Review: The Dark Man by Ernie Lindsey (writing as Desmond Doane)

The Dark ManAbout The Dark Man

Ford Atticus Ford, former host of the hit ghost-hunting reality show Graveyard: Classified, has more than a few regrets—especially after young Chelsea Hopper was attacked by a demon.

Assisting police departments by conducting paranormal investigations and uncovering buried clues now provides Ford with an ounce of redemption, but it will never be enough.

What occurred on that long-ago Halloween night was unforgivable, and Ford, chasing ratings and stardom, let it happen. With Graveyard cancelled and his reputation destroyed, Ford sets out to avenge little Chelsea, and to save his own soul—if he can.


About the Author

Desmond Doane is the pen name of USA Today bestselling author, Ernie Lindsey, who lives, works, and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Lindsey is the author of thirteen mystery and suspense novels, and Desmond Doane, when he’s allowed to come out to play, will feature as the creator of the Graveyard: Classified paranormal thriller series.


My Thoughts

Ernie Lindsey, writing here under the pseudonym of Desmond Doane, takes his first steps into the horror genre with The Dark Man, and it’s, mostly, pretty darn effective.

The premise revolves around a disgraced reality show ghost-hunter, Ford Atticus Ford, working to atone for his past sins. Two years ago, during a live Halloween special, Ford put the life of a five year old in incredible danger, squaring off against a supernatural threat in the Most Haunted House in America. His career was quickly canned and he’s now a bit of a wandering ghost-hunter, attempting to track down the demon that changed his life forever while doing police consultancy on the side.

Ford himself is a dynamic character and Lindsey gives him a solid bit of development and personality. Ford is, in short, kind of an a-hole. While he carries around a solid dose of guilt over endangering the life of a child, he also pines to resurrect his TV career and rebound bigger and better than before. His personal life is in shambles, as his friends and crewmates from the cancelled Graveyard: Classified want nothing to do with him, and his ex-wife isn’t too thrilled with him either.

Lindsey’s foray into the paranormal brings with it a certain measure of authenticity, and I can’t help but wonder just how many episodes of certain SyFy and Travel Channel reality TV shows he’s consumed to help give Graveyard: Classified the sort-of ‘behind the scenes’ vibe. Regardless, it’s an aspect of the story that works quite well.

More importantly, he nails the creep-factor nicely and had me completely sold on the book’s premise and invested in the outcome. There’s a scene early on when Ford is investigating a haunted house and Lindsey gives readers their first taste of the otherworldly that raised the hair on the back of my neck and got me grinning.

For much of its length, The Dark Man rockets along with the rapid-fire pace of an action story with splashes of humor, evoking shades of television’s Supernatural. However, my main complaint is that the story fizzles out toward the end and lacks sufficient resolution. While the central murder mystery gets wrapped up, the overarching paranormal story is shelved for exploration in future installments. There’s a strange shifting of gears in the novel’s final chapters, with so much build-up leading toward the finish line and then…nothing. It’s a rather anti-climactic finish to an otherwise well-told ghost story.

That issue aside, I’m certainly game to see what comes of Ford Atticus Ford and his ghost-hunting partners in future installments, and am game for book two whenever it releases. See you on the other side!

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Review: The Dark Man by Ernie Lindsey (writing as Desmond Doane)

Review: Extinction Age (The Extinction Cycle Book 3) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Extinction AgeAbout Extinction Age

Book III in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s #1 bestselling and top-rated Extinction Cycle Series continues the fight for survival!
___________________________
 

On the eve of extinction all seems to be lost, but there is still one final hope…

Operation Liberty has failed. Humans are losing the war. With no other option, General Kennor decides to pull back the troops and give science a second chance.

Trapped in the extensive sewer system beneath New York, Master Sergeant Reed Beckham and the survivors of 1st Platoon must battle through the tunnels–where they make a grisly discovery in their attempt to escape.

At Plum Island, Dr. Kate Lovato is working on a new bioweapon to destroy the Variants. But when a derelict Navy Destroyer crashes into the Connecticut shoreline, she is forced to deal with a nightmare she thought had ended.

As the doomsday clock ticks down and military bases fall across the country, the human race enters the age of extinction. Will science prevail–or will mankind vanish off the face of the planet?


About the Author

Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the author of several post-apocalyptic books and short stories. He worked for the State of Iowa for nearly 10 years before switching careers to focus on his one true passion–writing. When he isn’t daydreaming about the apocalypse he’s likely racing in triathlons around the Midwest. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his family and several rescued animals.

If you’d like to hear more about Nick’s books, you can join his spam free mailing list here: http://bit.ly/NicholasSansburySmith.

Or visit Nick at: http://nicholassansbury.com.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received a copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Over the course of his Orbs and Extinction Cycle series, Nicholas Sansbury Smith has risen to the top of my go-to list for rocking sci-fi/horror military thrillers. With Extinction Age, the third in this series, he is at the height of his game.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous two books, you’ll be welcoming this latest with eyes glued to the page. Ghost Team is back, along with Dr. Kate Lovato, whose deepening relationship with Ghost leader, Reed Beckham, has her fully recommitted to developing a weapon to destroy the Variants.

Mankind is plunging further toward extinction thanks to the Variant threat, but even worse are the human enemies embedded in the upper echelons the military’s hierarchy. Their incompetence and duplicity have led to several bad decisions over the course of this series, as these men are revealed to be less interested in saving the world than in covering their own rears. As such, they’re a great force to root against and you’re constantly waiting and hoping for them to get their comeuppance.

The finale is also one of the strongest and most satisfying in the series thus far, mixing fist-pumping cheers with an excruciating denouement that left me screaming at my Kindle.

Extinction Age is brimming with action and terrific set pieces that include a derelict aircraft carrier and the underground tunnels of a secret FEMA installation, along with a few new characters to root for and villains to despise. The supporting cast each get a chance to shine, as well, particularly Dr. Ellis, as well as wounded warrior Fitz, who seems to be building toward a more central role in the series.

Smith does an excellent job balancing the bleak nature of this particular post-apocalyptic narrative with a sense of hope and optimism, despite how dark things get. If you’ve been following this series thus far, then Book 3 is certainly one to buy. If you haven’t, then hustle over to the Extinction Horizon page and start from the beginning ASAP.

Buy Extinction Age At Amazon
Review: Extinction Age (The Extinction Cycle Book 3) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Review: The Z Chronicles – An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Z ChroniclesAbout The Z Chronicles

Z. Among the most monstrous creations of our imaginations, the zombie terrifies, with its capacity to pursue its prey, to run it down, exhaust it to surrender, unrelentingly.

In this title in the acclaimed Future Chronicles series of speculative fiction anthologies, fourteen authors confront the nightmare, that horrific mirror of ourselves that pursues us with untiring hunger.

The Z Chronicles features stories by bestselling authors Hugh Howey (Wool), Jennifer Foehner Wells (Fluency), plus twelve more of today’s top authors in speculative and science fiction.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review.]

The Z Chronicles is the latest in Samuel Peralta’s ever-growing series of The Future Chronicles anthologies. While I’ve only read a couple of the previous collections, this zombie-themed antho is far and away my favorite of the bunch and represents one the strongest over-all anthologies that I’ve ever read.

There is a mighty fine assemblage of authors here, and a number of superb stories that, on their own, more than make the price of entry completely worthwhile. And, as with any good anthology, this has given me a nice starting point to delve deeper into the works of authors that are new to me. In fact, after reading several of the stories included here, I immediately hopped onto Amazon and bought a couple titles from writers like Ann Christy and Deirdre Gould. Following here, then, are a few thoughts on my favorites – consider this a LIGHT SPOILER WARNING and feel free to skip down to the bottom if you want to be completely blind going in.

Christy’s story, VINDICA, kicks of The Z Chronicles in grand style with a story of insurrection in an underground habitat built for the rich. It’s a strong stand-along story, but also provides a great taste of the author’s Between series.

KAMIKA-Z by Christopher Boore, and Will Swardstron’s Z BALL are also very strong efforts, with the former featuring cyborg zombies unleashed upon the US during a war with China. This one is told across three viewpoints of a single family struggling to survive. It’s dark, but the characters are richly developed and their own unique voices are allowed to shine across each chapter. My only complaint is that I really wanted to see more of these cyborg zombie things! It’s such a cool concept, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Boore expands on it in a larger work soon.

Z BALL casts the zombie uprising through the bright lights of American sports. This one is a wonderful outside-of-the-box approach to the zombie apocalypse and the way society responds and adapts to changing circumstances. And, just for good measure, it’s all wrapped up in a nice shell of conspiracy and paranoia.

Hugh Howey and David Adams play around a bit in Howey’s own I, Zombie world. GLORIA is a story of a woman coming to grips with her own zombiefication, while Adams presents a similar story of a transgender individual who has been zombified. Both of these showcase a great bit of internal character development as they grapple with their post-death existence that finds their healthy mental states locked inside bodies they can no longer control thanks to the ravages of the plague.

Peter Cawdron’s FREE FALL is another excellent piece that begins with a bit of a sci-fi bent as an astronaut returns to a decimated Earth. The opening bit of this story is a terrific slow-burn as the spaceman attempts to establish contact with Houston Ground Control only to slowly realize things are not quite right. It slowly morphs into a more traditional zombie-survival story, one that is really well done. Fans of the comics Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead should find quite a lot to appreciate here.

CURING KHANG YEO finished off the anthology with a stunningly rich character piece that finds the title character cured after several years as a zombie. Reclaimed by a very different world than the one he left, Yeo discovers that there are worse things than being a zombie – namely, living with yourself in the wake of all that you’ve done and those you’ve killed. His sense of guilt is supremely palpable, with the struggle between his own desires and the wishes of his medical saviors (if you can really call them that) is effectively striking. Author Deirdre Gould scores a huge, huge win with this story and I loved it so much that I immediately grabbed a copy of the first installment in her After The Cure series. While YEO is set in that same series, it is certainly effective as a stand-alone, but I suspect readers discovering Gould for the first time will find it difficult to ignore her novel-length works after reading this one. I, for one, absolutely need to know more about the world she’s constructed and the psychological and societal aftermath of this cure.

As with any anthology, there were a couple stories that didn’t strike a strong chord with me, but those that did, particularly those outlined above, were just incredibly top-notch efforts. Overall, this is a wickedly strong anthology and zombie fans should be devouring this one ASAP. If you’re going through withdrawal’s of AMC’s The Walking Dead, or looking for something to fill the gap left by Jonathan Maberry’s ROT & RUIN series, this fix is now in. Highly recommended!

Buy The Z Chronicles At Amazon
Review: The Z Chronicles – An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Review: The Pearl Diver (Seven Worlds Saga Book 1) by S. Elliot Brandis

Pearl_Diver_FinalAbout The Pearl Diver

I’m Elsie, from the planet Caelum.

It’s 96% ocean, but that’s okay. Out of all six planets (or seven, if you believe the myths), we’re the only people with gills. I can breathe underwater for minutes at a time, discovering the secrets of the deep-sea. Diving is my first love.

But not everybody understands.

Each year they run a competition—a single black pearl is dropped into the ocean, and graduating students dive to find it. It sounds easy, but it’s not. The ocean is a dark and dangerous place, with caves, crevices, and flesh-eating creatures. Some years, not everybody survives.

It’s how my brother died.

My parents won’t let me compete. At times it seems like the whole island is against me. I don’t care. I will enroll, win, and gain the ultimate prize—a job diving on the head planet of the entire system. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll fight for a better life, out there in the stars.

I will be the Pearl Diver.

Or die trying.


About the Author

S. ElliotBrandis is an engineer and author from Brisbane, Australia. He writes post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, often infused with a variety of outside elements. He is a lover of beer, baseball, and science fiction.His novels are about outlaws, outcasts, and outsiders.

To find out more visit:

Web: http://selliotbrandis.com/
Facebook: http://facebook.com/selliotbrandis
Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/PsmMv
email: s.elliot.brandis@gmail.com


My Thoughts

S. ElliotBrandis’s opening volley in his latest series, Seven Worlds Saga, offers up a promising start to what could very well become a high-water mark in the author’s oeuvre.Elsie dreams of becoming the winning pearl diver in the annual competition that will score her a one-way ticket off her planet and to the central world of Dunamis. In the wake of her brother’s death in a prior tournament, her parents viciously oppose her, forcing her to rebel.

I won’t say much more in regards to the plot, but to say Elsie gets more than she bargains for is putting it mildly.

Brandis delivers the goods when it comes to Young Adult dystopian fiction: there is a well-defined and atrocious threat, impossible odds, and a very strong, determined, and capable heroine. Elsie is just a terrific character and honestly written. It’s utterly impossible not to root for her, and, frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear her name-dropped alongside Katniss Everdeen some day soon.

After having spent the last few days fully submerged in the world of The Pearl Diver, I’m now left eagerly waiting for the next installment in this series. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book ASAP.

 Buy The Pearl Diver At Amazon
Review: The Pearl Diver (Seven Worlds Saga Book 1) by S. Elliot Brandis

Review: A Shroud of Night and Tears (Beyond The Wall, Book 3) by Lucas Bale

shroudAbout A Shroud of Night and Tears

If war shapes the universe, truth destroys it.

A criminal becomes a leader, hiding a tiny colony of survivors from the savagery of twisted men.

A smuggler harbours refugees from a brutal attack on their defenceless village.

A young boy, wracked by loss, now seeks revenge.

A servant of the Magistratus, a lawman who once believed in justice, searches for the truth behind the planet his masters will kill to hide.

A stim-addicted navigator, haunted by her past, wants answers. Why she was chosen to ride with a salvage crew destined to die in a remote, nameless part of space.

And a spy is blackmailed into informing against those he serves. What he knows could bring about the end of the Republic.

All will be drawn together by hidden forces, and their lives shattered by cataclysmic events they can neither predict… nor escape.


About the Author

Lucas Bale writes the sort of intense, gripping science-fiction thrillers which make you miss your train. Stories which dig into what makes us human and scrape at the darkness which hides inside every one of us. His bestselling debut novel, THE HERETIC, is the gateway to the award-winning BEYOND THE WALL series, an epic hard science-fiction space opera about the future of humanity and the discovery of the truth of its past. He wasn’t always a writer. He was a criminal lawyer for fifteen years before he discovered crime doesn’t pay and turned to something which actually pays even less. No one ever said he was smart, but at least he’s happy. He blushes when people mention him in the same sentence as Iain M. Banks or George R. R. Martin, bless him.

website: http://www.lucasbale.com/


My Thoughts

[Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review. I have also collaborated with Lucas Bale on the anthology, No Way Home.]

One of the great joys in discovering a fresh, new voice early on in their career is being able to watch and read how they have developed as an author over time. When I met Lucas Bale a year ago on KBoards and became familiar with his work via The Heretic, his first release, I was impressed with the crisp writing and clear authorial voice, as well as an engaging story that held so much promise for future works. I was eager to see where he would go, and I absolutely loved his second book, Defiance. And I’m not saying all this because I consider Lucas a friend, nor because we’ve worked together in the past and will again in the near-future. I’m approaching these works as a reader, first and foremost, as well as, now, a fan.

As such, I hope it is with a measure of trust between us, dear reader, when I say that A Shroud of Night and Tears is by far his most accomplished work. In fact, I feel somewhat urged to not give this book five stars, simply because Bale gets better and better with each work. I could rightly give this title four starts knowing full-well that, in all due likelihood, his next book will top this. If I keep giving him five stars, where the hell does he go from there? This is likely a problem many of his fans face, as well, so perhaps there is some commiseration to be had. Still, I’m giving it those coveted 5-stars because it’s easily one of the best sci-fi titles I’ve read this year, and one of the strongest space opera books I’ve read in ages. It is, in short, phenomenal!

Those readers that were disappointed by the sudden change in characters in Defiance and the brief pause to tell a new story with the lawman, Weaver, and his prey, Natasha, will be heartened to know that Shepherd, Jordi, and the preacher from The Heretic all make their return here, in addition to those fresh, new faces introduced in the previous book.

A Shroud of Night and Tears provides an awesome landscape in which to unite these disparate figures, pitting them together in a scenario that remarkably shifts the series’ overarching threat into something far grander than I had initially expected at the outset of Beyond The Wall. I know this sounds vague, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers, because there is such a huge plot development in this penultimate work that twists everything I thought I knew about what was happening into something very, very different.

In addition to elevating this developing story to a higher plane, Bale also manages to up the ante on a personal level, as well. There are threats galore, and back-stabbings aplenty, in addition to attempted murder by backpack bombs, and a few other surprises that I shall not spoil. Let’s just say that uniting all these various personalities from the prior two books under the umbrella of a larger, looming nightmare does not make everything all hunky-dory. These are characters with conflicting personalities and personal agendas of their own, which provides a strong, tense backdrop to the proceedings. I really liked the espionage-like tone that Weaver’s mission took on in the book’s latter half, giving it a sort of Mission: Impossible vibe that I truly dug.

So, there’s one more book to go in this Beyond The Wall series, and I fully expect it to be wrought with peril and adventure. How Bale will tie everything up is the big question, and I can only hope there isn’t too long of a wait.

Buy A Shroud of Night And Tears At Amazon
Review: A Shroud of Night and Tears (Beyond The Wall, Book 3) by Lucas Bale

Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

Apex-144dpiAbout Apex

The Explosive Conclusion to Nexus and Crux

Global unrest spreads through the US, China, and beyond. Secrets and lies set off shockwaves of anger, rippling from mind to mind. Riot police battle neurally-linked protesters. Armies are mobilized. Political orders fall. Nexus-driven revolution is here.

Against this backdrop, a new breed of post-human children are growing into their powers. And a once-dead scientist, driven mad by her torture, is closing in on her plans to seize planet’s electronic systems, and re-forge everything in her image.

A new Apex species is here. The world will never be the same.


About the Author

Ramez Naam was born in Cairo, Egypt, and came to the US at the age of 3. He’s a computer scientist who spent 13 years at Microsoft, leading teams working on email, web browsing, search, and artificial intelligence. He holds almost 20 patents in those areas.

Ramez is the winner of the 2005 H.G. Wells Award for his non-fiction book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. He’s worked as a life guard, has climbed mountains, backpacked through remote corners of China, and ridden his bicycle down hundreds of miles of the Vietnam coast. He lives in Seattle, where he writes and speaks full time.


My Thoughts

[Note: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.]

I was instantly captivated by Ramez Naam’s sci-fi debut, Nexus, and have loved reading how his characters and this near-future Earth have responded to the burgeoning transhuman movement. With Apex, Naam picks up the story threads left at the end of book two, Crux, and delivers a highly satisfying conclusion to his series.

Apex is a large book, in both page count and scope. The advanced brain enhancement technology of the NexusOS has been causing a political stir for quite sometime, and it all comes to a head here. There are political coups, conspiracies, terrorism, riots, the rise of AI, and the threat of nuclear warfare.

This is a dense novel, with multiple subplots revolving around the birth of the PLF, a pro-transhumanist terror group, technological heists between China and India stemming from the viral load of the once-human Su-Yong, and disputes over the US presidential election, and so many other moving pieces intersecting these various subplots that the book feels much longer than it really is.

And that, really, is my only gripe. While Amazon lists the page count of this book at 608 pages, it feels twice as long and makes for a bit of a ponderous read. There is just so much happening, and so many characters involved, that it’s hard not to feel the weight and pressure of the story. I recall the prior two books being rather briskly paced and energetic, whereas this one is more of a massive pot-boiler. While it took me some time to get through, it was certainly well worth it. There’s also the issue of information delivery, with segments of the story being told in large chunks and then abandoned for a long while to focus on other issues, before circling back to pick up the threads on something else.

All that said, I did find Apex to being a strong finish to the story with the characters meeting their natural conclusions and, in some cases, a few surprises along the way. I do wish more would have been done to make Sam less one dimensional here, as she’s been a strong character previously with a very interesting background and journey throughout. It’s a bit of a shame to have her reduced here to a simple worrywart, mother figure with little else to do. I was happy to see Ranjan Shankari with a more integral role this time around, though, and Kade’s steps toward becoming a leader was very well done.

Naam is due tremendous applause for keeping all the gears turning in this massive tome. As I said, there is an awful lot happening here, with a lot of spinning plates to keep an eye, but the author does a fabulous job of tying up the various thread and delivering an energetic and compulsively readable finale to not only Apex, but to the series as a whole.

If you’ve been following the Nexus series thus far, then grabbing a copy of Apex is a no-brainer and it brings the series to a close with a rollicking finish replete with serious tension and action. If you haven’t been, then I highly recommend you start at the beginning, where you’ll likely find yourself becoming a fan in no time.

Buy Apex At Amazon
Review: Apex (Nexus Arc Book 3) by Ramez Naam

Now Available: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns

WeaponsMass_CVR_LRGI had the pleasure of reading Weapons of Mass Deception earlier this month, and really enjoyed what David Bruns and J.R. Olson did here. It’s a finely-tuned military thriller on the bleeding-edge of today’s global politics. There’s a great deal of action, and most of all, heart, with solid characters across the board. You can read my review of this title here, check out their press release below, and order a copy of this just-released title at Amazon right now.

Happy weekend reading!


TWIN CITIES VETERANS RELEASE MILITARY THRILLER ABOUT NUCLEAR TERRORISM

Iranian nuclear program, rogue intelligence operatives, Navy SEALs – all with a Minnesota touch.

U.S. Navy veterans David Bruns and J. R. Olson have released their co-authored military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Based on the premise that Saddam Hussein really did possess nuclear weapons–which he smuggled into Iran before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq–their story weaves historical fact and technical accuracy about military operations into a tale that could be ripped from today’s headlines. Both authors are long-time residents of the Twin Cities Metro and their novel features local landmarks in some of the key chapters.

Bruns, a former US Navy submarine officer and corporate executive with a science fiction series to his name, provided much of the writing, publishing, and marketing expertise to their creative joint venture. Olson’s 25-year career as a naval intelligence officer specializing in human intel or HUMINT, took him to war zones in Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf, as well as a stint as the US Naval Attaché to Finland. His experiences helped to build the plot for Weapons of Mass Deception and ensured technical realism in their storytelling.

Bob Mayer, West Point graduate, former Green Beret, and New York Times bestselling author, states: “These two Navy veterans have put together a ripping yarn about modern-day nuclear terrorism. I was hooked from the very first page.”

Both Bruns and Olson are graduates of the United States Naval Academy and the idea for their partnership grew out of an April 2014 speaking engagement to the Minnesota chapter of the Naval Academy Parent’s Association where they were invited to talk about their careers. At the conclusion of their respective stories, a member of the audience suggested the two collaborate on a novel.

Now, one year later, Weapons of Mass Deception is available in print and ebook at Amazon.com (http://bit.ly/buy-wmd) and at BN.com (http://bit.ly/WMD-on-BN). For more information, visit www.davidbruns.com.

Now Available: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns