CyberStorm by Matther Mathers

A post-apocalyptic book without zombies!

The Rating: 
Adult-content Rating: PG-13 (Coarse Language and mature subject matter)

The Good:

This book had all of the things that make an end-of-world scenario great. #1 the main focus was on the relationships and how the disastrous situations were effecting everyone. As far as I am concerned, this is key. Too often I find that end-of-the-world type of books are a lot about the action, but forget that there are characters behind everything going on.

Mather sets the scene well by introducing families and friends, developing relationships before the the world starts falling apart. As a reader, I got a feel for what was happening inside the character’s heads, and could relate with them the whole way through. They played off of each other’s strong/weak points well, making for a fairly well-rounded cast.

The story moved along at a steady pace. This is not an “action heavy” book, nor is it a slow romp through a world that has fallen apart. CyberStorm follows the lives of key individuals as the world is falling apart, and the reader gets to see how they interact before, during, and after the fact. The day-to-day survival is a big focus, and naturally there are some people working toward this common goal, and others… not so much. The tension of learning how to survive and just get along, while still deciding what (and who) is the most important, is knit together really well. There is just enough tension (relationally) to keep the reader pressing on. This is, by far, the selling feature of CyberStorm.

The Bad:

I was ready to rate this book 4 stars up until the end. It is fairly well-put-together until the post-crisis moments. Mather uses a “24” style of progression, setting up time/day markers instead of chapter headings. This lets the reader know exactly when things are happening, and serve to build tension in a few places. This, however, falls apart at the end where weeks go by and “things happen.” It goes from skipping hours within a day to jumping weeks (and even months) ahead without any real warning. Because of this, much of the “so, why did x happen in the book?” answers fall flat with long drawn-out passive voice descriptions of “this is what happened over the last week/month that we just skipped.” I understand that the author wanted to pick up the pace a bit for the ending, but I feel like it could have been done a lot better.

The only complaint I had for most of the book (taking it from 5 to 4 stars) is that the reader is kept in the dark of what actually is going on as far as the over-arching plot. This is, mostly, made up for by the day-to-day survival that sucks you in, but a better plot over-all would have done wonders for this book. And, as mentioned above, because of the poor over-arching plot, when things finally do come together, it almost feels silly to keep reading. Because the book is mostly about the relationship struggles and the drama of just trying to survive (lacking any real bigger picture moments) once all of this is taken away, the pages pass by dryly.

Conclusion:

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It held my attention with the suspenseful dire-straights living scenarios and relationship issues caused by the end-of-the-world writing environment. It is a pleasant treat to see characters that have real feelings and struggle with them as people would in such dystopian situations. Sadly, the bigger picture is patchy at best, and the ending makes this book fall flatter than it should. If you enjoy low sci-fi and dystopian fiction, I highly recommend this book.

Where you can find it:

Note: This book was originally self published and DRM-free in multiple places, but because of some recent publishing changes (CyberStorm now gone traditionally published) there is no longer anywhere to acquire this book without DRM. My apologies to those wishing to purchase this book DRM, and highest hopes to the author as he continues to flourish in his writing career.

Slow Boat to Purgatory by Vernon Baker

Purgatory: it’s only one slow boat away.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG (Coarse language and mature themes)

Purgatory: that mythical place between Heaven and Hell, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place where people pay for their sins in hopes of gaining entry to Heaven. At least, that’s how most people think of it. To Vernon Baker is is a great place to tell a story.

The Good:

Slow Boat to Purgatory is the story of a man reading a story. Doesn’t that make you want to buy it? No really, it should. The reader has a unique opportunity to learn about the person behind the story, see their life as it plays out, and watch them escape into the pages. The story jumps between this reader’s point of view, and the telling of his life, into the story he is reading. The change is voice and point of view add flavour as the pages unfold, keeping the reader enraptured by what Baker has to say.

Not only does this keep things fresh, but it adds suspense to the telling. The reader finds out what is happening in snippets, and just when things are picking up, we are launched from the world being read back into reality, left asking, “what happens next! Why is the sad cebu sad?”

Reader engagement is kept until the very end. As the final pages are turned, curling under the weight of suspense, just enough questions are answers to tie things together, but enough is left in play to provide for future books.

The Bad:

Because of the nature of the telling, there is a fair amount of back-story. I usually love back-story. I love how it adds flavour to a tale, rounds out the characters, makes the book beautiful. Alas, this is not the case in Slow Boat to Purgatory. Much of the back-story is told through long sections of passive voice which are bland and uninteresting. Unfortunately, they also add little to the actual story, thus a failure on two accounts of potential magic.

The story itself isn’t bad, once it gets going. The problem, however, is that if you have a wonderful sports car, but the starter is shot, and you spend half a day grinding until it catches… the driver may lose interest. The back-story issues hit a little harder than they should because the story itself also takes far too long to progress. Pieces of the puzzle start to fit together about 50% of the way through, at which point the reader is almost ready to retire the sports car and just walk to the store. (The book store, obviously. What other type of store is there?)

Though it ends well, there are a number of elements introduced later on in the book that are simple grazed over, having no real impact on the plot. They appear to be important factors at first, but sadly are almost just thrown in for flavour, lacking substance and making the reader somewhat confused. It makes the story feel a bit disjointed.

Conclusion:

Slow Boat to Purgatory delivers a delightful tale of a man caught between the world of his book and the one he lives in. Purgatory itself is neat, but the boat there is slow. If you don’t mind the wait, and enjoy some intrigue mixed into your fantasy, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.OK)

Dead Roots by Brian Geoffrey Wood

There be demons in and out of mind…

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: R (Disturbing scenes, extreme course language, and sexual content)

What if demons didn’t lurk in the corners, filling our nightmares with images of terror, but instead walked among us. What if they walked in our skin? If you could see these demons for what they really are, the nightmares of your childhood becoming reality, what choice would you make? Fight, or flee? Thomas Bell chose the former.

Dead Roots is the story of a man haunted by dreams, images from his past bleeding into his present nightmares. Instead of running from his own demons, he faces the real ones on the supernatural plane, protecting society, covering up any trace of their presence. At least, that’s his job. To Thomas Bell, they are indeed real.

 

The Good:

Brian Geoffrey Wood drops the reader into the action right from the opening scene. The words turn to phrases, then to paragraphs, then to pages, and before the reader is aware they are sucked into the world of Dead Roots. Wood has a wonderful ability to weave culturally important elements into the action and dialogue, letting the reader grow in knowledge as the story he is telling flourishes. No passive voice or extensive amounts of dialogue are needed to “inform the reader” about how the world works. Wood has designed characters that talk to each other as regular people would, in a culture all of their own.

Thomas Bell hunts demons by day, while facing his own at night. Instead of being grazed over, his dreams come to life, popping with realism, his psychological turmoil growing into monstrous word-crafted demons in the reader’s head. His nightmares are filled with imagery, setting the scenes with an explosive flavour of delight, like biting into a juicy fruit (or perhaps a rotten fruit. His dream are nightmares, after all…).

Wood uses some quick point of view changes throughout, jumping around the action to keep things moving. Instead of leaving the reader in confusion, or slogging through over-description during intense action, this stylistic choice keeps the pacing up. It also adds suspense. There is nothing like having one character black-out after being punched, or loosing consciousness as they fall into a lake, to get the heart racing like a runaway train.

The Bad:

Some of the scenes end just to jump days later to a place and time unknown to the reader. This, in short, leaves the reader scratching their head, wondering how the story got from the last scene to the next, and questioning what happened in between. One particularly drastic jump in the middle makes the book seem like a new plot has been introduced – the old plot being left on the sidelines. The missing “connecting” scenes make it feel a bit disjointed.

There are small portions of over-description when dealing with the magic system. Instead of showing how it works, Wood opts for describing it. Mostly, this does not get in the way of the book’s feel as a whole, but takes away from some of the magic (no pun intended).

Conclusion:

Dead Roots is a decent book and is, for sure, worth your time. Despite a few pacing issues, Wood delivers a gloriously dark tale of horror from the mind of a psychologically tortured soul while he fights other truly tortured souls. If you do not have a stomach for gross images, or are put off by sexual content and lots of profanity, you should give this book a pass. However, if you like to read about the darkness that lives inside and outside of us all, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Illiom: Daughter of Prophecy by Claudio Silvano

A fantasy tale of hermits and prophecy.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG (Fantasy violence and coarse language)

Have you ever fantasised about living in the woods? In a world full of high-rises and busyness, it could seem pleasant to try and make a home for yourself in the wilderness, back to the roots of those caveman days. I don’t know if Claudio Silvano has thought about this or not, but he has created a character who went further than thinking about it. She lived it. Illiom, a self-made hermit, lives in the mountains with naught but her animals and own thoughts, until she is rudely disturbed by a prophecy and royal summons. The nerve!

The Good:

From the first pages, I was impressed by this book. It opens with a piece of lore that lets the reader know about some of the history and working of the world, adding magic one word at a time. Such “fragments of lore” are speckled pleasantly throughout the book, uncovering some of the mysteries of the spiritual nature of the world through subtle hints, making the culture come to life. It was intriguing to see the Biblical parallelism they had, while still being new creations in their own right.

After a clever and inviting piece of lore, the story kicks off with Illiom in the mountains. Right away, the writing style grabbed me. The prose are coloured with personification making scenes come to life, and further building upon the lore of the land. The scene setting is well done, making a simple thing like a journey from point A to B a pleasant romp through the scenery as words are crafted around the road ahead.

The third person narrative style that Claudio Silvano chose, allows for camera manipulation. The camera swings seamlessly from a close-up on the characters, re-telling word for word what they are saying, then pulls away to reveal the scene at a glance. I have seen this done poorly, and was glad to see it done well here. It allows for not every single word to be dictated, while still having pointed dialogue sections.

The Bad:

The book starts out great, but sadly does not keep up the momentum. I enjoyed some of slower sections at the beginning while the world was being developed, but the magic dies quickly. Purple prose make it drag in spots. What makes the prose well done during travel sequences is that it builds the scene and gives a sense of progression. The obsessive description of static locations, later on in the book, does little to set the scene, but instead paints in pain-staking detail, thus slowing down the progression to a stop, instead of informing the journey as it progresses.

There are long sections of dialogue that do little more than describe the ins and outs of certain cultural particulars. Such long-winded tell instead of show descriptions are dry and uninteresting, also not aiding some of the pacing issues already evident. Illiom is inexplicably clueless about the workings of the world in order to inform the reader of how things are. She asks a lot of questions to be answered in bland and uninteresting dialogue which does the job, but is less than appealing.

I have touched on it before, but that is because this is the biggest problem with Illiom; the pacing is way off. It starts off strong, and then the plot stops altogether as the characters (and reader) wait for something to happen. A lot of the book is spent with the characters “in conference” deciding what to do. These scenes lacked interest, contained lots of tell instead of show about the inner workings of the world, and at the end of the day, could mostly be skipped over to get the plot back on track quicker.

Sadly, the plot never does really pick up. The first 20% is great, and the last 10% is okay, but the rest of the book is just a bunch of characters sitting around, learning about a world they should already know about, and twiddling their thumbs. The whole time, I was waiting for the plot to get moving, and by the end it still hadn’t really moved. It feels like a giant set-up for book two.

Conclusion:

Unfortunately, great potential does not always equal a great book. Illiom offers a beautiful world with some artfully implemented prose, but this does not make up for most of the book being a stand-still. The pacing issues are immense, and, sadly, the potentially good writing is hindered by the plotting. If you are willing to stick it out, and see if something happens in book two, this book might be for you.

Where you can find it:
Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact by K.C. May

A science fiction medial thriller with a deadly virus and Frankensteins.

The Rating: 
Mature Content Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes and coarse language)

Have you ever read Frankenstein? If not, chances are you have heard of it. A scientist creates a being named Frankenstein. This scientist’s name might not have been Katie Marsh, and the creation’s name might not be Frankenstein, but Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact by K. C. May holds a similar premise. These new Frankensteins are created to hopefully save humanity from the deadly Molio virus that threatens to wipe everyone out.

Non-human beings, a dystopian virus, and science: what does that equal? Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact — A science fiction medial thriller, full of thrills, science, medicine… oh and there’s some fiction in there too. 😉

The Good:

The last medical mystery novel I read turned out to be surprisingly superb, and Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact is again no disappointment. The best way I can describe this book is as a roller coaster. It starts out as a slow climb, characters coming to life, the plot unfolding, the world filling out from written words. All you can see is blue sky, birds flitting in tunes of their own between God’s wispy breaths above. And then… the bottom falls out. Sky turns to ground. Air rushes by in a cacophonous torrent. Heart racing. Skin breaks out in a sweat. The thrill breaks from your lips in a scream: mixed terror and mirth. This is the plot of Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact. All the building blocks of plot, setting, and characters balance on each other until, before you know it, a house has been built.

I was following along the story, enjoying myself, until at about 75% through, the roller-coaster rocketed forward, leaving my heart racing and mind reeling to catch up. The pacing/plot flow nicely. Like a summer’s stream, the reader remains unaware of the waterfall up ahead. All of a sudden, the water gives out, and the thrill-ride beings. The plot thickens to the point of breaking, all while the reader is still trying to recover from the thrilling fall.

This book not only offers a great plot that is beautifully paced, but point of view changes throughout are wonderfully implemented for further character development. The POV switched between various  “good guys” and “bad guys” letting the reader see the plot from all different angles. This enhances the suspense immensely. Characters are so well developed by the time the bottom falls out of the river that the reader truly cares what will happen to them. The build up is just as important for the plot as it is for the characters.

Character interactions between Ryder and Katie are pleasantly humorous at times and cute at others. I like how the fact that they grew up as childhood friends is mentioned and then expanded upon throughout to develop their characters. I really felt like these two were childhood friends, watching how they interacted. Important past events and dealt with in flashbacks instead of gratuitous tell vs. show, or being skimmed over. These aid immensely in character development, not only for Katie and Ryder, but the other characters involved in this world.

The Bad:

One of the characters is plagued by nightmares that feed off of his internal turmoil. A lot of this turmoil is brushed over, and mentioned in an off-hand kind of way, making it lack substance. His nightmares are told in a this-is-what-happened-point-form style instead of allowing the reader to re-living the horrors in all their realism.

The prose were not very full or flavourful. I love scene crafting, and this book missed the opportunities that the plot and characters opened for it. More investment in world description could have potentially enhanced the emotional impact of the scenes.

The ending comes a little fast. I like the drop that leaves the reader breathless, but once the bottom of that hill is reached, the bottom out is short, followed by screeching brakes. The pacing is good up until the final couple chapters, where I felt not enough justice was given to one of the major plot points in order to wrap it up well.

Conclusion:

Venom of Vipers/Blood Pact is an enjoyable romp through a near-future, potentially dystopian world. The character interaction are wonderful, and the plot flows like a river followed by a waterfall (in a good way). The thrills are heart-pounding, and the character are pleasant to travel with through the words, phrases, pages, and chapters. If you enjoy getting to know the characters of a story, all while the world and plot form around you, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

O.B.U. by Martin Chushui

One night can change the world, and one man can save it.

The Rating: 

Mature-Content Rating: A-14 (Lots of sexual content and some coarse language).

What would you do if one night changed your life? What if 15 years changed your world? What if one man could change it back? O.B.U. is a story about one man who has one horrible night, and wakes up 15 years later. The world is not what it once was, and no one is who they seem to be. What has happened to the world is yet to be discovered, and what will happen is soon to be revealed. Unlock the mystery and wonder behind the world that Martin Chushui has created.

The Review:

Normally, when I review a book, I like to point out what I liked and what I didn’t like. This book proved challenging for me in this respect. There are probably some things that were done well in O.B.U, but there were so many glaring obstacles to my enjoyment of the book, that it is difficult for me to identify the good.

It would be difficult to identify the number one big issue with this book, but the biggest problem that I noticed within the first couple pages is that O.B.U. needs a lot of editing. It surprised me to reach the end and see the author thanking his editor in the acknowledgements. If I had not read that, I would have thought that a spell-checker was the only editor consulted. There are missing words, incorrect verb conjugation, tense mix-ups, and everything else you can think of that a spell-checker wouldn’t catch. Though I found no misspelt words, the glaring editorial errors are so prevalent (almost every page) that it was hard to even read the book.

The next biggest problem I encountered was a classic case of tell vs. show. There is a lot of tech in this book, and it can potentially be confusing to wrap your head around. In order to battle this, it is explained in such painstaking detail that you will have no doubt how everything works. At the outset, our protagonist knows nothing about this world in which he has awakened, which is a great set-up for him to learn it slowly, allowing the reader to follow along as he journeys through the world. Instead of this, extended dry dialogue sections are thrown at him (and the reader) so that he understands how things work. It is so bad that a number of times throughout the book a character might say something like, “I agree, these talks are getting a bit boring.” If even the characters know that tell vs. show is boring, perhaps this glaring issue needs some attention.

The dialogue is choppy and unflavourful. It sounds like poor RPG scripting, except instead of your choice of uninteresting dialogue option, the protagonist chooses for you.

Note: Not a true representation of the dialogue, but a made up interaction to show how it flows.
“What is this place?”
“It is the place where we train with guns.”
“Tell me more about guns.”
“Guns are those things that shoot the enemy. You will need to learn how to use them in order to not die.”
“Tell me more about this enemy.”

There is no prose in this book at all. Certain scenes are introduced with a few sentences of description, and then we are thrown right into the dialogue. Some scenery is even described through dialogue, but not because the narrator is a character. There isn’t really a narrator, save for the odd “he said” and “she questioned” following dialogue. This is action and dialogue on a blank slate.

I won’t say that there is no character development, but it was hard to identify because I really didn’t care what was happening. I could not empathize with any of the characters because they hardly seemed to care about themselves. All development is based on a single scene near the beginning that is mostly brushed over. The idea is to keep the mystery of why our protagonist was suddenly transported 15 years into the future. Because the characters hardly seemed to care about this jump in time, it was hard for me, as a reader, to care. Without internal monologue, prose, or description of any kind, it proves difficult to discern what the characters care about and what they don’t.

One of the primary moral issues in this book is sexism. The world has changed for the better, and now people can experience freedom sexually. It seems like the author is trying to speak out against sexism, and in fact the main characters says that he hates sexism, but is in fact, himself, sexist (not the author. The character). On the one hand he says that he hates when women are mistreated, and then he says things like, “why can’t women just remain in the kitchen.” Then he switches back to telling about how his dad brought him up right, teaching him to treat women well, yet at the same time being offended when women don’t act the way he wants. This glaring character discrepancy is repeated throughout the book, and even the way some of the women characters talk about themselves almost made me feel like they were being sexist toward themselves.

Sometimes when a book is written poorly, I have given it 2 stars because it had great potential, intriguing concepts, or a fresh plot. O.B.U. sadly has none of this. The plot is a classic case of “this is the prophesied one who will save the world.” If you have seen The Matrix, you know the plot of this book. It follows the main plot points of that movie so closely that instead of seeing the scenes written about while I read (the lack of prose may be a contributor), my mind was replaying the parallel scenes from the Matrix. I saw Neo falling from the battery-soup when our protagonist gets introduced to O.B.U. I saw him sitting in the chair learning how to fight, fly, etc. when our protagonist did 7 years of training in one night. I saw Neo dodging bullets on a rooftop when the odds are working against him and there were too many enemies for him to face alone. (I will not spoil what the main character in O.B.U. actually does instead of dodging bullets, as it would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, it was similar). I kept waiting for the scene where he was going to stop bullets in mid-air. Though the final encounter isn’t exactly that, it is basically the same. Change some minor points, mix in some mask wearing from Mission Impossible and you have O.B.U.

Conclusion:

I wanted this book to get better as I kept reading, and read it to the very end. Sadly, it is a carbon copy of The Matrix without all the special effects. Its only redeeming quality is that there were not too many POV changing issues, and if it weren’t for the poor editing, I could almost know what was going on. If you enjoy putting your palm to forehead a lot, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords

Get on Board Little Children by Victoria Randall

What if you needed a license to have children?

The Rating: 
Mature-Content Rating: PG (Mature themes and sexual content)

Unwanted children run rampant in the streets. Kids are abused at home. One step at a time – one kid at a time – the world slowly progresses into chaos. This is the state of things in the near past of Get on Board Little Children. The near past that is out present day. Child Protective Services swoop in, hiding behind masks, saying they want to help – to make the world a better place – but broken families are left in their wake. Kids are ripped from the grasp of their parents because the home appears to be a “high risk.” Scold your child in public, take them out with too many holes in their clothes, face unwashed, and watch out! Your lack of money, or perception there of, might leave your home in disarray, and children taken away. This is the near past. What is the next political step? The next “fix” to challenge culturally “unfit” parents? Don’t let them have kids at all.

The Good:

Victoria Randall has been able to take this politically and culturally relevant scenario to the next level. Get on Board Little Children is set in the near future of our current world, a world where we work toward cultural peace (which really means that everyone has to be the same. The rich and stable rule the world, right?) It is not your standard Science Fiction read, but tackles culturally relevant issues in much the same way. What made me enjoy this book the most was not the writing style, the story, or any of those standard things, but in fact it was this cultural issue that resonated with my heart. It is the story of a woman who is on the run from the government because she doesn’t have enough money for the “I’m-allowed-to-have-a-baby” license, and will not go through with the mandated abortion.

I could write an entire review on the cultural relevance of this particular book, analysing the details to the point where it would make you cry, but alas, that would not be a book review, instead being a political statement. Suffice it to say, the moral issues this book deals with are the selling feature. However, there are other things that I liked about this book. (“Thank goodness! Get off your soap-box already!” “Okay, but only because you asked nicely.”)

The scenery that Randall has penned could be best described as word dressing. This near-future dystopian world lays before you. The plot is in place. The characters are there. But everything is naked like a blank page… until words come to dress this story, one piece of clothing at a time, making this culturally relevant story more culturally appropriate. The reader no longer has to look at a naked story, but is now delightfully informed of the little details that make a scene come alive, while still allowing the story to progress. Everyone can move forward and put clothes on at the same time… right?

The story follows our protagonist, for the most part, keeping things on track and succinct, but there are brief point-of-view switches to the “bad guys” which aid in fleshing out the thrill of the ride. The mostly single POV works well, as it is easy for the reader to follow along. The POV switches to the antagonist(s) are brief and punctuated, increasing the suspense level when things slow down for our protagonist(s). This use of POV changes not only kept the suspense level up, but aided immensely with pacing. The book is primarily fast-paced, but not because it is let’s-run-away-from-big-government-men-with-shotguns all the time. Yes, there are trials. There are struggles, but the thrill stays up because of the dire straits that our run-aways are in. The fast-paced scenes are well integrated and interspersed with slower scenes to allow our characters (and the reader) to re-cooperate.

The book ends on a satisfying note, wrapping up the plot nicely, as well as touching on some of the side character’s stories, giving them enough spot-light to feel closure. The plot is not very complex, but the lack of complexity allows for a quick and satisfying conclusion.

The Bad:

Though I enjoyed what word dressing there was, sometimes scenes were wearing nothing more than underclothing. This, perhaps, gives enough flavour to tell that it’s a person (or a scene… this metaphor has stopped working a long time ago) but not enough to accent their features. I didn’t feel emotionally engaged with the characters, even though they were dealing with some tough issues. This is not simply dialogue slapped on a blank canvas, but it is far from exemplary word/scene crafting.

Some of the side characters had intriguing stories to tell, but were not given enough of a spot-light to be worthwhile. Many of the characters lacked any real development, instead serving a single purpose and remaining the same from beginning to end. Even the main characters who got the most focus throughout were, for the most part, cardboard cut-outs. A few scenes act as shadows of development, but not enough to have any serious impact. This makes it difficult for the reader to relate emotionally with the characters.

More setting would have been nice. Right from the first sentence, the crisis has begun. There was enough world-building throughout to make the crisis believable and set it up, but not enough pre-emptive development to draw the reader in. Through the story, there is a little bit of development, but more before the plot picks up would have enhanced the emotional attachment between reader and characters.

Randall deals with some heavy issues, but because of the fast pacing, it almost makes the ethical questions dealt with feel forced, lacking the beauty of internal turmoil. The “on the run from the law” theme should set the characters, and thus reader, on edge and anxious, but the emotional impact of their situation is mostly missed.

Conclusion:

Get on Board Little Children is a thrill ride through a near-future world. It deals with all sorts of ethical questions concerning children in a realistic and believable way. The plot will draw you right in, and keep you entertained, but sadly, the lack of character and scene development leaves the book a little lacking. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read that will keep you entertained until the last page.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Barnes & Noble

Joshua by John S. Wilson

A dystopian novel all about the money

The Rating: 
Mature-Content Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes)

Money… it’s just paper with writing on it! Not many of us stop to think about this. What would happen if suddenly people stopped accepting cash? They would look at your wad of paper and say, “I don’t care what famous person’s face is on there. It’s just paper!” This fear, the de-valuing of cash, may have been more realistic before my time. Today, money is nothing but a figure in the sky, printed on screens, telling you “value” from on-line accounts and ATMs. Despite this fact, imagine with me for a second a world where cash is market central. Without cash, the economy would fall, chaos would ensue, and people would be brought back to their roots; what does it take to survive? If your imagination is as vibrant as that of John S. Wilson, you may have imagined a world similar to that of Joshua.

The Good:

Joshua is the story of a man and little boy making their way through a dystopian wasteland. The first thing that struck me about this book was how character driven it is. So much time is spent walking alongside “the man” (yes the protagonist is simply identified) that the reader becomes engaged in his life and journeys. From start to finish, the reader will follow this man through the joys and sorrows of what it might be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world.

John S. Wilson does an excellent job at make the destitution in this world he has created seem real. It doesn’t just feel like random looting, killing, and destruction for the sake of it, but instead the world bleeds hopelessness with tangible and heart-felt realism. Not everyone is seeking to make the best out of what they have, or hoarding, or fighting for their survival. Many give in to their inner demons, the reality of life too much to bear. Joshua has a quiet, sorrowful tone to it that I have rarely seen penetrating a book from cover to cover.

The Bad:

John S. Wilson had some great ideas, but the execution was, sadly, quite poor. The first half of the book is a series of flashbacks which attempt to develop the world and the characters therein. Though they work well considering such intentions, they do nothing to further the plot, and, in fact, put it on hold, making the whole book feel disjointed in the same way a jumping POV would.

The jumping back and forth in time makes the book very slow and allows for large sections told exclusively in passive voice thus forcing the reader to take a step back from the action and see it as an outside observer, instead of being fully engaged. With such destitution running rampant, there is plenty of opportunity for this book to bleed with emotion, drawing the reader in with the raw power of helplessness, but unfortunately these opportunities are missed entirely.

So much time is spent with the back-story of why “the man” is where he is, and what happened along the way that once the story gets going, there is hardly enough time for anything to happen before the book is done. It almost feels like the book is split into two sections: what happened before, and what is happening now. I applaud John S. Wilson for attempting this unique narrative style, but sadly he did not pull it off.

Conclusion:

John S. Wilson had a great story to tell, but sadly didn’t know how to tell it. The reader spends most of the book feeling like an outcast, the word choice and language almost purposefully pushing them away. If you can get past the poor story telling and dive into the actual story, there is a hopeless world waiting for your discovery. If you like dystopian fiction, this book may be for you.

Where you can find it:
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Dim Realm by Matthew Holgate

No Dim words herein

The Rating:
Mature-content Rating: R (Coarse language, violence, and sexuality)

Have you ever woken up with a hang-over so bad that no amount of coffee can help you remember what happened last night? Perhaps, perhaps not, but I am willing to bet (don’t ask me how much) that once the truth of your night is revealed, it is nothing like the truth that Corin Drey discovers after waking up in similar straights. He wakes to find… dead bodies. How did they die, and what is he doing there? Find out in The Dim Realm by Matthew Holgate.

The Good:

The first thing that struck me was the length of this novel. A long book usually means one of two things: it is amazing, or it is awful. Within the first few pages I could tell that the former would be a more relevant description. The reader is immediately pulled into the scenes unfolding, hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling the world coming to life around them. The imagery in this book is amazingly flavourful, and the scenes are set beautifully. Holgate has a handle on how to use personification to bring a scene to life.

“Wind moaned in the trees behind him, drawing breath and then sighing. A lonely sound, a whispering voice born not of the ocean but of the land, one that yearned to cry out. It pleaded with the crash of waves and the pleas of gulls to listen, just as it pleaded with the traveller in words he almost knew. Come back to us. There is so much more to do.

Not only is the description so rich and inviting that the reader can forget where they truly are (and no, this time it’s not because of too much alcohol), but the internal musings of the characters are brilliantly rich and masterfully implemented. The back-story reveals through internal monologue are pleasingly realistic. Just like our minds and memories ramble about, so do they in the heads of the character in The Dim Realm. This adds delightful flavour to the characters that is not often seen.

The different point-of-view characters are wonderfully interwoven with smatterings of what is to come in someone else’s POV section, or reminders of what has happened through clever word choice. Just when the reader is wondering how this new POV section connects to the rest, enough clues are revealed to keep things succinct while remaining interesting and mysterious.

The Bad:

Sadly, every good thing must come to an end. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It has a lot going for it. Holgate knows how to craft a scene, shape characters, and implement a plot, but it falls flat in many areas.

The Dim Realm has a bad case of “can’t see the forest for the trees.” The trees are beautiful, wonderful, glorious even, but there is so much focus on the trees that the forest becomes a haze. Some scenes are very over-drawn with too much meticulous description of scenery and passive voice to explain the history of the world/characters. Mostly character history was well done, but sometimes it droned on in an unengaging manner, adding length but no meat to a scene.

This plays into the gigantic pacing issues. Most of the book is extremely slow, and it takes 90% of the book until the plot finally gets going. The whole thing felt like a giant introduction. To be fair, this is only Volume I of The Dim Realm, and there is more to come, but after 700 pages, I was hoping the plot would go somewhere.

Many scenes that should realistically be one chapter are split over ten chapters, stopping in the middle to flip to some other POV, and then that scene is cut off to flip back to the first scene that was previously left unfinished. Because of the long chapter lengths, this makes the book feel incredibly disjointed. I kept having to remind myself, “Where is this character again? What are they doing?” because the scene resumed in the middle. It is almost like in the middle of a heart-pumping fight sequence the reader is thrown over to watching some guy take a walk in the park. Such antics make the whole thing feel incredibly unrefined and lacks focus/immersion value.

On the note of action sequences, a lot of them are split so because they drag on forever. They plod along too slow to keep the thrill up because of over-description of every single sword swipe interspersed with giant internal monologue sections which break the flow. This gives much of the book a stop and go feel. The pages are filled with lights coloured yellow and red, but not many greens.

A number of chapters end with poorly implemented foreshadowing that ruins the thrill of what is going to happen. Often, the reader will experience concluding sentences such as: “he would, however, not see them again, because he was about to die,” or “little did they know that the man would never be the same again.” Instead of adding suspense, most of the time, this ruins the coming scene because the reader already knows what is going to happen.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, what made this book good is also what made it bad. The flavourful description and internal monologue is excellent – more than excellent, it is downright amazing – but too often poorly implemented, throwing off the book’s pacing. The book is great if you love getting into the heads of characters, being invested in a scene so much that your senses come alive. After reading it, I almost feel like the world described and the characters/culture therein are real. Sadly, the pacing issues in this book diminish it’s enjoyability factor. If you like a great fantasy tale of truly epic proportions, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Night Watcher by Chris Longmuir

Eyes in the dark, a watcher in the night… or is it just the wind?

The Rating:
Mature-Content Rating: PG-13 (Mature themes, sexual content, and course language)

Do you ever feel like you are being watched. Your head whirls around, the shadows creep toward you, your heart beats louder, rising in your chest, but you see no one: no pair of eyes from within that darkened veil of night, no watcher in the shadows. How foolish you feel, how silly, but the paranoia mounts until you reach the comfort of your home. Only then, does the fear subside… mostly. That house of your, that home, that haven of safety still has windows, those panes of glass like two-way eyes in the darkness which cloaks the sky, and your house, in an invisible haze.

If you have ever felt like this, you have felt like Nichole (the protagonist) who is stalked by the Night Watcher… or is it just her imagination?

The Good:

Night Watcher is a crime mystery. Think, police procedural, but then forget that you ever thought that. Chris Longmuir pulls the reader into the lives of her characters, and there is almost more about the people involved than the mystery itself. The point-of-view jumps around like a happy-go-lucky rabbit, but this is not a bad thing. Often lots of POV changes can leave the reader confused or uninterested, however, Longmuir seems to have a knack for it. By jumping between characters, the reader gets a chance to be inside the head of almost every character involved. This works well because the scenes are short and to the point, keeping things moving so that one character POV is not left hanging for too long. The internal thought processes mixed with a hopping POV give this book a great flow, as well as developing the characters well.

There are just enough back-story-reveals to round out the characters, keeping the reader interested in what is going on. Often with mystery novels, the author holds things back to let the suspense build. Longmuir takes the completely opposite approach. The reader gets to experience the unfolding story though the eyes of victim, police, lover, friend, enemy, villain, and much more. Instead of not knowing what is going on, Longmuir open up the mystery for the reader, while still allowing the villainous moments to be just as thrilling. The “night watcher,” for which the book is named, gets his time in the lime light, but his curious ways are still shrouded in enough mystery to keep things interesting. The night watcher’s POV moments were not over-powering, but delightfully speckled throughout, building suspenseful/dark moments into otherwise dramatic events.

The Bad:

After finishing this book, I am surprised at its length. It gives the reader that poppy teen feeling, which often will translate into a shorter book. Night Watcher is not incredibly long, but it runs over 300 pages. Though it is packed full of characters and plot, there is not a whole lot of writing to go with it. Every now and again, the reader is struck by a wonderfully crafted scene, but for the most part I found the writing a little dry and lacking flavour. The story and characters hold potential, but it is sadly unrealised.

The book moves quickly, but not necessarily because of what is happening. There are brief what-is-going-to-happen-next moments, but mostly it is a story about a bunch of characters living out their lives: going to work, going home, and fighting with their spouse (yes there is lots of drama in this book). Though a fast pace can be good, sometimes I felt like the book moved a little too fast, not letting me stop and breathe in the scene. The pacing is artificially inflated with a lack of words instead of artfully enhanced through flavourful description. Such lack leads to a lack of emotion within the scenes, thus a lack of connection with the characters.

Most scenes lack description of any kind, and the ones that do have description are few and far between. The characters spend most of their time talking to each other, or talking to themselves. Though this is delightful, it lacks scene/emotion building. As a reader, I felt like an innocent bystander, watching events unfold, instead of being drawn into the story.

POV changes to minor characters adds flavour, but the reader isn’t given enough time to actually get to know/care about them. Though the POV changes inform the reader about some of the other characters and the struggles they are having at home/at work, it comes across as unfocused. Many of the POVs were well done, but a number of them added little or nothing and could have been left out entirely, approaching the scenes from a different angle to enhance the flavour.

Conclusion:

Night Watcher is wonderful for the reader who likes crime mysteries and lots of drama. It is packed full of characters and the story is wonderfully crafted. It moves at a fast pace, but sadly lacks the emotional punch that draws a reader in. If you enjoy crime mysteries, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo