Review: Conduits by Jennifer Loring

conduits

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).

website: http://jennifertloring.com


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.

END OF SPOILER

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

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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

Free CONSUMPTION ARC – Last Call!

CONSUMPTION COMPLETE

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.

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

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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

Blog Site Slow Down

Things will be slowing down around here a bit for the foreseeable future. Here’s why:

I’m going on vacation next week! This is my first real, extended vacation in three years and the wife and I are road-tripping to Maine with a few pit-stops along the way and back again. I’m expecting limited computer and internet access while I get all touristy for a little while.

Before we hit the road, though, I’m hoping to get through at least two more books in my read-and-review pile. I started in on Gillian Anderson’s debut novel, co-written with Jeff Rovin, A Vision of Fire. After that, and depending on when I can finish it, we’ll see about what comes next. I’m expecting Jennifer Loring’s new DarkFuse novella, Conduits, to drop onto my Kindle on Tuesday, so that one will likely get next priority.

            vision-of-fire-9781476776521_lg            conduits

In terms of my own work, I’m expecting to be engrossed with some heavy editing and revising on Emergence, my follow-up to Convergence, for the rest of the year. My second draft has been submitted to my editors for content development, and once I go through their suggestions and do the necessary work, it’ll be off for the next stage of edits. It’ll be releasing in 2015, and I’ll be sure to post updates on the exact release date after that’s locked down.

I’m also gearing up for the release of Consumption next month! My short horror story will be going off for final formatting in a few days, so stay tuned for the exact release date and pre-order links in a few more weeks.

So, aside from some obligatory Consumption-related posts later this month and into October, and some more book reviews, things are looking kind of quiet blog-wise. But, come November, I should be bringing in a lot of science-fiction related goodness and I’ll be participating in Sci-Fi November 2014, hosted by Rinn Reads and Oh, the Books! Expect a good number of reviews from me, and hopefully some more guest posts or interviews with fellow sci-fi indie authors. Be sure to follow along with the #RRSciFiMonth hashtag on twitter, and give @SciFiMonth a follow, too.

Review: The Wolf In Winter by John Connolly

wolfinwinter

About The Wolf In Winter

The community of Prosperous, Maine has always thrived when others have suffered. Its inhabitants are wealthy, its children’s future secure. It shuns outsiders. It guards its own. And at the heart of the Prosperous lie the ruins of an ancient church, transported stone by stone from England centuries earlier by the founders of the town . . .

But the death of a homeless man and the disappearance of his daughter draw the haunted, lethal private investigator Charlie Parker to Prosperous. Parker is a dangerous man, driven by compassion, by rage, and by the desire for vengeance. In him the town and its protectors sense a threat graver than any they have faced in their long history, and in the comfortable, sheltered inhabitants of a small Maine town, Parker will encounter his most vicious opponents yet.

Charlie Parker has been marked to die so that Prosperous may survive.


About the Author

John Connolly is the author of The Wrath of AngelsThe Burning SoulThe Book of Lost Things, and Bad Men, among many others. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.


My Thoughts

[This review is based on an advanced readers copy obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.]

John Connolly is one of my favorite authors, and I always relish each new entry in his Charlie Parker series. Every time I start in on one of these books, I’m immediately flooded with a sense of warmth, regardless of how chilling a plot he’s crafting. For me, the Parker books are a perfect comfort read, imbued with all of the basic genre hooks I love: the lone-wolf PI, a band of killers, a splash of the supernatural, a rich mythology running through the spine of the story, a haunting suggestion of one’s own dark soul, and explorations of the struggle between good and evil. Connolly himself is such a skilled and gifted storyteller that I always feel like I’m in good hands for the few hours I get to spend in his world.

Twelve Parker books deep, and Connolly is still at the top of his game. While The Wolf In Winter may be too soaked in the rich overarching mythology of the series for newcomers, long-term fans should find quite a lot to be happy about. And if, for whatever mysterious reason, you haven’t read any of this series yet, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Every Dead Thing and subsequent volumes until you’re all caught up!

This novel’s initial draw revolves around the murder of a homeless man and his daughter, and the dangerous Maine community of Prosperous, initially feels a bit too familiar, particularly for mystery genre readers and Parker fans. A massive mid-book game-changer upends any sense of familiarity or safety in the proceedings, and Connolly plunges us into the depths of conspiracy that has been a constant thru-line in the world that Parker and his allies inhabit. Among his new lethal enemies in Prosperous are returning staples, such as The Collector, who is being hunted by the detective following the conclusion of The Wrath of Angels, and organizations like The Believers and The Backers, and a number of familiar faces from previous entries. Louis and Angel, of course, return as well, with their eyes rightly centered on vengeance.

If I can draw a cue from The X-Files or Millennium, The Wolf In Winter would be considered a very heavy addition to the series mytharc, and reader’s enjoyment will depend on how heavily invested they are in the ongoing conspiracy and the rivalries of various factions concerned with the supernatural corners of Parker’s world. As a decade-plus long Connolly fan, I find myself even more intrigued with the underworld black-market activity that each book has helped to flesh out and shape into an ethereal, dangerous, sometimes omnipresent force overshadowing Maine and its surrounding locales. The cultish Familist activities of those in Prosperous and their devotion to the Green Man make for a fine addition to the series cannon, and prove to be remarkably interesting in their expansion and divisiveness of the darker corners of this series. Connolly takes some serious steps in giving the series, and its readers, a vicious jolt, the aftermath of which provides some of the most taut and tense drama in a long while.

As with other entries in the Parker series, my only complaint is that I’ll have to wait at least another year for the next one! Beyond that, The Wolf In Winter is ripe with Connolly’s customary humor, wry observations, and witty repartee, and provides some delirious escapist entertainment into the world of killers and old gods, and the ramifications of this particular entry should ripple out to disrupt Parker’s future and his role to play in the overlapping ancient conspiracy and prophesy for a good long while. This a perfect fall release, one to curl up with beside the fireplace to rightly savor, and is highly recommended for Parker devotees.

buy the wolf in winter at amazon

Review: Sunblind by Michael McBride

sunblind

About Sunblind

When U.S. Border Patrol Agent Christian Rivera discovers the body of an undocumented alien in the middle of the vast Sonoran Desert with three enigmatic words carved into her flesh, presumably by her own hand, it triggers a frantic search for the remainder of her party, a group of twenty-five men and women who have inexplicably vanished into the desert.

Aided by two of the agency’s best trackers, Rivera follows the woman’s trail into the brutal heart of one of the hottest and most unforgiving landscapes on the planet, where nothing can survive for long. As more bodies turn up, Rivera and the others begin to realize they may be up against an enemy far deadlier than the desert, an unseen adversary that will stop at nothing to take from them what it needs to survive. A mythical evil that may not be myth at all, but horrifically real, could very well be stalking them, and their only hope of surviving the same fate that befell the missing party lies in deciphering the clues to their disappearance before it’s too late. If it isn’t already…

From Michael McBride, bestselling author of Burial Ground and Snowblind, comes Sunblind, a thrilling new novel of terror and action that will take you on an unforgettable journey from the desperate streets of Mexico, through the deadliest corridor in the world, to a place where mankind was never meant to tread.


About the Author

Michael McBride was born in Colorado and still resides in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. He hates the snow, but loves the Avalanche. He works with medical radiation, yet somehow managed to produce five children, none of whom, miraculously, have tails, third eyes, or other random mutations. He writes fiction that runs the gamut from thriller to horror to science fiction…and loves every minute of it.

website: http://author.michaelmcbride.net/


My Thoughts

In Sunblind, Michael McBride’s latest DarkFuse horror novel, the parched, sun-drenched climes of the Sonoran Desert is every bit as vital to this piece as the characters and creatures.

Alternating between the story of a group of undocumented migrants crossing the Mexican border into Arizona and the investigation by Border Patrol into the grisly aftermath of their journey, the desert setting becomes its own violent, horrifying force of opposition. The group face not only the aggressive pathos of their coyote, but the threats of snake bites, dehydration, exposure, and severe sunburns. In fact, the dangerous environment and its effects on the human body, and the lengths some will go to just to survive another hour or another day, are as terrifying and squirm inducing as any other bit of horror. Before too long, as their numbers begin to dwindle, it becomes clear that they are also being stalked by a powerful, stealthy, and unimaginable hunter.

One of the really fun aspects of Sunblind is watching how deftly McBride alternates between the present-day and the recent past while keeping the story interesting and full of surprises. By introducing the lone survivor of the desert crossing in the opening pages, readers may think they know what comes next – and, to a certain degree, they’re right. However, McBride is able to keep the narrative suspenseful and fraught with tension, and with a pacing that’s right on the money. The cards are laid out up front, and so the investment as a reader lies entirely with seeing how Border Patrol Agent Rivera’s fresh discoveries merge with the events that unravel in the back story.

And, oh boy, do they unravel.

While the story is fundamentally a creature feature, somewhat in the vein of The Relic if you swap out the museum for a desert, the focus is squared centrally on the human cast. The story is a dark one, about the trials and tribulations and dangers of border crossing, from the Mexican ghettos where human cargo and cartel drug trafficking is the prime order of business, to the desolate, but no less perilous, vast expanse of sun-baked land. Equally horrendous are the traumatic backgrounds that drive the principle immigrants, and the dreams of their companions that are far sunnier and hopeful than the circumstances they find themselves engulfed by. Wrapped up around all of this is the narrative surrounding the Border Patrol’s investigation as they slowly and surely find evidence that things are far worse than they could have predicted.

While the characters, particularly Mayra, the lone survivor of her traveling band of immigrants, are well-developed and realistic, it becomes clear from the opening pages that McBride has certainly done his due diligence in researching for this novel. He peppers in facts regarding illegal immigrations, the number of souls lost to the desert, and the work of the Border Patrol so expertly that Sunblind could just as easily be a top-notch mystery/suspense thriller if not for the presence of ancient monsters. This additional layering adds a lot of depth and style, as well all the all-important sense of realism, to get the ball rolling for the horror to ultimately unfold.

Sunblind is a very strong book and will likely make for quite a solid contender during the DarkFuse Readers Choice selections later this year.

buy sunblind at amazon

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

I saw this list floating around Facebook and thought it might be fun to drop my own list here.

It’s just a list, no explanations required beyond the title and author. Feel free to submit your own list in the comments below!

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

  1. IT by Stephen King
  2. The Stand by Stephen King
  3. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
  4. Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane
  5. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
  6. The Prince of Nothing/Aspect Emperor series by R. Scott Bakker
  7. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
  8. Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
  9. Patriot Games by Tom Clancy
  10. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Reblog: The Pixel Project Reddit AMA — End Violence Against Women « terribleminds: chuck wendig

Originally posted at Wendig’s blog comes this campaign that is certainly worth spreading the word about:

The Pixel Project Reddit AMA — End Violence Against Women « terribleminds: chuck wendig.

The Pixel Project, in a nutshell, is an effort to help raise awareness and combat violence against women with part of the proceeds going to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. You can read more about it at their FAQ, or check out the details on Wendig’s blog.

You can also find a bevy of information on the Read for Pixels campaign here, and donate over at IndieGoGo.

Review: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

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About Beautiful You

“A billion husbands are about to be replaced.”

From the author of Fight Club, the classic portrait of the damaged contemporary male psyche, now comes this novel about the apocalyptic marketing possibilities of female pleasure. Sisters will be doing it for themselves. And doing it. And doing it. And doing it some more . . . Penny Harrigan is a low-level associate in a big Manhattan law firm with an apartment in Queens and no love life at all. So it comes as a great shock when she finds herself invited to dinner by one C. Linus Maxwell, aka “Climax-Well,” a software mega-billionaire and lover of the most gorgeous and accomplished women on earth. After dining at Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurant, he whisks Penny off to a hotel suite in Paris, where he proceeds, notebook in hand, to bring her to previously undreamed-of heights of orgasmic pleasure for days on end. What’s not to like? This: Penny discovers that she is a test subject for the final development of a line of sex toys to be marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called Beautiful You. So potent and effective are these devices that women by the millions line up outside the stores on opening day and then lock themselves in their room with them and stop coming out. Except for batteries. Maxwell’s plan for erotically enabled world domination must be stopped. But how?


About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk’s novels are the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Diary, Lullaby, Survivor, Haunted, and Invisible Monsters. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and Palahniuk’s nonfiction work has been published by Gear, Black Book, The Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.


My Thoughts

(This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.)

In Beautiful You, Chuch Palahniuk takes the War on Women to the next level with this dystopic satire centered around female orgasms.

C. Linus Maxwell has earned his tabloid nickname “Climax-Well” with the unveiling of his line of Beautiful You personal care products for women. Thoroughly researched and based on the tantric sex secrets of the ancients, the Beautiful You products quickly ensnare the vast majority of the global female population, from the first female president of the United States to a multiple-Academy Award winning French actress. New York turns chaotic as women begin disappearing, lost to the abyss of self-pleasure and turned into emaciated, toy-addicted zombies. Only Penny Harrigan, one of Maxwell’s most recent conquests and research assistant, can help stem the tide and undo his evil plans for world domination.

Beautiful You is a fun read, but ultimately lacks sufficient depth. Palahniuk seems too content to rely on stereotypes surrounding women – their love of shoes and tawdry romance vampire novels and their inferior rankings in a man’s world – rather than subverting them or plumbing them to their fullest depths. However, it makes for fun fodder, if only on a superficial mockery of the Fox News/Men’s Rights Movement perception on what women are like.

Penny herself is, at times, the lone standout and the primary focus of the novel. While there are other women present and accounted for, few of them make any lasting impression and appear to be notable only for their achievements in-world and not for any particularly skilled characterization. Most of the women that appear in this book have achieved notable success, but serve only as pawns to Maxwell’s scheming and have been coerced into their fame only through his machinations.

While worth a read, the book feels imbalanced between trying to make a point for female autonomy and mocking the far-right’s fear of all-things vaginal. Even Todd Akin’s idiocy gets some wish-fulfillment in a rape scene echoing the congressman’s ignorance when he espoused his nonsensical views on “legitimate rape” and how women’s bodies have a way of shutting that down. And while it scores points with its deft maneuvering on topics of commercialism and advertising, and how many men and society itself would utterly collapse without the presence of women, too much of the story itself is reliant on stereotyping and a pack-view mentality of women without any real glimpses of individuality or sparks of life outside of the book’s central character. Beautiful You rarely goes deeper than the superficial, and although its topic of women’s perceived roles in contemporary American society and politics is certainly ripe for satirizing, it does little else beyond pointing fingers at current problems in exchange for some knowing laughs. The book is a light breezy read, but on a topic that deserves more subtly and nuance than it receives here. Three stars.