Reblog: A review and discussion of ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks:

This has to be one of the most thoughtful reviews and critiques that my debut novel, Convergence, has enjoyed thus far.

Tommy – thank you for taking the time to write this, and I’m glad the overall reading experience was positive for you. This means a lot!

Originally posted on Tommy Muncie, Writer:

http://www.amazon.com/Convergence-Michael-Patrick-Hicks/dp/149489436X

http://michaelpatrickhicks.com/

To fully discuss why I’ve spent the last two days pouring over this book would mean spoilers for both the novel itself and my own. Although I can’t do this, I can offer up an appreciation of why I felt so engaged by Convergence that my Nook is now stuffed with notes and I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about the implications of being able to record and play back the human memory.

To cut a long story short for my regular readers and my fanbase: if you like what I’ve written about mind powers, their abuse, the addicts, the social rejection/acceptance of them and how they create both amazing advantages and deep-seated fears, please get a copy of Convergence. I’m pretty damn sure you will love this book. Not only are the themes similar, but you get treated like a grown-up: R-rated content, politics…

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Reblog: A review and discussion of ‘Convergence’ by Michael Patrick Hicks

Review: Orphans of Wonderland by Greg F. Gifune

orphans-of-wonderlandAbout Orphans of Wonderland

March 3, 2015

Pray it’s only paranoia.

Twenty years ago, journalist Joel Walker wrote a book about a ritual killing. It exploded into a bestseller and became part of the mass Satanic hysteria of the 1980s. However, his story and the evil he investigated were real and left him the victim of a nervous breakdown.

For the last two decades, his has been a quiet existence far from his former home in Massachusetts. But when one of his childhood friends is brutally murdered and rumored to have been involved in bizarre medical experiments, Joel is lured back to find out what really happened.

Joel must delve deep into the darkness once more, investigating all the way back to his own childhood, and the secrets he and his old friends buried there years ago. But where do paranoia and madness end and real evil begin? With the Orphans of Wonderland.


About the Author

Called “One of the best writers of his generation” by both the Roswell Literary Review and author Brian Keene, GREG F. GIFUNE is the author of numerous short stories, several novels, screenplays and two short story collections (HERETICS and DOWN TO SLEEP). His work has been published all over the world, consistently praised by readers and critics alike, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and The Midwest Book Review (among others) and has recently garnered interest from Hollywood. His novels include CHILDREN OF CHAOS, DOMINION, THE BLEEDING SEASON, DEEP NIGHT, BLOOD IN ELECTRIC BLUE, SAYING UNCLE, A VIEW FROM THE LAKE, NIGHT WORK, DRAGO DESCENDING, CATCHING HELL, JUDAS GOAT and LONG AFTER DARK. Greg resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carol and a bevy of cats. He can be reached online at: gfgauthor@verzion.net or through his official web site at: http://www.gregfgifune.com


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]

Although I’ve not read nearly enough of Greg F. Gifune’s work, the few titles of his that I have are quickly making me a fan. He’s a terrific writer and able to create believable characters in a short amount of time.

I’ve only read Lords of Twilight and Oasis of the Damned previously, with this book, Orphans of Wonderland, being the first full-length novel, and what impresses me the most is his breadth as an author. So, while I only have three titles to base a judgement on his oeuvre, his work thus far has never struck me as derivative, and it’s impossible to fancy him as a one-note author, hammering away at the same themes and concepts from book to book. There’s a few writer’s out there who have made a career out of writing basically the same novel for decades on end, but Gifune is quite clearly not one of them. Orphans is completely different from Oasis, which was a stark contrast to Lords of Twilight. And I freakin’ love that!

Orphans of Wonderland plays like traditional mystery, but with dashes of the weird. The main protag here is Joel, a small-town reporter who once made a big-time splash with his investigation of a young girl’s murder at the hands of a Satanic cult. He’s disappeared into obscurity, living with his wife and covering local events where he writes about school cafeteria lunch programs and reports little league scores. After a childhood friend, Lonnie, is killed, he’s pulled back into investigating the dark events surrounding the murder, as well as his own past.

Frankly, there’s a lot going on here. It’s a dense story, but Gifune juggles it well. The plot is infused with the occult, demons, mysterious radio broadcasts, and far-reaching conspiracies. Think The X-Files in its heyday, but with a stronger Kolchak influence, thanks to Joel’s journalism pedigree. What I loved most about it was the layered sense of history, as Joel reflects on his childhood and the friends he’s lost – and forced to suddenly reunite with – as he gets closer to uncovering the truth behind Lonnie’s demise. And as Joel discovers those truths? Man, it’s a powerhouse, and I could feel little parts of myself cracking in sympathy for him.

The only complaint I have is that the ending wasn’t quite as powerful as the events preceding it. It lacked some of the oomph I was expecting, and it didn’t really dazzle or surprise, with the last-minute reveal acting as more of a confirmation of my suspicions rather than unexpected twist.

But, that minor bit aside, I totally dug this book and find it an easy one to recommend. The story has so much going for it, and Gifune gets so many things right, that it’s easily worth the time to read. Check it out!

Buy Orphans of Wonderland AT Amazon
Review: Orphans of Wonderland by Greg F. Gifune

Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Serenity Strain (Serenity Book 1) by Chris Pourteau

serenitystrainAbout The Serenity Strain

The End of the World starts on the Gulf Coast

Multiple hurricanes wreak unprecedented devastation on Houston, Texas. The Serenity Six—genetically altered test subjects for a viral strain known as Serenity—escape the state prison in Huntsville to gorge their appetite for murder on society’s survivors. They soon become the acolytes of Id, a being of immense power and wanton appetites, who steps into our reality to prosecute mankind and destroy morality. And one family steps up to the fight—a family experiencing its own turmoil caused by a contentious divorce. The Stand meets 28 Days Later in this epic tale of genetic manipulation gone awry. There’s no such thing as an ordinary hero.

About the Author

Currently residing in College Station, Texas, Chris Pourteau has made a living at one time or another as a teacher, a lab technician helping to recover one of Christopher Columbus’s ships, and a technical writer and editor.

If you’d like to say howdy, feel free to email him at c.pourteau.author@gmail.com or visit him at chrispourteau.thirdscribe.com.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the author for review.]

Although we’ve been to Texas before, in Michael Bunker and Nick Cole’s Texocalypse Now, that story was focused on five-year hence in the Apocalypse Weird bookverse. This gives Chris Pourteau a chance to establish how, exactly, the Lone Star State got so wonderfully f’ed up and what some of the survivors went through.

Pourteau’s entry is a wonderful hodge-podge of maniacs, genetic manipulation, and a struggle to survive. Our main protagonists are a separated couple and their daughter, this family forced to reunite under the looming threat of a series of hurricanes. All of this combines to create a cli-fi thriller with some dashes of horror that works tremendously well, and at the time of this writing, might even be my personal favorite in the Apocalypse Weird series thus far.

To top it off, Pourteau introduces the demon Id, a specter birthed in the eye of a hurricane and who has a penchant for frying hapless victims with bolts of lightning. I’m looking forward to her taking on an expanded role in future volumes, but she’s established nicely here and I really dug the formation of a Charles Manson-esque cult devoted to her.

At its core, The Serenity Strain is all about family drama. Whether it’s the anxiety generated from a feuding couple forced into confined spaces and relearning how to cope as a family unit in the wake of separation and distrust, or the burgeoning creation of a twisted hierarchy between the escaped prisoners as they seek Id. It’s really compelling stuff and the twin tales work as counterpoint to the other, helping to elevate what could have simply been a tried-and-true good-versus-evil story into something that’s far more emotionally resonant. Getting to know both of these “families” makes the powerful finale especially meaningful.

I also have to give props to Ben Adams, who created a couple of illustrations for the book, one of Id and one of the book’s primary antagonist’s, Maestro. They’re really beautiful work! (I’m not sure if his art appeared any of the other AW titles, but finding them in this particular ARC was a wonderful surprise). Adams is also responsible for the stunning cover to Michael Bunker’s forthcoming Brother, Frankenstein, so be sure to check out his work. He’s got lots of talent!

Buy The Serenity Strain At Amazon
Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Serenity Strain (Serenity Book 1) by Chris Pourteau

Review: Apocalypse Weird: Reversal (Polar Wyrd Book 1) by Jennifer Ellis

apocalypse weird-reversalAbout Apocalypse Weird: Reversal

Publication date: Feb. 23, 2015

Snow, Volcanoes, and the End of the World

Contrary to Sasha Wood’s expectations, the isolated International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island turns out to be an incredibly dangerous assignment. After researchers and sled dogs go missing in a freak storm, distress calls go mysteriously unanswered from the outside world. Cut off and stalked by strange killer polar bears, Sasha and station caretaker, Soren Anderson, must search for their missing colleagues in the frozen tundra as their instruments begin to reveal an incredible truth: The feared magnetic pole reversal has occurred and the north has become the south. Psychotic scientists and giant methane-venting craters are just the beginning of a terrible and weird new reality as the leader of a polar research station down in Antarctica walks out of an otherworldly mist from the other side of the earth. Everything is being turned upside down, literally and figuratively. The Thing meets The Core on the plains of Ellesmere Island somewhere lost inside the Apocalypse Weird.


About the Author

Jennifer lives in the mountains of BC where she can be found writing, spending too much time on skis, and working as an environmental researcher. She also has a PhD and has been known to read tarot cards.

Her Derivatives of Displacement series is science fiction fantasy for middle-graders and adults. Books one and two are available, and book three is coming in 2015. Her second novel is a romance with a dystopic edge entitled In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. She has also contributed to several anthologies, most notably Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, which hit #16 in the Kindle Store.

You can subscribe to her blog for the latest book news and industry insights at http://www.jenniferellis.ca. She tweets at @jenniferlellis.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the author for review.]

I’m a sucker for arctic survival stories, and have a particular soft-spot for thrillers and horror stories that are set against a snowy, frigid backdrop. So, when I learned that Apocalypse Weird would be venturing to the far north with Jennifer Ellis’s Reversal, I was eager to read it, particularly once I saw The Thing get name-dropped in the description.

I’ve mentioned in my other reviews of Apocalypse Weird titles that I was enjoying how this open-sandbox world was shaping up, and this entry is no different. As with the other titles kicking off the AW launch, there are certain touchstones to help unify it to the larger universe being constructed here but with enough room to maneuver to allow Ellis to tell her own unique story set in a very unique part of the world.

We have mentions of Dr. Midnight, several mysterious URLs, demonic members of the 88, and a deeper look at the day of blindness. All of this is fairly naturally crafted into Ellis’s own narrative about the End Times, which sees a sudden and complete reversal of Earth’s polarity and a central mystery about what, exactly, is happening. And this mystery is where a good amount of fun questioning comes into play – how did a scientist from the antarctic end up in the arctic, why is the polar research station suddenly different, and what’s with all these weird craters that have mysteriously appeared?

This culminates in a heated finale that gives us, perhaps for the first time, a glimpse at the true inner-workings of the Apocalypse Weird universe and an indication of just how expansive the overarching mythology could prove to be as the story builds. As with the other entries, there is a shared expectation of what comes next and further musings over how and when these various series will intersect, but whatever culmination is on the horizon promises to be big. In the meantime, the journey, which is really only just getting started, mind you, is shaping up to be epic and well worth reader’s investment. Keep on rockin’ it, Weirdos!

Buy Reversal On Amazon
Review: Apocalypse Weird: Reversal (Polar Wyrd Book 1) by Jennifer Ellis

Review: Apocalypse Weird: Immunity (Immunity Book 1) by E.E. Giorgi

Immunity_FT_FINALAbout Immunity

Publication date: Feb. 23, 2015

Scorched by fire and the longest drought in recorded history, survivors flee the Land of Enchantment in order to escape a mutated flu virus that turns ordinary people into mass-murderers. Only a few resilient scientists have remained, gathered in one of the last national laboratories still working on a vaccine against the deadly virus.

When the disease starts spreading among the military corps guarding the premises, the laboratory turns into a bloody carnage at the hands of the infected soldiers. Determined to succeed where her mother has failed, immunologist Anu Sharma pairs up with computer geek David Ashberg to find a cure and escape the massacre. Outbreak meets World War Z in the deserts of the Apocalypse Weird.


About the Author

E.E. Giorgi grew up in Tuscany, in a house on a hill that she shared with two dogs, two cats, 5 chickens, and the occasional batches of stick insects, newts and toads her dad would bring home from the lab. Today, E.E. Giorgi is a scientist and an award winning author and photographer. She spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets, and her nights pretending she’s somebody else. On her blog, E.E. discusses science for the inquiring mind, especially the kind that sparks fantastic premises and engaging stories. Her debut novel CHIMERAS, a medical mystery, is a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner.

NEWSLETTER: http://eepurl.com/SPCvT
BLOG: http://chimerasthebooks.blogspot.com/
PORTFOLIO: http://elenaedi.smugmug.com/
G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+EEGiorgi/posts


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy from the author for review.]

Author E.E. Giorgi delves into the Apocalypse Weird world with Immunity. Set in New Mexico, the story focuses on two scientists, Anu and David, who are working to find a cure to the H7N7 flu virus that has devastated Los Angeles (see Nick Cole’s The Red King for the scoop on that) and kicked off a zombie plague.

The writing is crisp and straight-forward, and Giorgi kept me hooked all the way through. After reading Cole and Bunker’s efforts, it was a bit refreshing to discover how tonally different Immunity was, despite being part of a shared universe. The first half of the book is a quieter effort than the other Apocalypse Weird books I’ve read, but certainly no less engaging. Giorgi is focused on the characters first and foremost, along with the science behind the bio-engineered autoimmune flu, and it makes for nifty reading, giving a bit more depth to the interrelated works without making the shared events feel repetitive.

Giorgi draws in several of what are quickly shaping up to be Apocalypse Weird staples: there’s the radio rantings of Dr. Midnight, and although the central villain, General Wick (perhaps short for Wicked?) Naga is not explicitly defined as one of the 88, the text makes it apparent that he is,  and he brings his Black Hand subordinates in tow.

The inciting incident here is the day of darkness, when the whole world went blind for a day, as mentioned in Texocalypse Now, and it drives the back half of the book into all-out action as the plot’s various elements are drawn together in a fiery, adrenaline-fueled climax.

There’s a dash of science, a good bit of conspiracy, and plenty of apocalyptic dread casting a large shadow over the work. Giorgi brings a subtle bit of welcome flavoring to the Apocalypse Weird smorgasbord by taking a techno-thriller approach to the End Times, while fleshing out the AW world in sensible fashion. Immunity is a solid addition to the apocalyptic tapestry taking shape so far.

Buy Immunity At Amazon
Review: Apocalypse Weird: Immunity (Immunity Book 1) by E.E. Giorgi

Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Dark Knight (WYRD Book 2) by Nick Cole

TheDarkKnight_FT_FINAL

About The Dark Knight

The story begun in The Red King continues as survivors band together to build a modern-day castle against a tide of dark forces overrunning Southern California. While Frank and Holiday struggle for power, Ash ventures into the night to rescue a lost special needs adult who has unknowingly glimpsed a horrifying future: a future where man is on the verge of extinction and a new predator rules the planet. The Apocalypse Weird is beginning, and it might just be something bigger than anyone ever imagined … or feared.


About the Author

Nick Cole is a working actor living in Southern California. When he is not auditioning for commercials, going out for sitcoms or being shot, kicked, stabbed or beaten by the students of various film schools for their projects, he can often be found as a guard for King Phillip the Second of Spain in the Opera Don Carlo at Los Angeles Opera or some similar role. Nick Cole has been writing for most of his life and acting in Hollywood after serving in the U.S. Army.


My Thoughts

[I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the author for review.]

I’ll be honest – when I found out that Nick Cole’s second entry in the Apocalypse Weird bookverse would be including a special needs character obsessed with Batman, I was little apprehensive. Would this just be a silly gag, or a manufactured attempt to tug at people’s heart-strings?

There’s a certain amount of deftness that goes into creating and respectfully handling characters with special needs, and I worried that such a character might be improperly tended to, or that the balance required in fleshing out such a character properly would somehow be upset. It wasn’t a matter of Cole being PC or not; I just didn’t want the story or the character to feel cheap, and I didn’t want this character to be, even worse, just a prop.

Mostly, I just wasn’t as familiar with Cole’s work as I should be, having only read his prior AW entry (sorry, but I haven’t gotten to Soda Pop Soldier or The Wasteland saga yet…), and so I was unsure of his sensibilities as an author. And, shame on me for the apprehension. Cole handles this aspect of The Dark Knight with delicate aplomb and creates a character in Corey that is fleshed-out nicely. I really shouldn’t have worried, and this character becomes one of the more engaging aspects of the book and takes center stage beautifully. I was a bit broken-heated over Corey’s background, but not in a used, schmaltzy way. Cole quickly convinced me that he was writing a human being, with real human struggles, one that I could relate to and empathize with. I was worried about artifice, while Cole was serving up authenticity. I was right there with him, in the middle of this zombie plague, worrying for him and hoping he’d make it through OK.

Nicely done, Mr. Cole. I’m sorry to have doubted you initially, but count me as a fan now, please.

Regarding the rest of The Dark Knight, we pick up with the prior book’s survivors dealing with the personal fallout from that climax, and it proceeds in sensible fashion. Holiday isn’t quite the drunk he was last time around, working to make amends, but whatever trust he’d built up has been squandered. There’s a simmering tension between he and Frank, with the latter routinely calling out Holiday’s lack of foresight, and you just have to wonder how long it’ll be before these two snap and try to pound one another into the ground.

And, although I enjoyed Book 1 in the WYRD series, The Red King, I did have a few quibbles with it and felt it carried a little too much on its shoulders. The Dark Knight is measurably better, in my opinion, and now that there are other Apocalypse Weird novels breaking out onto the scene it allows Cole to focus solely on his own story without having to tease, and leave unresolved, other weird disasters that AW authors will be tackling. The core of the story is dynamite, and it’s allowed now to exist on its own, with its own agency, and act as less of a set-up for other ancillary tales. That said, some of the dangling threads from the prior book are explored here in much greater detail, and far more satisfactorily, helping to showcase the unusual dual nature in mankind’s fall by way of zombie horror and a detour to…well, I won’t say much more lest I ruin the fun!

We’re in a good spot with this AW bookverse now, and things are really shaping up nicely. With six titles in the wings, there’s plenty of pages out there to determine the worth of this ongoing Apocalypse Weird enterprise, and, man, I really think it looks like a winner. I’m excited to see what comes next, and will be anticipating my next fix of strange end of the world scenarios, along with the next WYRD book, naturally.

Buy The Dark Knight At Amazon
Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Dark Knight (WYRD Book 2) by Nick Cole

Review: Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz

Flex-144dpiAbout Flex

March 3, 2015

A desperate father will do anything to heal his daughter in a novel where Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

FLEX: Distilled magic in crystal form. The most dangerous drug in the world. Snort it, and you can create incredible coincidences to live the life of your dreams.

FLUX: The backlash from snorting Flex. The universe hates magic and tries to rebalance the odds; maybe you survive the horrendous accidents the Flex inflicts, maybe you don’t.

PAUL TSABO: The obsessed bureaucromancer who’s turned paperwork into a magical Beast that can rewrite rental agreements, conjure rented cars from nowhere, track down anyone who’s ever filled out a form.

But when all of his formulaic magic can’t save his burned daughter, Paul must enter the dangerous world of Flex dealers to heal her. Except he’s never done this before – and the punishment for brewing Flex is army conscription and a total brain-wipe.

File Under: Urban Fantasy


About the Author

FERRETT STEINMETZ is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers’ Workshop and Viable Paradise, and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, for which he remains stoked. Ferrett has a moderately popular blog, The Watchtower of Destruction, wherein he talks about bad puns, relationships, politics, videogames, and more bad puns. Noted online personality, whose letter to his daughter ‘I Hope You Have Awesome Sex’ went viral. He’s written four computer books, including the still-popular-after-two-years Wicked Cool PHP. He lives in Cleveland with his wife, who he couldn’t imagine living without.

Find Ferrett online at theferrett.livejournal.com or follow him @ferretthimself on Twitter.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this title from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.]

Flex is a novel that grabbed me right off the bat, from its evocative cover art to the intense magic-as-a-drug fueled prologue, and sucked me in with Paul’s struggles to cope with and help his tragically burned daughter.

Ferrett Steinmetz is able to quickly construct a familiar world, one where not only is magic real and rightfully dangerous, but which can also be synthesized into a drug called Flex. Needless to say, magic is illegal, with its wielders forced into military service. In the book’s opening pages, Paul learns that he is gifted with ‘mancy, but that it’s use has very real, very serious repercussions. Magic flexes the universe, but that’s not something to simply toy around with because the universe flexes back. And while magic may break the physics that shape our world, it remains true that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And karma, well, she’s a bitch.

After learning that a terrorist named Anathema, who uses the Flex blowback to target her victims, is responsible for nearly killing his daughter, and that the insurance company, who Paul works for, is refusing to cover her treatments, Paul goes into the Flex making business. This is where Steinmetz earns his Breaking Bad comparison, and it’s well-earned. If you’re going to put a magical spin on recent pop culture phenomena, you could do a lot worse than look to that drug dealing drama for inspiration.

One thing that I really appreciated in this title, though, is just how mundane it can be, and that really helps to ground the story. For instance, although magic is dangerous, it’s not exactly sexy. Paul’s powers stem from his love of bureaucracy and filing paperwork, and he’s able to tap into top-secret CIA documents and police reports by magically filing requisition forms. His partner-in-crime, Valentine, is a gamemancer – she’s a video game addict, and her love of Wii and 3DS fuels her magical abilities, along with some healthy inspiration from the Metal Gear Solid series.

It helps, too, that Steinmetz casts his characters are real people, first and foremost. These aren’t part-time models who strut around on the catwalk and then fight crime at night. Paul’s a paper-pusher for an insurance company. An ex-cop, he lost a foot in the line of duty and has a robotic prosthetic that can be a bit ungainly. Valentine is a wonderfully natural heroine, a bit chubby, a bit geeky, a bit sarcastic, and she adopts Paul’s mission as her own out of sincere compassion. They make for a dynamic team, and their relationship shows wonderful growth.

I have to give Steinmetz a lot of credit for inserting as much realism and humanity into the story as he does, and this is a large part of the reason for why the book works as well as it does. It’s clear that a lot of effort went into making the fantastic as relatable as possible, and there’s a terrific amount of world building constructed around the disruption that magic, and its rules, brings to the table. Flex was an absolute delight to read, and my only real lament is that I can’t cast some bureaucromancy of my own to conjure up the sequel right friggin’ now.

Buy Flex At Amazon
Review: Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz