darkness in yourself.

The strongest story in the collection, in my opinion, is The Creche, a rumination on the afterlife and whether redemption is within the reach of everyone. Some of the stories come across more as fragments than as self-contained stories, but Mr. Adams acknowledges that, and even teases that they could well be developed into longer stories. I did enjoy the author notes following each of the longer stories as well, but that might be a quirk of my own as I enjoy seeing the thought process that went into the stories creation.

In short, if you are a fan of horror, you are doing yourself a disservice by not picking up this book post-haste.

You can pick up your own copy here on Amazon, and you can check out Tom’s website here.

Nostalgia and Ruin
by Cameron Mount

This is a collection of poetry that is perfect for a cold winter’s afternoon, sipping whiskey by the fire. It’s introspective without the self-pity. It’s a reflection of life’s mistakes without being maudlin. It’s every day failures without the banality. It’s acknowledging that relationships can fall apart without being the fault on any one party.

Mount draws comparisons between himself and Bukowski, and while the themes are similar, Mount’s poetry is more polished and less raw. More focused inward than with the outward hate. It is an acknowledgment that life often doesn’t go as planned, and yeah, we have to own those mistakes.

My favorite poem of the lot is “Smokebreaks,” an ode to the quiet moments between crises, and how a mundane act can help ground you amidst the extraordinary. It also highlights that sometimes you cannot communicate completely with others, even when you desperately need to.

Needless to say, I highly recommend picking up this collection.

Nostalgia and Ruin is currently available on Lulu, but it will be available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in the near future.

The Psychonaut (Book One of the Psychonaut Trilogy)
by Tom Adams
Writing in Starlight

Occult societies. Global conspiracies. Multiple worlds.

Yeah, I’d say this book is right in my sweet spot.

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Chapel of the Falcon

Chapel of the Falcon
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books, LLC

I picked this one up as I thoroughly enjoy Matt Spencer’s other work, the contemporary urban fantasy Deschembine series. This is a bit different, as it follows the adventures of Frederick Hawthorne, bartender and, for lack of a better term, problem solver.

The setting of the book is the smoke of Victorian London, but Spencer doesn’t linger there, setting off for the countryside of as well. Spencer paints a vivid picture, hooking the reader and dragging them in to a myriad plot dealing with witches, pacts, and otherworldly spirits.

Hawthorne’s earthy nature grounds the story well, but my biggest complaint is that very little is revealed about the protagonist. The reader is left with little idea as to why Hawthorne gets involved, other than it’s the end of the world and he kind of lives here too. He comes across a bit as a Victorian era John Constantine, and would fit in well with that trench coat wearing, chain smoking wizard.

As a final note, CHAPEL of the FALCON is not for the squeamish or faint of heart as there is some decidedly visceral imagery played to devastating effect.

4 of 5 stars.

Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes
By Jonathan Shaw
Harper Perennial

The friend who recommended me this book asked me how I liked it. My response?

“I’m not sure this is a book you ‘like’ or ‘don’t like.’ It’s compelling, it’s interesting, but there is little to like.”

Sure, Shaw paints an incredibly detailed vision of the favela’s of Rio de Janeiro. He dives head first into what it means to be addicted, to live with it every day. He makes the reader complicit in what is going on, perhaps hoping that Cigano (the narrator, but one who is less protagonist and more audience surrogate) and Narcisa (less a character and more a force of nature) will come out the other end relatively intact.

Cigano is a former addict and a thief, despite his claims at being a writer. Narcisa is a junkie, addicted to crack cocaine and wanting nothing less than to destroy herself and everything that comes in contact with her. The reader is treated to almost a day-by-day retelling of Cigano’s enrapture by Narcisa, of her destructive force in his life. Sure, Cigano gave up drugs on his own, but he becomes just as addicted to Narcisa, justifying it that he is trying to save her, one in a long line of saviors.

Shaw writes with conviction, having survived his own addictions, and his own demons. He writes with unabashed clarity and leaves little room for apologies. He writes not so much for the Narcisa’s of the world, wrapped in addiction and destroying those around them, but for the Cigano’s, that they might extricate themselves from the dark nihilists of the world.

My few complaints are that large chucks of the dialogue are all in bold and italic, which is meant to highlight the auditory assault of Narcisa on a full on rampage. The effect, however, is that the reader becomes numb and it loses effect. My other complaint is that the book drags on over long. Some of the segments could be condensed while still making the point and driving the plot. As a result, the book does read at times more like a diary then a novel. As a conceit, that works, but it also leads to fatigue for the reader where the same point is driven home more than once when it isn’t necessary.

I highly recommend this for anyone who wants a glimpse at the horror that lies underneath the veneer in Brazil, those that want a book to grab them by the back of the head and see just how terrible addiction can be. It stands as a warning sign, but it’s a beautiful one.

4 out of 5 stars.

Trail of the BeastThe Trail of the Beast
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books LLC

Sequels are hard. They need to live up to all the hype of the first book, continue the story, and keep the reader on the hook for the third piece. All while telling a concise story in and of itself.

While “The Night and the Land” (the first book of Matt Spencer’s Deschembine Trilogy) set up the expectation of an epic urban (for want of a better term) fantasy, “Trail of the Beast” is where he delivers. No longer are the main protagonists, Rob and Sally, figuring out their place in the world and with each other. They’ve grown comfortable with each and their lot, and perhaps a touch complacent. It’s this complacency that Spencer upends in dramatic fashion- starting with the abduction of Sally from her and Rob’s new home.

Whereas the first book had a sense of the personal, of a greater conflict encapsulated within the struggles of a few, here Spencer let’s events spiral dangerously out of control. Other players are dragged in. The status quo is dramatically changed, altered, and the very landscape is upended as a result.

Where Spencer is strongest though, continues to be the relationships, the drives, of his main characters. How their actions, especially Rob’s roaring rampage of revenge, affect the larger world is hinted at in places, but the reader doesn’t ever get a full sense of the chaos that’s going on in the world outside of a few hints. Pulling the focus off the characters a bit, going to the bigger picture for context, would probably have been useful to show that not only are Rob and Sally not in Kansas anymore, but the entire world has been irrevocably changed.

Spencer continues to excel at brutal combat situations, and he isn’t afraid to let his characters get as good as they give. The fights are brutal, and gory and reminiscent of the best of Joe Abercrombie and Matthew Stover.

Over all, I highly recommend “Trail of the Beast” to anyone who enjoys a vicious revenge tale, urban fantasy, and stories where another world lurks just underneath the surface of what they can see.

5 out of 5 stars.

Killing Pretty

Killing Pretty

By Richard Kadrey

In many ways, this book, the seventh in Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is a return to form, while simultaneously a step forward for James Stark, the eponymous Sandman Slim.

Gone are the world destroying powers. Gone is the ultimate escape clause. It’s a noir story in the sense that there is a mystery to be solved, powerful people to shake down, and the main character isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is.

Kadrey does a masterful job tapping into the California noir tradition of LA Confidential and Chinatown, and despite the supernatural elements of angels, Hellions, magic, and Death, the overall tone is kept grounded by the very real problems of managing relationships, holding a job, and dealing with local politics.

Where the book really shines, however, is in deconstructing the main characters’ usual modus operandi. Yes, going in without thinking gets results, sometimes even positive ones, but, at the end of the day it costs him more than he gains. It’s a lesson not just for life, but for other writers, in looking at the anti-hero character and seeing where it comes up short. It was also refreshing to see Kadrey spend more time on the characters surrounding Stark including Candy, his monster-girlfriend, Julia, the ex-Marshal turned private investigator, and Kasabian, the head on a robot body who runs the video store he and Stark co-own. (My biggest complaint? Not enough of the immortal French alchemist Vidoq, who probably could carry a series all by himself.)

So if you like high octane urban fantasy, if you like your heroes to come in shades of grey, and most importantly, if you enjoy noir, I highly recommend you pick up KILLING PRETTY.

I posted a review originally on Amazon for Matt Spencer’s The Night and the Land.

Consider this the extended version.

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Darkness Concealed: A review. 3 of 5 stars

Darkness Concealed

About the Book: 

50 years ago, the dawn did not come. Again. Everyone in Telthan knew it would happen. Monsters roamed the land, killing virtually everyone in their path, laying waste to anything in their way. Only a precious few survived to rebuild the wreckage of civilization, just like last time. No one questions the Darkening. Not even the children.

That is, until four strangers set off in search of answers, braving a forbidden city, a forgotten library, and foreboding mountains for the truth that has to exist. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, and the truth is far darker than the blackest night.

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