REBLOG: Hello from The Pit and Book Review of ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks:

Yesterday saw a great review for my forthcoming horror short, Consumption. Today brings another wonderful review, this time for my sci-fi novel, Convergence, from the wonderful J.S. Collyer. If you haven’t already, be sure to read her debut novel ZERO!

Originally posted on The Path - J. S. Collyer's Writing Blog:

Hello there and greetings to all, both to new followers and old faithfuls. Sorry if I’m echoing, but these greetings are coming to you from the depths of the Writing Pit.

I am currently pretty much a permanent resident of said Pit. As I hinted at in my last post I have one of those things: a deadline. So this Pit comes complete with a Pendulum.

Tell me you didn’t see that one coming.

As I always say, however, progress is steady. Which is genuinely is if you make the time to write and keep yourself engaged with your draft.

Thus, I soldier on and you will be the first to know whenever I get a chance to come up for air.

Further to this aim, I am off on a writing retreat this weekend. I am really excited. I can honestly say nothing compares to the productivity you achieve…

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Guest Post: Commercial Fiction with a Literary Bent by Casey Peterson

Today, I’m turning the blog over to Casey Peterson. His debut novel, Just Another Job, is on sale this month at Amazon for 99 cents. With this book, Casey has set out to tell a superhero story with a bit more depth and literary oomph, using not only some marvelous Marvel flair as inspiration, but some decidedly older works as well. Read on for Casey’s piece!

Just Another Job final cover

Life’s script takes Chris Byrne from a passive tech support role to an active world saver.
A simple drudging existence was on tap for Chris before an attempt at bravery places him as a sidekick for newly discovered superheroes.
With government backing, Chris awkwardly attempts to live up to the heroic image while tagging along on Super missions. Although he may look it and proves slightly capable, Chris knows he can’t keep up the part and decides to quit.
But walking away is the most daring performance in front of him. He stands to lose financial security for his family, a best friend that is also playing sidekick, and a new friend in the form of a Super. Then Chris sees the machinations behind it all.

Commercial Fiction with a Literary Bent

Thank you Michael for the opportunity to do this guest post.

I feel my title at the top best describes the genre I set out for with my first epublished book Just Another Job. Because as much fun as a superhero romp is, I never could entrench myself in the soap operas of Captain America and the X-Men for too long. I always needed something deeper for my brain to chew on.

Sure Steve Rogers throws a wicked fastball with that nigh-indestructible shield of his, but he’s also a bit of a cry baby. A man out of time eventually needs to get his head together and find an identity. When written well I can totally dig it. The mask gives him a purpose, without it he struggles. In the 1000 plus comics he’s appeared in, half give this identity crisis justice. The other half; a lot of pity parties that you don’t want to see from the first Avenger.

I wanted my protagonist to deal with a similar struggle, because, like I said earlier, when done well I relate. I also felt that that stoic, chiseled jaw figure rarely second guesses himself even without super soldier serum running through his veins. So I went for a common man, less self-assured than most, thrust into the spandex wearing world. He has little choice as the money a sidekick brings home is much nicer than a tech support provider. As cool as it is to stand next to real superheroes kicking ass, he can’t not help but wonder if there’s a safer option to gain a middle class existence.

But you can’t have a superhero story without some stoic, chiseled jaw figures running and jumping around doing amazing things for truth, justice, and the American way. Like the X-Men, I had to have a team because the dynamics and opportunities to play off each other were what drew me to comics as a kid. First with the classic 90s X-Men cartoon and then simultaneously the Marvel Masterpieces trading card line alongside the original comics. The X-Men I grew up with always had a strong female leading a group or the entire group in their fights against prejudice. My first real superhero had to be female; a mix of Storm’s natural elegance with the intense ferocity of Wolverine. The rest of the supporting cast was made up from the hundreds of other characters I’ve run across in my comic collection.

Of course, that’s only half of what I intended. Beneath the superhero surface, I wanted something more, and as grandiose as it may seem that meant using Shakespeare as inspiration. Like the X-Men, Shakespeare sunk his hooks in me at a young age. I remember getting strange looks in 6th grade as the only student to get a copy of Romeo and Juliet from the Scholastic book orders. I’d heard of this William Shakespeare guy and how great he supposedly was, so I had to give it a try.

The first thing to shock me was there was no happy ending for those star crossed lovers. Or for Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Othello. Yet these tragedies spoke more truthfully to me about the world than any Michael Crichton or John Saul book I ran across. Which isn’t a very fair comparison but those were the only serious reads I had to put up against the Shakespeare juggernaut. After reading most of his plays, and many a few times over, I just don’t think I can pull away from the gravity of his work. All my writing will be influenced directly or indirectly by the true king of language.

For Just Another Job, the themes I wanted to delve into best mirrored the themes so masterfully explored in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two worlds run into each other in Dream and my book in which the characters can only catch glimpses of. And having just part of the whole picture affects them considerably in their choices. The power of dreams and the unsure nature of sleep felt like the right fit for my narrative as well. When we think of power, we forget how much sleeping and dreaming dominate our lives. Whether you’re catching a quick nap in the afternoon or daydreaming at work, the two patiently wait to take over your consciousness. Of course the most predominant theme of Just Another Job and one of Shakespeare’s many works of genius, was the engrossment of the theater/entertainment in our lives. Even more than any other time in history we seek out the pleasure of entertainment. So much media from so many different platforms fills up our headspace. The presence of superheroes is just that; entertainment. They are a spectacle that grabs our attention immediately, whether good or bad or the many forms in-between. I doubt I came anywhere close to mining the deepest depths of this idea but that’s why there’s always a next book.

It Was All for Nothing comes out this December in which Shakespeare’s influence on me goes even further in shaping my work. It’s a bit of a slow build horror novel about a valedictorian who wishes to balance out all the hard work he put in for high school with a debauched summer that ends in a legend trip.

For October 2014, Just Another Job will be on a $.99 promotion price on Amazon.

About Casey Peterson

I’m a burgeoning writer with just one book under my belt and another one on it’s way for fall 2014. When I’m not dabbling in the written art, I’m teaching the art of the English language to junior high students. Beyond those two time consumers I also wile away the hours with Lego building sessions with my two boys and searching the recesses of Netflix for something usually scary with my wife.

Follow Casey on twitter @CaseyBungie1524

Reblog: Consumption by Michael Patrick Hicks ✭✭✭✭

Michael Patrick Hicks:

What a terrific way to kick off my afternoon! Here’s the first advance review of CONSUMPTION.
Many, many thanks to Gill at Great Book Escapes for her review!

Originally posted on great book escapes:


This short story is most wonderfully macabre! Oh yes, I loved where Hicks took me on this short dark journey.



You Are
Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat
While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder
As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.


A dinner party to die for. Seated and wearing hideous masks provided by the host, the guests are only known…

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Tales From The TBR Pile

I’m more than halfway through Nick Cutter’s The Deep and expect to have a review posted in a few days. This one doesn’t come out until after the New Year, but I was able to get an early copy through NetGalley. That service is damn addictive, by the way.

My eReader has been filling up with plenty of books, but thanks to the Internet and sites like Goodreads, BookLikes, and KBoards, a few other titles have caught my eye.

So, here’s what’s on the horizon as far as my MUST HAVE NOW titles are concerned:

Black_ebook_coverThe Black
Paul E. Cooley

This one is actually up next in my queue, I think. It’s a recent release, and after seeing all the praise heaped upon it by horror writer and reviewer extraordinaire, Edward Lorne, it definitely seems to hit all the right buttons for me. I have a tremendous soft spot for aquatic horror, so take that setting and tell me it’s like The Thing, and I’m quite happy to take a look.

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

The Black is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.

World_Final_1Once Upon A Time At The End Of The World
S. Elliot Brandis

There’s no plot description available yet, but I’ve become acquainted with Elliot a bit at KBoards and became a big fan of his writing voice upon reading his debut, Irradiated. All I really know about it is it’s a post-apocalyptic western, which is enough to have me hooked. Couple that brief elevator pitch with a cover straight out of a Sergio Leone flick, and I’m in. I may even have to get some Ennio Morricone scores to accompany my read-through.

Go check out Elliot’s website and be sure to sign up for his newsletter. He’s offering this opening volley for free to his subscribers. Of course, I’m sure it’ll also be available to purchase online upon release.

Z. Rider

Feels like there’s a long wait in store for this one, but Suckers will launch in Feb. 2015. The cover art alone has me really anticipating this release, and I absolutely love the way all those bats come together to form the title logo. Beautiful stuff, and a terrific color scheme that helps drive home the moody horror.

When worn-out musicians Dan Ferry and Ray Ford decide to take a shortcut back to the hotel, they pick the wrong dark alley to go down. Attacked by something neither can identify, they think they’re lucky to get out with their lives. But their lives aren’t all they get out with…

As an infection takes hold of Dan, the cramped tour bus becomes a dangerous place to be trapped. And when the infection spreads across the country…nowhere—and no one—is safe from the Suckers.

Now then – what titles have intrigued you of late? What’s on your most-anticipated list of stories that are coming out soon? Sound off below!

Consumption Pre-Orders Now Available


CONSUMPTION has an official release date of October 14, 2014!

Here’s the description:

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Consumption is a 12,000 word (approx.) short story. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence, and is intended for mature audiences.

You can now pre-order my digital exclusive culinary horror/food gore short story at the following etailers:




Google Play


A link for the Nook edition will be coming soon, and I will update this page once it is available.

The Goodreads page is also now live, and you can add CONSUMPTION to your Want To Read list by clicking here.

Back Home!

After a wonderful vacation, it’s almost time for to re-enter the reality of my daily grind. I’ve still got a few days before I head back to the day job to get caught up on things, at least. First order of business is sorting through all the photos I took while at Niagara Falls, Portland, ME, and our quick stop through the White Mountain National Forest range in New Hampshire. We also had a quick overnight stay in Kingsland, Ontario but didn’t get to see very much of the city beyond a few blocks surrounding our hotel.

We road-tripped it, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. One of the most refreshing, relaxing vacations I’ve had in a while. It maybe helps that it’s been a few years since I had a real, honest-to-goodness vacation.

On the bright side, all the hours on the road gave me lots of time to plot and figure out Book Number 3. So, second order of business is to outline, plan, and research.

Before I do any of that, though, here’s some quickies from my Instagram feed for y’all. Each were shot with the iPhone 4s and processed in-app. In the coming days, I’ll share photos that I shot with my Canon 7D when those are all ready.

Niagara Falls:

Portland, ME

New Hampshire

Kingston, ON

Review: Conduits by Jennifer Loring


About Conduits

Mara is a Japanese-American girl with a history of personal tragedy. Though she still cuts herself to quell the pain, she thought the worst was behind her. But her boyfriend’s sudden death, and a visit to one of the most haunted places in Washington State, sends her into a spiral of madness, landing her in a psychiatric ward.

Already suffering from dreams of a strange, ghost-infested house in the woods, Mara begins to question the very existence of reality. She is forced to confront the truth about her older sister’s death and the reason the ghosts have chosen her as their conduit.

About the Author

Born in Portland, Maine and raised in rural western New York, Jennifer Loring had read Stephen King by age 11 and was writing horror stories within a year. Her first publication was in the Canadian vampire magazine Requiem Aeternam at age 21. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW).


My Thoughts

The first thing to strike me about Conduits is Jennifer Loring’s writing voice. She’s got a style and a strong authorial pen that makes reading this novella crackle. Whether she’s describing rain falling down a windowpane or the much darker act of deliberately cutting oneself in an effort to control the psychological pain through the physical act of bleeding, there’s a consistent beauty and elegance to her words that really appealed to me.

Coupled with that is a wickedly strong story. Conduits is billed as a ghost story, but Loring brings so much more to the table by wrapping her plot in a paranoiac’s mystery and the hazy fog of depression and self-doubt. Mara is a cutter, but her problems run in multiple dark, stark streams of deep psychological trauma. Loring expertly ties all of this into a troubled family history and the recounting of Japanese myth from Mara’s grandfather to her.

I absolutely loved this novella, and I think it’s one of those reads that works best when you know little to nothing about the story. I hadn’t read the plot blurb since pre-ordering this book a few months back, which allowed me to forget what it was supposed to be about. Given that, I’d forgotten a lot of the key elements listed in the description and was surprised at the turns it took. I’d love for any future readers of this title to just blind-buy it and ignore the description, simply so they can have the same surprise and shocks over the turns the narrative takes. That said, I’m going to inject a brief SPOILER WARNING here, so by all means skip the next paragraph.

The plot twists are rich sucker-punches, and the way Loring was able to alter Mara’s voice between the first and second chapter, after we, as readers, have hung onto her words and trusted her as a narrator, only to be faced with the potential of delusion atop delusion, twisted inside a desperate paranoia and mental mystery, was absolutely enthralling. It was a great way to upset the narrative and call into doubt Mara’s legitimacy, which remains inconclusive throughout.


I had previously thought that Blackout would be my pick for best DarkFuse novella this year, but Conduits has quickly called that into question. This was such a rich, multilayered story of psychological horror that it may not only be one of DarkFuse’s best novellas this year, it may be one of the best books I’ve read this year. As far as I’m concerned, Conduits isn’t just highly recommended, it’s a must have.

buy conduits on amazon

Review: Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror

bad apples

About Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror

The five freshest voices in horror will make you reconsider leaving the house on October 31st with these all-new Halloween tales:

• A brother and sister creep out of the darkness with bags full of deadly tricks in Gregor Xane’s THE RIGGLE TWINS.

• A boy with a misshapen skull just wants to be normal in Evans Light’s PUMPKINHEAD TED.

• A group of thrill seekers learn that looking for terror is a whole lot more fun than finding it in Adam Light’s GHOST LIGHT ROAD.

• Two bullies go looking for trouble but instead find a young boy and his imaginary friend in Jason Parent’s EASY PICKINGS.

• When a mysterious, Halloween-themed attraction comes to the town of Bay’s End, everyone is dying to pay a visit in Edward Lorn’s THE SCARE ROWS.

My Thoughts

Short horror stories can be a terrific thing of beauty at times. Quick character sketches that bring to life the cast, and a plot that cuts right to the bone, getting those scares front and center. Balancing these two necessary components in a small burst is an art, and to make them truly effective requires some very strong story-telling mojo.

Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror does a sublime job of collecting five such effective stories under a single cover. The anthology is based around a simple, timeless tradition: the Halloween scare story. October 31st is ripe with things that go bump in the night, and the five authors collected here seize the stage for their own wicked tales. In short, these are the kind of storytellers you’d want around the campfire sharing their stories of haunts and legends. The anthology has it all: maniacs and monsters and ghosts, oh my.

Gregor Xane’s The Riggle Twins starts the show off well and gets the anthology off to a strong start. It’s also one of the most perfect examples of effective characterization done quickly. When we’re introduced to Kelly Crenshaw, a surly old man, we immediately know his mindset. He makes the “Get Off My Lawn!” elders seem downright quaint and picturesque, but is cognizant enough of his own behaviors to question how he can possibly be melancholy when he enjoys misery so damn much. The Riggle twins are creepy products, thanks to Xanes descriptive tellings, and they might even make you question the wisdom of trying to ride out Halloween with the lights off, the shades drawn, and lacking any candy to give out.

Pumpkinhead Ted is a powerful, emphatic tale of abuse and bullying. Ted is malformed thanks to a birth defect, and the subject of ridicule for seemingly everyone. Evans Light does a terrific job illustrating how sometimes monsters are man-made, rather than born, and ties it all into a much too-real legacy of urban legend. This one is a brisk and compelling read that will tug at the heartstrings while possibly being the darkest, amoral story of the bunch.

Urban legends are a theme that Adam Light picks up with his Ghost Light Road. This one was a fun spin on kids seeking a few scares and getting far more than they bargained for, and added a little extra depth to the backwoods fright. Jason Parent’s Easy Pickings, too, was a fun twist on the bully-victim dynamic, and managed to bring a different facet to the proceedings than Pumpkinhead Ted so that it never felt redundant. While less emotionally shocking and abrasive as Evans’ story, it makes up for it with an eagerness that’s both scary and somehow light-hearted.

Capping it all off is Edward Lorn’s The Scare Rows, an erotically charged tour through the world’s worst Halloween carnival. It’s a fun, vulgar, dark riff on all of those haunted house, corn maze attractions that pop up annually to entertain for a few nights and then disappear back into the ground.

Bad Apples is some serious horror entertainment, and makes for a perfect Halloween anthology that readers just may find themselves turning toward every October 31st.

buy bad apples: Five slices of halloween horror at amazon



My short horror story, Consumption, is off to my wonderful formatting guru, Glendon Haddix, at Streetlight Graphics.

This means two things: Firstly, this story will be going on sale pretty soon. I haven’t finalized the release date just yet, but I’m eying early October.

Secondly, it also means this is your last chance to request a free copy of this ebook in advance of its sale date. Once I get the final copies in hand, I’ll be e-mailing them out to my advanced readers list.

If you’d like to snag a copy for yourself, head over to this page and scroll down to the form, which you’ll need to complete and submit. Once I receive your entry, you’ll be added to the list.

I won’t bombard with you e-mails, I promise. The only thing I ask in return is for you to post an honest review at Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, whatever, when it goes on sale next month.

This request form will be coming down in a few days, so be sure to get your request in ASAP. Once I’ve received those final ebook files, this offer disappears.

Update 9/25/14 – The final digital files are in and off to those who have requested a copy. Consumption goes on sale Tues., Oct. 14., and you can find order links here.

Consumption is a pretty radical departure from my sci-fi thriller, Convergence, but I’m pretty proud of this one. I had an absolute blast writing it and I hope readers will enjoy it just as much.

Here’s the blurb:

You Are

Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

What You Eat

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them.

Meat Is Murder

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

Review: A Vision Of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin


About A Vision Of Fire

The first novel from iconic X-Files star Gillian Anderson and New York Times bestselling author Jeff Rovin: a science fiction thriller of epic proportions.

Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is a single mom trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lackluster dating life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. Caitlin is sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father—a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels—but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a more sinister force at work.

In Haiti, a student claws at her throat, drowning on dry land. In Iran, a boy suddenly and inexplicably sets himself on fire. Animals, too, are acting irrationally, from rats in New York City to birds in South America to ordinary house pets. With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe to uncover the mystical links among these seemingly unrelated incidents in order to save her patient—and perhaps the world.

About the Authors

Gillian Anderson is an award-winning film, television, and theatre actress whose credits include the roles of Special Agent Dana Scully in the long-running and critically acclaimed drama series, The X-Files, ill-fated socialite Lily Bart in The House of Mirth, and Lady Dedlock in the BBC production of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. She is currently playing the role of Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in Hannibal and is a costar on the television thriller, Crisis. She currently lives in the UK with her daughter and two sons.

Jeff Rovin is the author of more than 100 books, fiction and nonfiction, both under his own name, under various pseudonyms, or as a ghostwriter, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. He has written over a dozen Op-Center novels for the late Tom Clancy. Rovin has also written for television and has had numerous celebrity interviews published in magazines under his byline. He is a member of the Author’s Guild, the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the Horror Writers of America, among others.

My Thoughts

[This review is based on an advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

I’ll just say this straight away: A Vision Of Fire was a novel I really wanted to enjoy far more than I actually did. That’s not to say the book is all bad, but given Gillian Anderson’s creative pedigree I had expected a lot more. (She’s Dana Scully for cripe’s sake, of The X-Files fame, and was recently promoted to series regular for the next season of Hannibal, which, if you’re not watching, you really should be!)

What I discovered was a story that was more like brain candy. It was fun when I was reading it, even if the prose was pretty basic and unengaged, but it was also easy to put down. And when I wasn’t reading A Vision of Fire, I wasn’t thinking a lot about it either. There wasn’t enough meat in the execution of the premise for me to chew on in the off-hours, and the characters didn’t have enough depth to make them compelling enough for me to fully invest in them.

Despite the psychological trauma of Maanik, daughter of an ambassador seeking a truce over border rivalries between India, Pakistan, and Kashmir, and an assassination attempt on the ambassador, the sense of danger is minimal. Her psychiatrist, Caitlin, never feels too out of her element or threatened by the minimalistic forces against her, and nobody really questions her motivations too intensely, particularly at times when it seems like it should be well deserved. There’s a shadowy group, known conveniently enough as The Group, whose inclusion in the proceedings is negligible at best beyond the theft of a rock in the novel’s opening sequence. Even the rock itself feels like a rather inconsequential and disconnected MacGuffin for large swathes of the story. Even half-way through the book I was still hoping for some degree of clarity as to what one side of the story had to do with another, and the ending ultimately failed to clarify or provide satisfactory closure in even broad terms. Propping up the entire construct with fairly hollow characters did little to help.

One thing that I did like, though, were the moments of psychiatric care and the segments between patient and healer. Although some of the elements became too swamped in woo for my tastes, other points worked well, such as Caitlin’s observations of changes in behavior and posture of those around her, which caused her to adapt and change her own tactics in communication. Those types of shifts were handled well and struck me as being nicely thought out. Some of the symptoms that were being manifested by Maanik and others presented an intriguing mystery and some terrific scares.

While I didn’t find the central cast and ancillary characters to be particularly well-drawn or charismatic enough to merit much attention, I rather enjoyed Caitlin’s relationship with her son, Jacob, who is partially deaf and has a love of cooking. Their connectedness and sort-of shared telepathic (for lack of a better word) shorthand that can exist as a result of strong parental-child bonding was heartwarming, and helped speak to the strength of mental health and well-being that informs Caitlin’s role in both her life and her profession. This relationship was one of the book’s stronger aspects, in fact.

Although I give Anderson and Rovin plenty of credit for taking a rather interesting spin on the doomsday scenario, one that calls into question the when and where of their apocalypse at hand, the different elements they’ve strung together fail to merge successfully or provide a worthwhile resolution. A Vision of Fire is ultimately a science-fiction book that eschews science almost entirely, opting instead to present the story through nonsensical mysticism and kooky spirituality, while the plot is built atop at least two too many contrivances.

buy at amazon