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Preview: The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review

The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review

Two guys with no lives and a multitude of books between them. Bringing you the finest reviews of books, whether they be new, old or out of print. Genres in which reviews will be offered: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror and anything that catches their fancy.

Updated: 2017-09-20T04:52:29.989-07:00


The Legend of Broken


Title: The Legend of BrokenAuthor: Caleb CarrPublisher: Random HouseISBN: 9780812984521Pages: 752While some fantasy/sci-fi books seem to have been weaved almost by magic, their author seemingly doing little more than trying to follow the nib held by a mystical hand, other works appear to have been cut from a very different cloth. Caleb Carr's books are the result of years and years of reading and digesting history, and boy, doesn't all that learning show. When the place and time are relatively static and confined, as in his stunning novel, The Alienist, the result is hard to resist, detail upon detail building on top of one another to create a tale so utterly real, you feel the necessity to imbibe every word and phrase.But when the landscape is less enclosed, as in the 8th century Germania across which The Legend of Broken sprawls and tumbles, the effect can be very different. Here, it's more akin to a master model-maker showing you the intricate world they've lovingly created, and then insisting on illuminating you about every last detail, when, really, all you want is for them to tell you a damn good story. So historically accurate does Carr wish The Legend of Broken to be, he even makes up a sub-story about the author having discovered the 'manuscript' for this book while poking around in the correspondence of 18th century historian Edward Gibbon. He maintains the semi-serious tone throughout the book, bolstering the work with endnotes and letters, and the story constantly breaks off to inform us of some 'important' nugget of information. We're left guessing as to how seriously we're meant to take this. Ultimately, I found it a little gimmicky, and Carr needs to remember that the story always comes first.For all the surface complexity, the story underneath the ornamentation is relatively straightforward. The plot follows the tense stand-off between various inhabitants of Broken, an early medieval city-state, and the Bane, a community created by the outcasts from the city, dwarvish people who have been ravaged by plague, the Bane seeks to take advantage of the chaos to seize back the city. Despite being restricted in size, the Bane have some cunning minds in their midst. They also have the wits of the enigmatic magician Caiphrestos and the legendary panther, Stasi, a relationship that Carr plays with constantly.The story, then, is relatively simple, even if the dense writing tries to obscure that. The real problem, though, is that much of the texture comes from the copious historical details. The psychological depth, in fact, is rather lacking. The best stories have an inner tension which the author expertly controls and manipulates, constantly tightening and untightening at key moments to keep us engaged and feeling the characters thoughts, motivations and emotions. Carr, though, doesn't know when to probe and when to hold off, and the book lurches between overdone and over-simplified.The Legend of Broken certainly isn't uninteresting to read, and it's the questioning of how an ancient community might have developed is rather intriguing. However, Carr really needs to allow us to feel the characters rather than treating us to large chunks of exposition posing as dialog. For a book this long and this detailed, the actual substance is surprisingly thin.~Claire[...]

The Time of Quarantine Review


Title: The Time of Quarantine
Author: Katharine Haake
Publisher: What Books Press
ISBN: 9780984578214
Pages: 294

The end of the world as we know it has formed the jumping-off point for so many novels, that it's hard to believe the unknowable contains anything we haven't read countless times before. And, yet, when we're in the hands of such an impeccable story-builder as Katharine Haake, the material becomes so original, so real, that it feels improbable that any other outcome should be possible.

The Time of Quarantine follows Peter, who has spent his earlier years being raised in a California commune. The commune was set up by Peter's father to protect its inhabitants from the disease and pestilence of the outside world. After its collapse, Peter leave his 'quarantine' to explore the outside world, and finds that the truth is very different from that recounted to him by his father. Along the way, he meets a similarly cast-adrift trio of characters, and together they start probing the land, looking for any remaining traces of humanity and identity. The book is set partly in the world of technology -- the protagonists have computer chips built into their brains, and trying to tap into these and make sense of the data stored within them forms part of the plot-action -- but also touches subtly on what might be happening to the environment. Haake is clearly well-versed in environmental science, and knowing the works of serious non-fiction writers like Jay Withgott and William Cunnhingham, and the other 'stories' they can tell us about what might be happening to the world, means that the author can weave little clues into the narrative without ladling it on.

Haake's voice is a lyrical one twisting and teasing words into long sentences and paragraphs that sometimes feel as though they have been minutely measured and weighed for perfection. It's a good thing this voice is so searing, as it tends to dominate the novel. We move between several different voices. None of these feel particularly distinctive from one another -- Haake is no Faulkner. And yet, because the author is so brilliant at tapping into fears and unlocking memories that feel vibrant and personal to all of us, it's hard not to feel this book penetrating to the core. At its essence, the book is about the world itself, and how it controls and acts upon the tiny characters within it. As such, it makes perfect sense that the protagonists should, at times become indistinguishable from one another.

This isn't a flawless novel. Some of the more finely wrought passages can feel slightly overblown and readers who don't like a challenge may struggle to survive until the end. Also, some of the details remain a little vague and obscure. At time, we're not really sure what the characters are doing. This sense of dislocation might be partly intentional, and Haake clearly intends us to feel as though we, too, are lost, helplessly groping around for meaning. Answers may prove hard to come by. Scintillating prose and innovative plot, though, are here in considerable quantity.


Return of the Sci-Fi Guy(s)


Well, it's been a minute. Just a little over a year. Life's been crazy, but I'm back on the saddle. For those who have been faithful, tuning in for new content here at Sci-Fi Guys, have no fear! I have returned.

The site will be bare for the next few weeks as I develop and write up new content. Expect some cool new stuff to pop up as well, particularly Rewind Wednesday, where every Wednesday I'll post a review of something old(er) that I've found appealing.

Stay tuned. And be good, folks!


Guest Blog: Author Justin Gustainis: Haunted Scranton


About a month ago I asked Mr. Gustainis to stop by Sci-Fi Guys and give us a little mouth watering tidbit to warm us up while we waited for the second book in his Haunted Scranton series to come out. But, since it's already been out for a while (I know, Bad Rodney!) consider Mr. Gustainis' guest blog a introduction to the series for those interested.Welcome to “Haunted Scranton”My books Hard Spell and Evil Dark (with Known Devil due out next Fall), are set in an alternate universe where supernatural creatures of every sort really exist – and everyone knows it. Although the publisher’s title for the series is “The Occult Crime Unit Investigations” I prefer to call it the “Haunted Scranton” series, since the books are set in and around Scranton, PA – but this is a Scranton with spooks.The series protagonist (and narrator) is Sgt. Stan Markowski, a veteran detective on the Scranton P.D.’s Occult Crimes Unit. Here’s Stan describing his job: “Being supernatural is legal in Scranton, just like anyplace else. And doing supernatural stuff is also legal – within reason. But if a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me.”I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to a few of the people (and some who aren’t, strictly speaking, people) and places in Haunted Scranton.--Stan’s boss, Lt. McGuire. His wife was kidnapped and murdered by a gang of werewolves, years ago. “McGuire’s a good guy and an okay boss, but there’s a darkness about him that has nothing to so with the fact that he doesn’t see much sunlight. He’s no vigilante – he believes in the law. But God help any supe [cop slang for supernatural creature] who breaks it.”--Rachel Procter, the Scranton Police Department’s Consulting Witch. One night, Stan visits Rachel’s office, to ask her for a necromancy that she does not want to perform. “Rachel Procter’s about five feet tall and built lean. She’s got auburn hair, smart-looking gray eyes, and a beautiful smile. The smile put in an appearance when I walked into her office, but when I told her what I wanted, it was gone, baby, gone. She was looking at me as if I’d suggested we have three-way sex with a goat some night. A real old, smelly goat.”--Barney Ghougle (not his real name, but everyone calls him that), a local ghoul and one of Stan’s best informants. “For the latest gossip, a ghoul will put a roomful of Polish grandmothers to shame,” Stan says. To no one’s surprise, Barney’s a mortician. “I hear his funeral home is pretty successful, but I’d never do business with him. I like my relatives to be buried with all their parts intact.”And if you visit Haunted Scranton, be sure to stop in for a drink (after sundown, naturally) at Renfield’s, the biggest “supe” bar in town. Most nights, you’ll find Elvira tending bar. That’s not her real name, but she’s dressed and made up in a good imitation of a certain TV horror hostess from the West Coast. Stan figures that the cleavage is probably good for tips. Most kinds of drinks are available in Renfield’s, but if you order a Bloody Mary, be sure to specify whether you want it with real blood.If you get the munchies, Stan recommends Three Witches Bakery. He’s always hearing their commercial jingle on the local radio station, WARD: “Nothing says lovin’ like something from the coven….”There are a couple of other people who are important in Stan’s life – his daughter, Christine and his partner, Karl Renfer. But I’d rather let you meet them for yourselves – and I hope that, one of these nights, you will. [...]

The Corpse-Rat King Cover Revealed


(image) Angry Robot just recently revealed the new cover and synopsis for what will be a debut novel from author Lee Battersby. Titled The Corpse-Rat King, when AR first made the announcement that they had signed Battersby on, without even knowing what the book was about, I was all in. With a kick ass name like The Corpse-Rat King, how can you not be?

And once again, AR has put my uneasy feelings at rest with providing Mr. Battersby with a kick ass cover (but, then again, aren't all of Angry Robot's covers pretty B.A.?). It definitely has a medieval plague meets Dante's Inferno feel to it. And why shouldn't it, especially with a synopsis like this:

Marius dos Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the kingdom of the dead.
Just like the living citizens, the dead need a king -- after all, the King is God's representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.
And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.
Just as soon as he stops running away.
With a release date of August 28th, I'm sure readers could start looking a few days before that for this awesome novel to hit the shelves of their local bookstore. And around the same time look for a review of The Corpse-Rat King.


Sela Book Review


Title: SelaAuthor: Jackie GamberPublisher: Seventh Star PressPages: 308ISBN: 9781937929893Sela is the sequel to Jackie Gamber's first young adult novel Redheart, which began the Dragons of Leland series published through Seventh Star Press. From the back of the book, here's the synopsis for Sela:Peace was fleeting. Vorham Riddess, Venur of Esra Province, covets the crystal ore buried deep in Leland's mountains. His latest device to obtain it: land by marriage to a Leland maiden. But that's not all.Among Dragonkind, old threats haunt Mount Gore, and shadows loom in the thoughts of the Red who restored life to land and love. A dragon hunter, scarred from countless battles, discovers he can yet suffer more wounds. In the midst of it all, Sela Redheart is lost, driven from her home with only her uncle to watch over her. As the dragon-born child of Kallon, the leader of Leland's Dragon Council, she is trapped in human form with no understanding of how she transformed, or how to turn it back.Wanderers seek a home, schemes begin to unfurl, and all is at risk as magic and murder, magic and mystery strangle the heart of Esra. A struggle for power far older and deeper than anyone realizes will leave no dragon or human unaffected. In a world where magic is born of feeling, where the love between a girl and a dragon was once transformative, what power dwells in the heart of young Sela?When I first started reading Sela, one of the things that I noticed about it almost immediately: it's ability to stand alone. Although Sela is part of a series, first and foremost it's a coming of age/young adult on the cusp of finding herself story. Gamber does an incredible job in highlighting and primarily focusing on Sela's story, while progressively interweaving the themes and major plotlines of the series, as an ideal middle book should do.I was surprised to pick up Sela and find that not a few, but several years have passed since the events in Redheart. Leaving all of the main cast from Redheart older; something that Gamber managed to write very well, and used to the stories advantage several times throughout Sela, including suppressing the characters that readers have grown to know, using them as a supportive cast for Sela.For those that have enjoyed Redheart, the return to Leland will be a familiar one, especially for younger readers. Although I haven't read many young adult novels, Sela ranks at the top for YA novels I would recommend. The language is sparse, what magic there is is simple enough to understand, and the story is appropriate for anyone to understand. And it's all written in Gamber's remarkable, clipped and to the point prose. Whether you're looking for a book for your kid, grand kid or just want something interesting to read, I can't stress enough how fitting and stunning Sela is, that's why I'm giving it 9.0 out of 10 TARDIS'. Like I said before, Sela works well as a stand alone, but if you want to start from the beginning (my personal recommendation), start with Redheart. You won't be disappointed!~Rodney[...]

Poseidon's Children Book Review


Title: Poseidon's ChildrenAuthor: Michael WestPublisher: Seventh Star PressPages: 332ISBN: 9781937929954Much like the publishers that came before them, readers may not know how to classify Poseidon's Children at first glance. As Michael mentioned last month in his guest blog, "Bringing Poseidon's Children to Life"; without realizing it, he had found himself ahead of the publishing curve with a manuscript that would in today's market easily be labeled urban fantasy. An amalgamation of Leviathan sized nightmares written into 332 pages of hair raising, bone chilling, fist pumping action with a little bit of adventure thrown in for good measure, Poseidon's Children has the perfect blend of two popular genres: science fiction with overtones of horror.And if you don't believe me, here's the synopsis from the back of the book:In Poseidon's Children, man no longer worships the old gods; forgotten and forsaken, they have become nothing more than myth and legend. But all that is about to change. After the ruins of a vast, ancient civilization are discovered on the ocean floor, Coast Guard officers find a series of derelict ships drifting in the current–high-priced yachts and leaking fishing boats, all ransacked, splattered in blood, their crews missing and presumed dead. And that’s just the beginning.Vacationing artist Larry Neuhaus has just witnessed a gruesome shark attack, a young couple torn apart right before his eyes… at least, he thinks it was a shark. And when one of these victims turns out to be the only son of Roger Hays, the most powerful man in the country, things go from bad to worse. Now, to stop the carnage, Larry and his new-found friends must work together to unravel a mystery as old as time, and face an enemy as dark as the ocean depths.In his first book in a projected four book series entitled The Legacy of the Gods, West manages to take Atlantian myths -- you know, from the fabled, ancient city of Atlantis -- and imbue them into an already great story, bringing a richer tapestry of world building to the urban fantasy genre. This is something that I've found to be absent in other urban fantasy series as of late. Where most urban fantasy authors are happy with writing the same thing with only marginal re-imaginings, West has breathed new life into a bloated, redundant genre, commanding it with a voice that cannot be ignored.Although it's not West's first published work, at times Poseidon's Children reads very much like a first novel. Slow in parts and lacking time for character development (this only applies to a few specific main characters), West still manages to pull off juggling such a large cast of characters fairly well, something he manages to pull off fairly well, with only a few bumps along the journey. Hopefully the second installment, Hades' Disciples will give the characters who weren't given the time to mature as main characters the opportunity to do so.Fast paced and in your face, there were several scenes that scared the living piss out of me and several more that made Poseidon's Children a memorable read for me; one that I'm not soon to forget. If you're looking for that subtle horror that West does so well, then be warned because there is nothing subtle about this novel! From the first gruesome "shark attack," readers will know exactly what they're dealing with as they delve into the deep with Poseidon's Children.If John Carpenter wrote prose, his pen name would be Michael West. Poseidon's Children reads exactly like a Carpenter film in all the right places, which isn't much of a surprise since Poseidon's Children was originally conceived as a screenplay. West proves that he can flawlessly write vivid scenes with a director's eye, tactfully inserting all of the Hollywood hallmark scenes and expectat[...]

Guest Blog: Author Chris F. Holm: The New Noir


I recently contacted Chris F. Holm after reading his debut novel from Angry Robot, Dead Harvest, and loved it so much I asked him to stop by The Sci-Fi Guys to share a bit about the genre of noir. The New NoirChris F. Holm“Noir” is perhaps the slipperiest term in all of literature. That’s in large part due to its muddy origins; our modern use of the term derives from the film noir of the ’40s and ’50s, which in turn borrowed heavily from the bleak crime tales that began cropping up in the U.S. during the Depression. James Cain, author of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY, is widely credited as the creator of the modern roman noir. Before Cain, the term was used to refer to what we’d now call Gothic novels, but afterward, the term took on a life of its own. Thing is, Cain wasn’t wild about the label, and those classic film noir flicks? Yeah, they weren’t called that then. The title was bestowed upon them by a French critic years after they began popping up in theaters, and the so-called noir canon wasn’t really well-defined until the ’70s, when critics and cinema historians adopted it en masse; before then, most of what we consider film noir were simply melodramas. So really, noir fiction is the result of a decades-long game of telephone that bounced from books to movies and back again, with stops on two continents along the way. (For a modern analog, ask any group of kids what “emo” means. I’ll bet you get a couple dozen different answers, none of which will correctly trace the term back to the hallowed ’80s D.C. hardcore punk scene. But I digress.)The definition that’s gotten the most traction of late is noir preservationist Eddie Muller’s; he called noir “working-class tragedy,” That ain’t half-bad, but it’s more descriptive of where noir’s been than what noir is. For my money, noir boils down to bleak humanism. It’s all about lousy options, bad decisions, and dire consequences.But regardless of whose definition you go with, you’ll notice something’s lacking: namely, any mention of genre. That’s because for as much as noir’s assumed to be a subset of crime fiction, it’s more vibe than subgenre. And, as many an enterprising modern writer seems intent on proving, that vibe is one that plays just as well with fantasy and science fiction as it does with crime. Witness William Gibson’s brilliant NEUROMANCER (which, okay, came out a while back, but then Gibson’s always been ahead of the curve), Jeff VanderMeer’s unsettling FINCH, or any number of works put out by my (utterly fantastic) publisher, Angry Robot, by folks like Adam Christopher, Tim Waggoner, and Lauren Beukes.Or, if you’d prefer, witness my humble entrant in the realm of fantastical noir, DEAD HARVEST.DEAD HARVEST is the tale of Sam Thornton, a man condemned to collect souls of the damned for all eternity, and ensure they find their way to hell. Sam was collected himself decades ago, after striking a deal with a demon to save his dying wife. When Sam’s dispatched to collect the soul of a young girl accused of slaughtering her family, he comes to believe she’s been framed. So he decides to do something no Collector’s ever done before: he defies hell and sets out to prove her innocence.Yeah, sure, DEAD HARVEST contains its share of crime. But I’d argue it’s not the crime that makes it noir. What makes it noir is Sam’s predicament – the fact that his choices led him down a path where the only redemption he’ll ever achieve in life is in his own mind, because his fate is long since sealed. What makes it noir is the fact that every option available to him is shit, and absolution’s off the menu.Of course, I could be wrong. But then, the book is what the book is, regardless of how it’s tagged. And if I’m very, verylucky, maybe twenty years from now, some enterprising historians wi[...]

Dead Harvest Book Review


Title: Dead HarvestAuthor: Chris F. HolmPublisher: Angry RobotPages: 384ISBN: 9780857662187Dead Harvest is the riveting debut of author Chris F. Holm. The novel first caught my interest several months back when Angry Robot made the announcement on their website that they had acquired a new author for a two book deal. I'll admit, the announcement piqued my interest, but what really got me all revved up and ready to review were the amazing hardboiled, pulp-style covers for both books. Without peeking at the first page, I knew what to expect.With Dead Harvest, Holm introduces Samuel Thornton, an archetypal, chain-smoking, hardboiled badass. But he's not your typical badass; he's a Collector of Souls. After striking a deal with a demon to save his dying wife, he's now damned to an afterlife worse than Hell, Sam hunts the souls of those who have been marked with similar fates. When he's assigned to pluck the soul from a young woman named Kate, whom he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime of killing her family, he does something no Collector has ever done before: Sam refuses to dispatch her soul to Hell. What culminates within the pages of Dead Harvest are the repercussions of uttering such a phrase. Sam will have to do everything within his power to keep the world from ending while proving the innocence of his assignment. With such a powerful synopsis, I found myself jonesing for more before I had even managed to crack the spine of Dead Harvest. From the cover of the book to the basic premise, I couldn't wait to dive in. When I finally did, I found myself prolonging the inevitable: finishing it. With his debut novel, Holm's managed to do something that not many authors have been able to do in the span of an entire career, let alone with their debut novel: flawlessly mesh urban fantasy with a darker, grittier sub-genre that urban fantasy demands. Although not the first to do so, Holm has certainly managed to set himself apart from authors who preceded him. I think within the next six months to a year, a handful of authors will float to the surface to be the new torchbearer's for the noir genre, and Chris F. Holm will be leading the charge. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Angry Robot spearheads this quasi-renaissance. With such an arsenal of titles already in their quiver (and with more in the works, they'll be hard to stop.On the run from demons, angels, forgotten gods, and a kamikaze Collector named Bishop, Thornton will do anything he can to save the life of Kate, even if that means being chased through New York City while he plans his next move (cue: Robert Johnson's "Hellhounds on My Trail"), and decides on Kate's innocence. With succinct prose and believable characters, Holm introduces not only a hardboiled hero, but a supporting cast that carries the pace, while also building the intensity. Something I would have never expected from a first novel.  Holm does a wonderful job of filling in the reader as the story unfolds, using flashbacks perfectly; right when I wanted to keep reading, he threw me into the past. There wasn't a single infodump throughout the entire novel. Instead, Holm flawlessly jumps through time and space to show the reader everything they need to know.For those that like noir or are curious to see it blended with a more popular genre, then don't miss Dead Harvest . Memorable characters, situations and style are all the things that will keep me coming back for more of Holm's work in the future. The Wrong Goodbye, -- the sequel to Dead Harvest -- is already on my TBR pile for 2012, and will probably land at the top when an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) surfaces. Holm delivered in spades, and I loved every second of it. That's why I'm giving Dead Harvest 8.5 out of 10 TARDISes.   Yeah, it was that good.~Rodney[...]

RJ Sullivan Signs to Seventh Star Press


Congratulations to one of our very own Sci-Fi Guys, RJ Sullivan, for his new four book deal with Seventh Star Press! Labeled as a writer of Paranormal Thrillers, here's the full press release as per Seventh Star's site:Seventh Star Press proudly announces a four book deal with author R.J. Sullivan, making him the seventh author to come aboard the publisher's main roster.The addition of R.J. Sullivan comes close after Seventh Star Press' strongest year yet, during which titles such as Jackie Gamber's Redheart and Michael West's Cinema of Shadows received excellent critical reception, and the artwork featured by the press also received increased recognition, as Matthew Perry recently won Top Cover Art in the 2011 Readers Choice Awards for his cover art on Stephen Zimmer's The Seventh Throne.The first title to be released by Seventh Star Press, Haunting Obsession, tells the story of Daryl Beasley.  Daryl collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl's girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all. Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta's birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he'll never forget.A member of the Indiana Horror Writers, R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona "Blue" Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren. R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona's story, Virtual Blue, which will be released in 2013, followed by two more novels over the course of 2013 and 2014. "I was with Michael West at several events last year, and I couldn't help but notice the slick marketing materials he was handing out," R.J. Sullivan commented as to why he wanted to bring his work to Seventh Star Press.  "I saw how Seventh Star had a personal presence nearby to assist at the cons. I realized that having the publisher at those events changes the convention vibe, which can otherwise be an isolated experience. I love that they produce interior artwork as part of their product--it shows an understanding of the genre and its readers.  It's clear Seventh Star understand the modern publishing world, and does everything they can to open up opportunities for the author to succeed."Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art and illustrations are featured in Seventh Star Press titles such as D.A. Adams' The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, will be creating the artwork for the R.J. Sullivan novels.Haunting Obsession will be released in limited hardcover, softcover (trade paperback), and several eBook editions, including versions for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, and Sony-compatible devices.For further information on R.J. Sullivan and the upcoming releases, please visit or the author's site at www.rjsullivanfiction.comAgain, congratulations to Sci-Fi Guy RJ Sullivan!~Rodney [...]

Switchblade Goddess Book Review


Title: Switchblade GoddessAuthor: Lucy A. SnyderPublisher: Del ReyPages: 323ISBN: 9780345512116I have to be honest here: I've been waiting to read this book since the moment I shut the cover of Shotgun Sorceress. It didn't help that at Mo*Con last year, Lucy was awesome enough to read from Switchblade Goddess, so needless to say, it's been a painful year of waiting. But now, alas, the waiting is over.I wasn't sure how to take the release of Switchblade Goddess. On one hand, I was excited to see what happened next, especially after the succulent morsel Mrs. Snyder read at Mo*Con, but on the other, I was reluctant to open to the first page. Because, no matter what, once I started reading there would be no turning back, and ultimately, when the book ended, so would the incredible story that Mrs. Snyder has managed to weave.After much contemplating, I finally dug in. It was three hours before I finally decided to acknowledge the outside world, or for that matter, air to breath. The next night, I finished the book, much to my chagrin. It was everything I expected, and so much more. Let's just say there were a lot of tears and fist pumps along the way.If Spellbent was dark, and Shotgun Sorceress was darker, then Switchblade Goddess is a nosedive straight into hell! Switchblade Goddess picks up right after Shotgun Sorceress, except now things have gone from worse to unfathomable. Jessie has to deal with Miko in her hellement, while the Warlock and Cooper (Jessie's lover) deal with one of Cooper's younger brothers. As the story dives closer and closer to hell, things begin to unravel and get worse for Jessie, including an exorcism-like ceremony, and the poisoning of one of the most enjoyable characters Snyder has created within Jessie's universe.The main theme of Switchblade Goddess featured heavily on possession; fighting inhibitions and personal demons, and outside invaders to body and soul. Whether Snyder intentionally set out to do this or not, it worked remarkably well as a tool for tying up the majority of the loose ends that have popped up since Jessie's introduction in Spellbent. This has become a pet-peeve with me within recent years; not every author can manage to so elequantly tie up loose ends like Lucy can.Snyder finds a way to successfully immerse the reader back into the world of Jesse Shimmer, picking up the trails and hell that she's gone through before, and the desperation of the situation that she finds herself in with Switchblade Goddess. With hardly any new major characters to introduce, Switchblade Goddess mainly sticks to resolving the older, and new stray storylines that pop up along the way to the series climactic ending.As for the story as a whole, at times I cried, but for the most part I couldn't help but jump up and down in hysteria, waking everyone in the house with my squees of glee. If you've read this far in Jesse Shimmer's adventures, then you know what you're in for: a tight story, characters you love to hate, a special kind of magic that leaves you wanting more, and all the sexual tension you can handle without having to excuse yourself for some alone time. None of that lacks in Switchblade Goddess. In fact it's more prevalent than in any of the past tiltes. That's why I'm giving Switchblade Goddess 8.5 out of 10 TARDISes.~Rodney [...]

Guest Blog: Author Michael West: Bringing Poseidon's Children to Life


2012 is going to be a big year for Sci-Fi Guys Book Review. Each month will see several authors either make a guest blog appearance or an interview appearance, which will focus on their new or up and coming titles. This month, and the first guest blog of the year on Sci-Fi Guys, is from author Michael West.By now readers of this site should be familiar with West's name. Last year he made the Best of 20111 list not once, but twice. He also made the Most Anticipated Releases of 2012 list with his new novel Poseidon's Children, which launches the first book in a four part Urban Fantasy series entitled Legacy of the Gods. With the release of Poseidon's Children just a little over a month away, I thought it only fitting to invite Michael to share a bit of the story behind Poseidon's Children.So, without further ado, here's Michael West: Bringing Poseidon’s Children to LifeOr: How the Star Warsof Horror became the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Urban FantasyBy Michael WestI had a very vivid, very strange dream. Some dreams fade as soon as you open your eyes. Others stick with you for days. This particular dream has been with me for over twenty years. It involved an ancient stone temple, with odd markings etched into its walls, and a very seductive sea-creature. Most people have fantasies about movie stars and musicians; mine get directed by H.P. Lovecraft.  Go figure.Inspired by the visuals of this dream, I set about writing a screenplay. I was still in college at the time, studying film and television, still holding onto my boyhood dream of being the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron. This was back when computers used huge 5 ¼” floppy discs to store information. I had a case full of them, and in between classes, you could find me in one of the campus computer labs, working on my epic. It was dark, filled with horrible monsters and bloody mayhem, with a touch of Science-Fiction sprinkled throughout; a project that I lovingly described to friends as “the Star Wars of Horror.”I never finished that script. The more I wrote, the more I realized that the story I wanted to tell was just too large in scope for my meager budget at the time. Instead, I took all the work I’d done and began the task of converting dialogue and stage direction into paragraphs and prose.   When I finished the first third of my manuscript, I printed it off in sections using the computer lab’s dot matrix printer (Oh man, I’m really dating myself here!), and like a proud papa, I handed it off to some friends, asking them to offer their critiques. I didn’t have the time or paper to print more than one copy, so this huge ream of paper--about two hundred pages worth--got passed along from one person to another, each one writing me notes along the way.Then, tragedy struck. Remember those 5 ¼” discs I told you about? Well, I lost them. All of them.  Don’t ask me how. I left them in a classroom, dropped them in a parking this day, I still have no idea where they are. At the start of the day, I had them, and at the end of the day, they were gone, and with them went my novel-in-progress.  But at least I still had that hard copy, right?  Nope. I went back to all of my friends, trying to track it down, but I had no better luck with them than I’d had with those classrooms and parking lots. No one seemed to know where that stack of paper was, and even if they did, nobody wanted to admit that they were the one who lost it.And so, for a time, I tried to forget about the story and move on.  I mean sure, I could’ve gone back and started the novel all over again from scratch. But let’s be honest, shall we: it’s one thing to have your friends and family give you some bad feedback on a proj[...]

A Pack of Wolves Book Review


Title: A Pack of Wolves
Author: Eric S. Brown
Publisher: Gran Mal Press
Pages: 132
ISBN: 9781937727062

A Pack of Wolves is the first book in a new series by horror author Eric S. Brown. In a handful of years Eric S. Brown has gone from a nobody to a somebody, especially when it comes to Bigfoot or weird westerns that have a horror edge. With novella length titles like Bigfoot War, Bigfoot War II: Dead in the Woods, The Weaponer, Last Stand in a Dead Land, and How the West Went to Hell, Brown has managed to carve out not only his name, but a large section of territory in the horror genre.

A few days before A Pack of Wolves released, Brown posted on Facebook that he would be handing out a few electronic copies for review. Since an Eric S. Brown title was virgin territory for my hungry eyes, and because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, I volunteered to review it.

A Pack of Wolves tells the story of "The Family." To say that the phrase: "A family that kills together, stays together," would be adequate in this family's case would be a lie. After one of the brothers decides to go rogue, it's up to the remaining family members to band together to stop him from bringing about the end of the world, exposing the family's secret, and acknowledging the existence of werewolves.

If you're looking for a story that leaves cliches at the door, you might want to look elsewhere. Before the story can even properly start, Brown manages to fill "The Family" full of cliches. There's Graham, the older, wiser brother who takes charge and reigns in his younger siblings to help stop their bloody thirsty brother. Then, there's Shannon, the outcast of the group, who has fallen in love with a human; an undesirable who he's managed to start a life with. And don't forget the added muscle, because there's nothing better than knowing a hulking behemoth of a man is watching your back. In case that's too much testosterone for you, let's not forget Sarah, the busty, drop-dead gorgeous redhead who is the eye candy for every male within a mile radius.

The story begins with the execution of the parents of "The Family" by a fourteen man posse with a man in white spearheading the group. From there the story begins. "The Family" assembles under the supervision of Graham, and the pack sets out to kill their kin or die trying.

At 132 pages, A Pack of Wolves is a quick read. Yes it's short, but it's worth it if you're looking for a quick, mindless read that you can get through in a matter of an hour or two.  With hardly any connective tissue, A Pack of Wolves reads as though Brown decided to only write the pivotal scenes, leaving out room for character development or for that matter, a better story. That's why I'm giving A Pack of Wolves 4 out of 10 TARDISes.


A Look Ahead: Most Anticipated Releases of 2012


Since I've taken a look back on last year, I figured I'd give you all a glimpse forward of the titles that I'm most looking forward to cracking open in 2012. Some of these have book covers that have already been released, and other don't. For those books that don't have a cover yet, I'll post them when they're released. Also, not all of the books in this list have an available synopsis yet, but when they become available, I'll link them.So, in no particular order, here's a list of books that I'm looking forward to reading in 2012:First up, is Gaie Sebold's debut fantasy novel, Babylon Steel, which, although it came out in the very tail-end of 2011, I'm still counting as a 2012 release. From the moment I saw it on Amazon, I knew I was going to pick up a copy and review it. Luckily enough, the kind folks over at Solaris sent me a review copy, along with Christopher Fowler's new horror novel, Hell Train, which I'll also be reviewing soon.One of my favorite characters in recent years has been James Enge's crooked maker, Morlock Ambrosius. Not only is James a great guy, but he's also one hell of a writer too. One of the first authors that was interview for the Sci-Fi Guys podcast, I've kept a very close eye of Enge since that interview, and I'm super excited for the release of his new Morlock novel, A Guile of Dragons, which is slated for an August release. Here's a synopsis of the book from amazon: Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.The dwarves are cut off from the Graith of Guardians in the south. Their defenders are taken prisoner or corrupted by dragonspells. The weight of guarding the Northhold now rests on the crooked shoulders of a traitor's son, Morlock syr Theorn (also called Ambrosius).   But his wounded mind has learned a dark secret in the hidden ways under the mountains. Regin and Fafnir were brothers, and the Longest War can never be over. . .Since the release of The Desert of Souls, I've had my eye on author Howard Andrew Jones. An editor for Black Gate Magazine, -- the same magazine in which Enge's Morlock first appeared, and Enge found his start -- The Desert of Souls is currently on my TBR pile, after accidentally stumbling upon it at my library. I've read the first chapter, and I'm seriously looking forward to not only reviewing the first book in the series, but also getting my hands on it's sequel, Bones of the Old Ones, which has one of the most badass covers I've seen in a while.And while I'm on sequels, I'll throw a couple of more at you. First up, is the second book in Justin Gustainis's Occult Crimes  series, which started with Hard Spell, and continues with Evil Dark, which is slated for a May release. Hard Spell made my Top 11 List of 2011, coming in at number three. So, to say that I'm seriously looking forward to reviewing Evil Dark goes without saying. If it wasn't for being a sequel to a book I've already read, I probably would have picked this book up based solely on it's cover.One of the authors that I've come to enjoy within the past few years is Karen Miller, whose novel A Blight of Mages also made my Top 11 of 2011 list. Since picking up and reviewing the first novel in her Rogue Agent series, The Accidental Sorcerer, I've been following her blog. After many troubles with her health, and fighting to finish the manuscript for the newest Rogue Agent novel, she's begun researching and outlining for a new series which she's dubbed The Tarnished Crown Quartet. Although I'm looking forward[...]

The Best of 2011: Publishers


While writing up my Top 11 of 2011 post, my brain kept coming back to dozens of titles, all of which were excellent, and all of which I read in 2011. Needless to say, it wasn't easy trying to come up with a list of the best reads of last year. Each title I mulled over, until, finally, I had a preliminary list. As I looked over each title that had made the list, one thought kept sticking out to me: the publishers.Just as important as the author, the publishers are the ones who make it possible in most cases for the authors on my 2011 list to be read and reviewed by people like me. After some thought, I finally decided to do two Best of 2011 posts, the first being books, and the second post -- this post -- focusing on the publishers.So, who were my top publishers of 2011? Well, when I broke it down, there were only a handful that immediately came to mind. In no particular order, they are:Seventh Star Press - Although Seventh Star has been around for a few years, it hasn't been until recently that they've made a splash in the water. 2011 saw their author roster increase significantly with authors such as: D.A. Adams, David H. Blalock, and Michael West.2011 also saw some major releases from Seventh Star as well. The Fall of Durkhon, Redheart, Cinema of Shadows, Angelkiller, The Seventh Throne, are all titles that hit the shelves this year. And if that's what they've managed to produce in 2011, I can't wait to see what they do in 2012! Fantasy, Horror, and Urban Fantasy fans should take note. If you want good, quality reads that don't take a bite out of your check should head over to Amazon and check out there $2.99 e-books.And for those of you that might be unsure, or don't want to spend $2.99 on an e-book that they might not enjoy, should check out their 8 e-book short stories for only $.99, from authors Stephen Zimmer, Michael West, and Steven Shrewsbury.I have no doubts that 2012 will be a very good year for Seventh Star!Deadite Press - A relatively new small press -- and an imprint of Eraserhead Press -- Deadite specializes in cult horror authors that have managed to make a name for themselves, and along the way amassed overflowing flocks of followers. So it's no surprise that they produce great and sometimes hard to find titles from authors including: Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, Edward Lee, Robert Deveraux, Wrath James White, G.F. Gonzalez, and Nate Southard. Two of the eleven titles that made it onto my Top 11 of 2011 list were Deadite titles, so they must be doing something right!Angry Robot - And finally, the sleeping giant of the list, and of 2011: Angry Robot. Founded in 2008 by Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot has been going strong since, and gaining momentum at every turn. In less than three years, Angry Robot has managed to enlist some of the biggest names in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (Dan Abnett, K.W. Jeter, Tim Waggoner) and along the way found new names of future greats (Maurice Broaddus, Lauren Beukes, Lavie Tidhar, Adam Christopher, Matt Forbeck).Angry Robot managed to release a massive list of titles in 2011, and have already begun to announce some great titles for 2012, including Giant Thief, Dead Harvest, Carpathia, Evil Dark, The Corpse-Rat King, The Alchemist of Souls, The Hammer and the Blade (all titles I'm looking forward to with much excitement).If 2011 is any indication, I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be one hell of a year for books!~Rodney[...]

The Best of 2011: Books


Now that the New Year is over with and things have had time to settle down, I figured I would go ahead and put up my Top 11 list of 2011. These are the the cream of the crop; the 11 titles that I enjoyed reading the most in 2011. This year I didn't get around to writing a review of everything that a read, let alone enjoyed, so this list might look a little different than the list of books that I reviewed in 2011.Most all of the titles in this list, in one way or another, were published in 2011. For instance, Nate Southard's Just Like Hell was originally published a few years back as a limited edition, but this year Deadite Press re-released it in an affordable paperback, therefore counting as a 2011 release.So, without further ado, here's my top 11 List of 2011:1.) Every Shallow Cut - One of the most powerful pieces of work I've read in a long time. It's gritty, real, and has a razors edge to it that will cut you if you aren't careful. This is Picirilli at his best. It'll be interesting to see if Picirilli can top Every Shallow Cut with his forthcoming 2012 titles: What Makes You Die, which Pic has already stated is in the same vein as ESC. If you like Noir, and stories that don't have a happy ending, then this is your cup of tea. And it's a rather short read, which makes it even easier to digest. I knocked it out in only a few hours.2.) The Wide Game - The debut novel of horror author Michael West. A writer, I think many don't have an eye on yet, but should, and soon will. A man who loves his cinematic horror, the knowledge and appreciation for the genre shine through in The Wide Game. Add to that beautifully written prose that will at once steal your breath, send a chill down your spine, and make you lose all track of time, The Wide Game takes the reader back to a time when horror was thriving. Back to a time where storytellers and Hollywood didn't rely on gratuitous violence and stupid gore to shock the connoisseur. Back to a time when this novel would have easily made the New York Times, and quite possibly rivaled the newest Stephen King title.3.) Hard Spell - The first book in the Occult Crime Unit series by Justin Guistainis, Hard Spell is a hard hitting crime story wrapped in a balls-to-the-walls premise, masquerading as an urban fantasy detective story. If you like cops, vampires, and an author with a great sense of humor, then Hard Spell is definitely for you. As soon as I finished it, I was hooked and ready for more. I'm glad that the release of the next book in the series, Evil Dark, is only a few months away (April), otherwise I'd be having issues.4.) Just Like Hell - One of the best novellas I read in 2011. So much of the literature that's crammed into the horror genre is nothing more than gore porn; written for the soul purpose of invoking shock and awe in the reader. It was refreshing to pick up a title that, although the cover would have you think otherwise, was nothing like what I thought it would be. "Don't judge a book by its cover," is I admit, exactly what I did. Luckily enough for me, I was proven wrong. There's nothing in life that's more shocking than the truth. Something that's surreal; vivid to the point of believing you saw it headlining the news. Just Like Hell was the read for me. More so than anything else I read in 2011.5.) A Blight of Mages - One of the few books I read in 2011 that hit me emotionally, and made me think from start to finish. It wasn't until I read  A Blight of Mages, that the phrase: "respect isn't owed, it's earned," made sense to me, and since then it's taken on a personal meaning for [...]

Seventh Star Press Author Interviews and Give Away!


I'm excited to bring to you all the first interview of the year. And if I do say so myself, what a way to start off the year! I've been a fan of Seventh Star Press for around a year now, so when they announced that they would be doing .$99 e-short stories, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I've been wanting to find a way to share the works of the Seventh Star authors I've read, without have to lend out my personal copies. So, when Stephen Zimmer asked if I would be interested in doing an interview with himself and two of the other featured authors and do a massive give away, I jumped at the opportunity. There will be three give aways. Each contest winner will receive the eight short stories in their choice of electronic formats (Kindle, Nook).In order to win, just leave a comment at the end of this post with your name and e-mail, or you can just e-mail me directly at scifiguysbookreview (at) gmail (dot) com or,  ( The contest will run from today until January 19th at midnight. The winners of this awesome give away will be announced the next day.For those interested here's a breakdown of the short stories by their authors (with my rating of each next to the titles):Stephen Shrewsbury:Author and Finisher of Our Flesh 4/5Insurmountable 4/5Stephen Zimmer:Temples Rising 3.5/5Into Glory Ride 5/5Lion Heart 4/5Land of Shadow 3.5/5Michael West:For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry 4/5Goodnight 5/5Now, without further ado, I give you three of Seventh Star Press' authors, Steven Shrewsbury, Stephen Zimmer and Michael West:SFG: “For the River is Wide and the Gods are Hungry,” has a very Harlan Ellison feel to it. Was that intentional?MW: Well, the title is a tribute to Ellison, not the story itself.  I'm a huge fan of his work, especially his work for Sci-Fi televison. One of my favorite titles ever was for a classic Star Trek episode, "For All the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." I always wanted to have a long, cool-sounding title like. The original title for my short story collection was My Skull Is Full of Dark Kisses, but some writer friends urged me to shorten it. Most publishers want short 1-3 word titles for novels and collections now, so I thought my best chance to have that long, cool title in was on a piece of short fiction, and this one really fits the story well.SFG: “Author and Finisher of Our Flesh,” and “Insurmountable,” are the two Gorias La Gaul short stories that have been released in the first wave of the Seventh Star Short Stories. Because La Gaul has such a vast history, does it matter in which order these two shorts are read?SS: Gorias is 700ish in THRALL. I’d say AUTHOR takes place probably two hundred years before that (and there are a few hints at the forthcoming prequel, OVERKILL, and a General from that novel, and a different realm, are mentioned in foresahdowing events there). For example, the monarch that might come to the throne is mentioned in AUTHOR, but in OVERKILL that man is long dead and his aged daughter rules. In this pre-flood world, many live to be to their 900s, but in different points of the world, the process is slower. INSURMOUNTABLE is earleir than AUTHOR by quite a bit, showing La Gaul a tad younger. SFG: Your four short stories all seem to have a certain feel to them, each one striking a different chord with me as I read them. Is music a major factor in your writing? Were there any specific soundtracks or albums that you listened to while writing these stories?SZ: I always listen to m[...]

2012: The Year of Books


Well folks, another year has come and gone. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year!

Believe it or not, it's another year I missed my reading goals. I did manage to read a large number of titles, but didn't manage to put up as many reviews as what I should have. This year will most definitely be different. Yes, a large majority of people who make New Years Resolutions say that, and never make it through the full year with their goals still in tact.

You see, for the last few years, I've set the goal of reading 100 titles in a year. Novels, novellas, biographies, short story anthologies/collections, trade-paperback comics... they all count towards my goal of 100. I haven't managed to actually read that many books in a year, but I have a feeling that this year will be different. It's not even the middle of January yet, and I've already hit read 13 titles. Most of which will get a review here on Sci-Fi Guys. However, not all of the books that I plan on reading this year will get a review on Sci-Fi Guys. Those that aren't speculative fiction, will see mention, and maybe a brief review on my personal writing website, The Bloody Pen. I'm already keeping track of all the titles that I've read, on a special page all to themselves.

I've also promised myself that I'll read a short story a day for a full year. 2012 is that year. It was a personal challenge that I adapted, after having a fairly in-depth discussion about the concept with Bizarro author Nicole Cushing. Unless the short story anthologies/collections that I read in 2012 are speculative fiction, a review for them will show up on the site. This, I've discovered, will help me two-fold: 1.) I don't post enough short story reviews, and 2.) I don't read enough short stories.

But, I digress...

Stay tuned folks, because this year is going to be crazy with more reviews, interviews and give-aways than you'll know what to do with!


Author Interview: Ty Schwamberger


A few months ago, Ty Schwamberger asked around for people interested in reviewing his novella The Fields. I of course, jumped on the chance. There's nothing I love more than sitting down to read the works of a newer name. After finishing The Fields, I contacted Ty once more and asked if he would be interested in stopping by for a bit and answering a few questions. Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he's had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, 'Cake Batter' (released in 2010) and 'House Call' (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association. Ty is also the Managing Editor of The Zombie Feed Press, an imprint of Apex Publications. You can learn more at: http://tyschwamberger.comSo, without further-ado, here's my interview with Horror author Ty Schwamberger:SFG: The Fields isn't your typical zombie novella. Care to share what it's about?Ty: You're absolutely right. The Fields is anything but typical. I always wanted to try my hand at writing a zombie story, but didn't want to just re-hash "zombies are coming, we better blow their heads off" type story. No. I wanted something different, deeper, thought provocating. But first I needed an atypical setting. That's when I came up with the time period of the mid-1800s on a southern plantation after the slaves were freed. From there, I didn't want it to be: Billy (the main character) sees his tobacco plants are dying and digs up some dead former slaves and reanimates them. I needed a sinister element. That's when I came up with the character, Abraham, which incidentally looks a lot like Lincoln. Once a day, Abraham knocks on Billy's door; offering salvation for the farm and Billy. Billy then must decide if he's going to be like this father (an angry land owner that beat his slaves while he was alive) or let the fields continue to wither away under the hot, southern sun. To quote a part of the introduction by Jonathan Maberry: “[The Fields]…is part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense.”When I go back and read the story now, it almost took on a commentary on yesterday and today's social climate. I didn't exactly set out to do that, but I think that's what happened. THE FIELDS is truly terrifying because it deals with real-life issues, not just a crazied zombie running around trying to find their next hot, skull-full of brains to munch down upon. In fact, I think fans of the zombie subgenre, even just general horror buffs, will dig the story a lot, if they give it a chance. SFG: With The Fields, you've managed to combine history with zombies. Is that what you originally set out to do: combine a genre and a sub-genre to create a story?Ty: I graduated from college in 2000 with a BA in History. It was really the only subject I ever liked in school. Of course at the time, I had no idea what I was going to do with it (in reality, unless you go into teaching, it's a pretty useless degree). During my history classes, I always enjoyed reading historical fiction. In fact, one of my favorite non-horror books is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. As I said before, I didn't want this to be a "normal" zombie story. So, I took my two loves -- horror and history -- putting them together to make a somewh[...]

The Fields Book Review


Title: The Fields
Author: Ty Schwamberger
Publisher: The Zombie Feed
Pages: 82
ISBN: 9781937009021

WARNING: The Fields is not your typical zombie story.

The Fields is the newest offering from author Ty Schwamberger. A novella-length tale, it feels at times as though it's telling much larger and much more significant story than its 82 pages.

With the death of his father, Billy Fletcher is left the plantation with which his family has made their living from for decades. Empty of slaves, and nothing but dead and dying fields, Billy is left with the major task of restoring the Fletcher's land to its past glory; eeking every bit out of the soil as is humanly possible for young Billy. That is, until one day, a strange, mysterious figure appears by the name of Abraham, offering to make Billy's burden much lighter.

With his choices running out, Billy makes the decision that puts him in charge of the risen slaves. But with the second life that the slaves have been given, can Billy be the master that his father never was? Can Billy manage to bring the plantation back to what it once was? And most importantly, what does the mysterious figure known only as Abraham really want?

The answers to these questions, and many others are addressed in a smart, engaging, politically thoughtful way, in The Fields.

Ty Schwamberger -- a relatively new voice in the Horror genre -- manages to do something in 82 pages that most authors can't do in the entirety of their writing careers: he makes you think. And not just in a think-while-you-read kind of way. Oh no. He'll have you questioning not only the contents of The Fields, but the politics and history that built this country.

Although the slaves of the Fletcher Plantation return as reanimated corpses with the single purpose of doing their master's bidding, the reader must look past the rotting flesh and their mundane torture; past the dying fields and the mysterious Abraham. Instead, one must look to the heart of the story. Its one part coming of age, one part reconciliation, and a hundred percent heart-wrenching.

For the horror reader looking for the typical blood and guts, bullet-to-the-head zombie story, you might want to look elsewhere. The Fields offers none of these cliches. Instead it delivers its shivers with the utmost subtliness, and the elegance of a stiletto peircing your side and cleaving the heart. That's why I'm giving The Fields by Ty Schwamberger 7.5 out of 10 TARDIS's.

If you're looking for a read different from the typical zombie norm, then look no further. Ty Schwamberger delivers!


The Red Duke Book Review


Title: The Red DukeAuthor: C.L. WernerPublisher: Black LibraryPages: 413ISBN: 9781849700733With the last of Earl Gaubert d'Elbiq's sons dead, sent to their deaths by their own father, an already existing blood feud between the d'Elbig's and the du Maisne's comes to an epic climax.Seeking revenge for the deaths of his sons, Earl Gaubert heeds the words of one of the lowliest peasants in his court, and seeks out a witch named Jacquetta who promises to lead him to the unmarked tomb of the Red Duke. And with the help of  Renar, -- a peasant Necromancer -- instill the powers of the duke into vessel's of Earl Gaubert's choosing."Beware you sons of Britonnia! Beware the forces of darkness that lie in wait to tempt and trap even the strongest soul! Beware the sad end of the heroic knight, that defender of chivalry and crown! Beware, you children of Aquitaine, lest your wickedness draw down upon you the foul curse of the Red Duke!" - Jacques the TroubadourOnce known as El Syf ash-shmel, or "the North Sword," by the Arabyans, the Duke of Aquitaine cast fear into the hearts of his enemies, even before his vampiric resurrection as the Red Duke. Entombed after a bloody battle upon the Fields of Ceren, it will take everything within the Lady of the Grail's reach to help to bring the Red Duke's resurrected reign to a final and bloody end.Werner, a veteran of the halls of the Black Library delivers a bloody brilliant approach to vampires, Warhammer Fantasy style. Now, granted I haven't read too much of Warhammer Fantasy, but what I have read I've liked for the most part. More specifically the vastness of the world building. After finishing The Red Duke, I've come to the conclusion that Werner knows his stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if the man lives and breathes the source material. And this shows more than anything in the thoughtful layout of the novel.Beginning with each chapter and speckled throughout The Red Duke, are flashbacks to 500 years before the Earl of Aquitaine's entombment, giving the reader the rich history and backstory needed without the endless, mind-numbing, drool-fest infodumps that seem to be so crippling to most speculative fiction novels. Although each flashback isn't as long as the chapters they reside in, Werner finds a way to include just enough information into them without giving the whole story away."Everything a man loves dies. Everything he values must turn to dust. It is only the things inside a man that he can keep with him always. Things like loyalty and honour." - The Red DukeWith most shared worlds it is to be expected that there's not much character development to be read and cultivated within the characters that populate the stories. The Red Duke is not one of those novels. Instead, as the backstory of the Duke is unveiled, the reader slowly begins to see not only the title character grow, but also a large handful of the main cast and secondary characters. No doubt it's a refreshing feel.But not everything is refreshing. As the story unfolds almost poetically in spots, I can't help but think that the plot of the story is kind of overdone and cliched: an evil from centuries past has been resurrected to exact vengeance on the heads of those who most deserve it. Along the way, said ancient evil being manages to somehow amass a large following of supporters and soldiers willing to die with a single command. It's not that it's overly used in fiction, but in movies as well. Although it does manage to work rather well with this story, I would have much preferr[...]

Thrall Book Review


Title: ThrallAuthor: Steven ShrewsburyPublisher: Seventh Star PressPages: 288ISBN: 9780983108634Ever found a book where it seems no matter what happens you just never have enough money, or time to buy or read it? Thrall was one of those books for me. It wasn't until Context 24, a small convention held in Columbus, Ohio each year, that I had the opportunity to grab a copy. Through conversations with the awesome Stephen Zimmer, an author notable for both his epic fantasy series and urban fantasy series both published through Seventh Star Press, I expressed my interest in Thrall, to which he responded by giving me a copy to review. To Stephen I say: thank you good sir!With Thrall Steven Shrewsbury introduces a new hero; an aging warrior who has lived for centuries battling the monstrosities of legend and lore. Set in an age when the Nephilum walk the earth, demonic forces hunger to be unleashed, and dragons -- both living and dead -- still set claim to the skies. His name is Gorias La Gaul, and he's on a journey to find one of his own blood, a young man who is caught in the embrace of necromancy. And on his journey Gorias' will encounter things both living and dead. Familiar enemies and new foes alike.For Gorias La Gaul, Deliverance Will Come...One of the things that I found most fascinating with the yarn that Shrewsbury has managed to weave within the pages of Thrall is the main character: Gorias La Gaul. A man near the end of his extremely long life, he has seen and done things that most have long since filed away in the annals of history. Though he is a legend and a myth on the lips of many, he is nothing more than a man to those that know him. And a flawed man at that. For the most part I enjoyed the story of Gorias La Gaul, although I found some of the names, places, and creatures to be quiet contrived, as if Shrewsbury ripped a page out of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. However, Shrewsbury does a fine job of executing the story, and making it believable enough to grab the readers attention. If you're not one for novels with a large cast of characters, then Thrall might not be for you. Throughout the course of the novel the reader is introduced to many characters that share a history with La Gaul. And although Shrewsbury takes the time to fill in the reader as to how the hero of the story knows the individuals, after a while the constant feeding of information becomes tedious and lessens interest. Whether Shrewsbury meant to do this or not -- possibly setting Thrall up to be the conclusion to a longer story arc, (think David Gemmell's Druss the Legend series) -- it just didn't work for me. However, if you're a fan of tome-length tales of sword & sorcery, and are looking for something as deep and rich in world and character, but smaller in length, this might just be the novel for you!With Thrall, Steven Shrewsbury has found a way to blend sword and sorcery, the occult, incredible monsters, and biblical beings into a tale set in antediluvian times, all the while channeling David Gemmell and Robert E. Howard. Remarkable!That's why I'm giving Thrall 7.0 out of 10 TARDISes. If you like the works of Robert E. Howard, or David Gemmell, and you're looking for a non-stop, action packed novel, then Thrall is the book for you!~Rodney[...]

Dead of Night Book Review


Title: Dead of NightAuthor: Jonathan MaberryPublisher: St. Martin's GriffinPages: 368ISBN: 9780312552190For the last few years I've been hearing nothing but great things about Jonathan Maberry and his works, specifically his Joe Ledger novels (Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, King of Plagues), and his recent foray into young adult fiction with his Benny Imura novels (Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay), I was more than eager to jump on the chance to review one of his stand alone novels (thanks to the kind folks at St. Martin's Griffin, and of course Janathan Maberry). Most of the time I like to read shorter fiction of new authors before I dive into some of their bigger bodies of work, but with Dead of Night, I couldn't resist.Dead of Night tells the story of Stebbins, Pennsylvania, a small town that will soon pack a big bite. When a prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots, it's up to cops Desdamona Fox (Dez to everybody) and her partner JT Hammond to put things right and save their small town. When they're taken in for questioning in regards to the deaths of fellow Stebbins police officers, things take a turn for the worse, and they are forced to fight even harder for their lives, and the lives of the other two thousand people who call Stebbins home.Maybe it's the fact that I read it during the days leading up to All-Hallow's Eve, or maybe it's the fact that I have a soft, rotten spot in my heart for zombies, I couldn't help but find myself absorbed in the pages of the novel, so engrossed that I finished two-thirds of Dead of Night in one quick sitting. With characters as ordinary as you and me; with faults and flaws, and lives lived as ordinary as the lives around us, it wasn't hard for me to find myself quickly becoming attached to the characters. Unlike some zombie novels that focus on the broader scope of a zombie infection-turned-plague, Dead of Night brings the setting down a few notches, and makes it more intimate, while all the more terrifying.That's not all that Maberry does well with Dead of Night. Jonathan writes with such knowledge and love for zombies, that when I finally came to the scientific reason for the creation of the plague and the process with which it was done, I found myself fascinated. And I'm not normally one for in-depth science explanations!But not all of the novel was great: at times I was confused as to whether Maberry was trying to be artistic, or more literary than some of his fellow authors. With the beginning of each new part there is an extract of T.S. Elliot's The Hollow Men, a poem which is referenced several times throughout the novel. Because of the purpose of the man-made plague, and reasons I won't get into for worry of spoiling the book, Maberry tries to connect the poem to the situation at hand, but unfortunately it's an attempt that felt too forced for me to try and like.When I wasn't laughing, I was on the verge of tears; hoping against all hope that there would be a happy ending. This is a book filled with suspense and zombies... lots of zombies. Two things that just happen to mix very well! With interesting characters and an-almost-perfect plot, it's a novel that shouldn't be missed this Halloween season, that's why I'm giving Jonathan Maberry's Dead of Night 8.0 out of 10 TARDISes!~Rodney[...]

Updates and More: Salvation's Reach. Children of the Sky. Blue Dragon. Kultus. The Night Eternal. Dead of Night.


It's no surprise that Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts series is a major hit for the Warhammer 40k author. The thirteenth book in the Gaunt's Ghosts series, and the second title in The Victory story arc, Salvation's Reach is long overdue. Because of medical issues that conflicted with Mr. Abnett's writing schedule, Salvation's Reach will finally hit the shelves on October 4th. For those fans out there, here's the newest synopsis below.  The Ghosts of the Tanith First-And-Only have been away from the front line for too long. Listless, and hungry for action, they are offered a mission that perfectly suits their talents. The objective: the mysterious Savlation's Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronhold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbat Worlds campaign. But the proposed raid is so hazardous, it's regarded as a suicide mission, and the Ghosts may have been in reserve for so long they've lost their edge. Haunted by spectres from the past and stalked by the Archenemy, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts embark upon what could be their finest hour... or their final mission.****What began in 1992 with A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge continued it's story with A Deepness in the Sky seven years later. Now, twelve years after the second book in the Zones of Thought series, Children of the Sky is finally seeing the light of day. Here's the synopsis for it:Ten years have passed on the Tines World, where Ravna Bergnsdot and a number of human children ended up after a disaster that nearly obliterated humankind throughout the galaxy. Ravna and the pack of animals for which the planet is named have survived a war, and Ranva has saved more than one hundred children who were in cold-sleep aboard the vessel that brought them.While there is peace among the Tines, there are those among them -- and among the humans -- who seek power... and no matter the cost, these malcontents are determined to overturn the fledgling civilization that has taken root since the humans landed.Children of the Sky hits shelves October 4th.****Blue Dragon is the conclusion to Kylie Chan's Dark Heavens trilogy, which started with White Tiger and continued in Red Phoenix. Although I have yet to pick up the second book in the trilogy, I'm excited to see what the third volume brings, and how Mrs. Chan manages to wrap-up the series. Below is the synopsis:Martial arts, magic, demons and science.The forces of Hell are poised to strike...When Emma's relatives come to visit her, they are totally freaked out by what they learn... Emma's beloved, John Chen, is a 3,000-year-old Chinese god. Not only that, John is becoming weaker by the day. Demons pursue him relentlessly, hoping to use Emma and his child, Simone, as bargaining tools against him.Emma battles to defend Simone as John's energy is drained by the effort of both living in the mortal world and protecing them. While Emma is nagged by doubts about her own nature, she must find the courage to go on...****Here's a first for Updates and More: a book featured from Solaris Press! I've been patiently looking forward to seeing what Kultus is all about. Here's the synopsis for it:Thaddeus Blaklok -- Mercenary, demonist, bastard and thug-for-hire -- is pressed into retrieving a mysterious key for his clandestine benefactors. Little does he know that other parties seek to secure this artefact for their own nefarious ends and soon he is pursued by brutal cul[...]

Book Bombed! The Doctor and the Kid! Darkness Falling! Red Phoenix! The Complete Drive-In!


Thanks to Pyr Publishing, I've just been book bombed! Luckily enough I decided to eat lunch at home today, otherwise I would have been forced to wait for the UPS man to come back around.Although it's not due to hit shelves until December, I have an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Mike Resnick's newest Weird West Tale, sitting on my bookshelf. I recently mentioned, in August's Updates and More, that the cover for The Doctor and the Kid had been released on the net, and now I'm happy to announce that there's a synopsis for those interested, as well. Here it is:The time is 1882. With the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral behind him, the consumptive Doc Holliday makes his way to Deadwood, Colorado, with Kate Elder, where he plans to spend the rrest of his life, finally moving into the luxurious facility that specializes in his disease.But one night he gets a little to drunk and loses everything he has at the gaming table. He realizes he needs to replenish his bankroll, and quickly, so that he can live out his days in comfort under medical care. He considers his options and hits upon the one most likely to produce income in a hurry: he'll use his skill as a shootist and turn bounty hunter.The biggest reward is for the death of the young, twenty-year-old desperado known as Billy the Kid. With the enlisted aid of both magic (Geronimo) and science (Thomas Edison), Doc goes out after his quarry. He will hunt the Kid down, and either kill him and claim the reward or die in the process and at least end his own suffering.But as he is soon to find out, nothing is as easy as it looks.****I was pleased to recieve an e-mail a few weeks ago from the kind folks at Angry Robot, that stated there were extra review copies of Peter Crowther's Darkness Falling. So, I didn't hesitate to grab a copy. Now I'm looking forward to grabbing enough alone time to devour it and let you all know how great it is! Here's the synopsis:First the flash. A glare of light, just before dawn, followed by utter darkness. A vast blanketing darkness that covered the whole world.The the dissapearances. Friends and strangers alike, swallowed by the darkness... and the returned, altered, changed.For the people of Jesman's Bend, it feels like the end of the world. But this is only the very start.File Under: Science Fiction [Zombie Apocalypse; Bodysnatchers; They Return] ****Red Phoenix is the sequel to Kylie Chan's White Tiger, and the second book in the Dark Heaven's Trilogy. Halfway through the first book of this series, I have no doubt that Red Phoenix is a read I'm honestly looking forward to. Combining something that I haven't seen in recent past: Chinese Mythology and Urban Fantasy. Here's the Synopsis for Red Phoenix:Immortals, martial arts, gods, and demons...The intrigue deepens as the demon threat closes around mortals and gods alike.When Emma Donahue took the position of nanny to John Chen's daughter Simone, she never expected to be caring for the child of a Chinese god, and she didn't expect that demons would want him dead. Nor has moving from nanny to partner in his heavenly realm made Emma's life any easier. Now a powerful race of demons has been created to hunt her and her family from Hong Kong to Europe. And she and Simone have become targets -- pawns to be used in a deadly celestial power play. ****Last, but not least for this Book Bomb is the omnibus The Complete Drive-In by Ch[...]