Sci-Fi November: Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Red King (WYRD Book 1) by Nick Cole

RedKingAbout The Red King

The end of the world is only the beginning as an odd band of survivors pull together to construct a modern-day castle amid the burning ruins of suburbia lost. As undead hordes and strange otherworldly monsters ravage what’s left of civilization, things begin to go from worse to weird as each survivor’s dark past unfolds, revealing that reality might be more than anyone ever thought, and that an ancient force from the outer dark has finally arrived to conquer. Stephen King’s The Stand meets Lost in an epic confrontation between good and evil that spans history, time, and space. The Red King is the first full story to be released in the wild world of Apocalypse Weird, and it is book one of the Apocalypse Weird – WYRD arc by Nick Cole.

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 ARC of this book via the Apocalypse Weird website.)

Holiday is an alcoholic and spends several days on a booze and cigarettes bender, completely missing the zombie apocalypse happening outside his condo. By the time he starts to sober up, the only thing on TV is an Emergency Broadcast Warning and evacuation orders from the president. He can hear the gunshots from outside, the unending bleat of a car horn, and the nice looking female jogger he’s noticed on a few occasions now has a thirst for blood. As he begins to sober up, he realizes he’s one of the very few survivors of this weird apocalypse.

The Red King opens the Apocalypse Weird line of books, which is set to be part of a shared world of various strange apocalyptic tropes written by various authors, beginning here with Nick Cole. It’s a solid idea for a new “bookverse” series that promises to deliver everything from zombies (as detailed in this book) to kaiju attacks, mutants, cyborgs, and strange weather phenomena.

All of this makes reviewing a work like The Red King a bit tricky. While I did enjoy the book for the most part, portions of the book are meant to set-up the playing field for other writers and future installments in Cole’s WYRD arc. Ultimately, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a very incomplete reading experience.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a good series read. But, it’s becoming a bit of a pet peeve of mine when an entry fails to work well enough as a stand alone. Let me use Lee Child’s recent Jack Reacher novels as an illustration. During four books, Child used a overarching narrative of Jack Reacher traveling cross-country to meet up with Susan Turner. It’s a hook that connects the individual books, yet each of those four work well enough on their own and the central plot to each novel gets cleaned up sufficiently, yet leaves room to maneuver within this overarching “meet-up” story arc for the next book. Or, if you want to keep things in the zombie genre, check out Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series, which, again, has an overarching narrative but the conflicts at the core of each individual novel feel like a complete experience, while also saving enough of the connective narrative arch to draw you back for subsequent installments. While I appreciate the sense of scope at play here in Cole’s book, certain plot threads feel like missed opportunities that get introduced only to be entirely dropped from the narrative.

For instance, Cole spends a fair amount of time weaving multiple narratives. The book opens and closes with a chess game between The Red King and his Opponent. That works well enough as a book end and could have been a terrific way to tease the next book if there had only been some modicum of closure with the larger issues raised in between. Just as Cole has begun to lay the groundwork of Holiday’s survival story, and his developing relationship with his neighbor, Frank, he cuts away to tell the story of a spy under orders to infiltrate what I presume is a domestic terror operation. It’s a jarring change in narrative and a bit unexpected, introducing a bit of conspiracy to the zombie epidemic that seems promising at first but fails to congeal or offer any bit of temporary resolution. Another diversion involves the thumping presence of a massive, yet always unseen monster, who upsets the scenes a few times only to disappear entirely from the narrative.

By book’s end, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was the point of any of that? Obviously those scenes are there simply to connect this book to the work of other authors, but they feel too misplaced, and raise too many unanswered questions while offering nothing in the way of even minor resolution, to feel like necessary detours. If the question is ‘why are those scenes in this book’ and the answer is ‘wait until the next book to find out,’ well, I don’t feel like that’s a sufficient enough answer. It frustrates me when I begin to realize that a particular story exists only to tease the next part of the story, and spends more time setting up future installments rather than focusing on the present details and providing at least the appearance of resolution. Let’s get some closure to the weird story threads introduced here, just enough to feel natural and significant, and then blow things wide open again in the next book.

There’s my big complaint out of the way. And, thankfully, what is here and what does get resolved works well enough enough to keep me happy. The characters are pretty strong and relateable, and I was rooting for the trio of survivors at the book’s core all the way through.

I really liked Cole’s depiction of Holiday, giving the man enough of a solid character voice and heroic actions to make him sympathetic, but also giving him a very serious flaw that forces him into one questionable act after another. He’s a great flawed protagonist whose inner-demons help drive some of the conflict in the narrative, and whose choices have damaging repercussions. His alcoholism plays an integral role to the narrative, and it gives the book some much needed dimension to help set it apart from other zombie books.

I also really liked the relationship between Holiday, his neighbor Frank, and a female survivor named Ash. They make a fine trio, and there’s a terrific sense of camaraderie and a building trust as they rely on one another to survive and work together. I also found the resolution to the relationship side of their story to be particularly strong and necessarily damning. There’s a lot of heart in their final scenes together, and it works wonderfully.

The big question then, is, am I willing to check out what else Apocalypse Weird has in store during the coming months, and the answer is a resounding yes. Despite my quibble’s with some of the subplot developments occurring in The Red King, it certainly sounds like there are some terrific ideas coming through the pipeline and some very intriguing stories happening within the overarching premise of the Apocalypse Weird universe. I’m more than willing to check out the next installment to see how things shake loose and to see if I can get a better handle on what, exactly, is happening in this lineup of novels. The Red King may not have satisfied me 100 percent, but as an opening gambit to something much larger, it certainly has my attention.

buy Apocalypse weird: The REd King (WYRD book 1) at amazon
Sci-Fi November: Review: Apocalypse Weird: The Red King (WYRD Book 1) by Nick Cole

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

The folks at The Write Life developed this infographic as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek guide to choosing your best publishing options.

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Should You Choose?
Courtesy of: The Write Life


What are you thoughts?

Inforgraphic: Self-Publish or Traditional?

Sci-Fi November: DEFIANCE Release, and the works of Lucas Bale

heretic     defiance      whatitmeanstosurvive

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that early next year, Lucas and I will be releasing a sci-fi anthology, along with a number of other terrific writers with some truly great stories to tell. I’ve reviewed each of his works and dug them all, and I think you’ll like them, too.

Lucas has a new release out today called DEFIANCE. This is the second book in his Beyond The Wall series, and I got to read an ARC of it last week. It’s killer stuff, and well worth picking up. As an added incentive to buy, it’s only 99 cents today!

But, Lucas isn’t stopping there. If you haven’t read the first book in his series, THE HERETIC, that one is currently free. Also free, his recently-released short story WHAT IT MEANS TO SURVIVE.

So, you can grab all three of his titles for just under a dollar. Not too shabby.

Check out his Amazon Author profile for the links to his titles and enjoy:

Sci-Fi November: DEFIANCE Release, and the works of Lucas Bale

Sci-Fi November: Convergence Giveaway Update


I feel like I’ve just hit a bit of a milestone. As of today, 100 people have added Convergence to their To-Read lists, and more than 160 people have entered the giveaway to win one of five signed copies of the print edition. Not too shabby, I don’t think!

If you haven’t entered yet, don’t worry – there’s still plenty of time. The contest is running until Nov. 29. You can enter to win over here (US only)! And be sure to add it your Want To Read list, too.

I’m hoping to see lots more entries over the rest of November, and hopefully the word of mouth and the positive reviews my book has received can help get Convergence into the hands of new readers.

Of course, if you don’t like the odds of winning and want to guarantee yourself a copy, check out the purchase links for the eBook and physical copies here.

Sci-Fi November: Convergence Giveaway Update

Brain-to-Brain Interface

In Convergence (and it’s forthcoming sequel, Emergence), I write about the sharing of memories via digital files and cybernetic implants. It’s based on real research, and a lot of stuff that DARPA is working on made its way into the book. While my novel is definitely high on the “fiction” end of science-fiction, we seem to be getting closer every day to making some of these topics that I and other author’s write about. One of the elements in Convergence is a communications system that allows for brain-to-brain transmissions, and is basically like having a cell phone or web-cam implanted in your head.

Well, leave it up to researchers at the University of Washington to pull it off. Granted, these are minor steps forward, but it shows that there’s certainly a potential for such things to occur in the future, and that the technology already exists, even if only small and limited ways, to make it happen.

From UW Today:

University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago. In the newly published study, which involved six people, researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person’s brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.

The research team combined two kinds of noninvasive instruments and fine-tuned software to connect two human brains in real time. The process is fairly straightforward. One participant is hooked to an electroencephalography machine that reads brain activity and sends electrical pulses via the Web to the second participant, who is wearing a swim cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed near the part of the brain that controls hand movements.

A transcranial magnetic stimulation coil

Using this setup, one person can send a command to move the hand of the other by simply thinking about that hand movement.

Now, with a new $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the UW research team is taking the work a step further in an attempt to decode and transmit more complex brain processes.

With the new funding, the research team will expand the types of information that can be transferred from brain to brain, including more complex visual and psychological phenomena such as concepts, thoughts and rules.

There’s more to be had at the UW Today link above, so go give it a read.

Brain-to-Brain Interface

Quick Update On Revolver (A Sci-Fi Short Story)

Today, I finished up the second draft of REVOLVER, my contribution to a short-story science fiction anthology that will be releasing in 2015. No word on an exact release date yet, but keep checking back for more info!

This one clocked in a bit shy of 11,000 words, or close to 20 pages. Every page had revisions, some of them pretty significant (remember: writing is rewriting!), with more than 300 changes made to this 796 line manuscript. There were a lot of deletions, some insertions, and plenty of sentences that were altered and put under the knife. I’ve now sent it off to the editor and our other contributors and am awaiting their feedback, while keeping my fingers crossed.

Here’s the quick-and-dirty blurb, which may change as things progress but should give you a good idea of what to expect:

In a near-future America, poverty has run rampant and political apathy has allowed special interests to gain control of the country. A crowd-funding platform, Revolver, has been established by the nation’s moneyed elite to combat the increasing blight. Their latest participant is Cara Stone, a depressed woman with no hope for her future and nothing left to lose. There’s never been a Revolver entrant quite like her before. The corporate states of America are hungry for blood, and Cara promises to deliver.

REVOLVER is a bit of a dark work, and definitely the most political my fiction has gotten to date. I understand that may turn some folks off, but that’s simply what the story is. It’s dark, it’s angry, and it contains a few issues that I needed to get off my chest.

And for the moment, it’s now out of my hands. I’ve sent it up the chain, so to speak, and we’ll see what happens next. Stay tuned!

Quick Update On Revolver (A Sci-Fi Short Story)

Reblog: Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter

I came across this Kickstarter project on Twitter today, thanks to this post from Chuck Wendig:

And that led me to John August’s page, and this tweet in particular:

So, now being pretty darn curious as to what the heck this all is, I hit up August’s Kickstarter page and pledged some support. Here’s the link:

Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter.

And here’s what August says about the impetus behind his Writer Emergency Pack project:

Writing is hard. You’re constantly trying to figure out what word comes next.

Creative writing is even harder. When you’re working on a story, you’re not just trying to decide what word comes next, but what idea comes next.

It’s easy to get stuck.

I know what that’s like because I’m a screenwriter. I’m lucky to have had ten movies produced, from GO to BIG FISH to FRANKENWEENIE. I also host a popular podcast about film and television called Scriptnotes.

Over the years, I’ve had conversations with hundreds of writers, both on the podcast and around the lunch table. No matter what genre or medium, all writers face story problems. Plots that plod. Characters that don’t connect.

Every writer has her own techniques for pushing past these problems — little nudges and prompts to help get the story clicking.

Writer Emergency Pack is a curated collection of some of the most useful suggestions I’ve encountered. It’s by writers, for writers.

I’m really looking forward to getting this deck of cards and checking out the Dark Mode booster pack when it becomes available next year. I think this is going to be pretty darn entertaining, and who knows what kind of crazy stories this could lead to!

As an added bonus that makes donating/pre-ordering all the more worthwhile, August is taking a Get One, Give One approach to help get these cards into the sweaty palms of both writers and youngsters just starting out in local creative writing programs. I think this is a pretty exciting initiative to help bolster support for writing and show kids just how truly fun and awesome this thing we do can be.

Reblog: Writer Emergency Pack – helping writers get unstuck by John August — Kickstarter