Thursday, January 18, 2018

#Thriller Review: City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

I can't remember the last time I sat down and devoured a book, cover-to-cover, in a single setting. It's a rare pleasure but, then again, so is Agent Pendergast.

City of Endless Night continues the exploration of a weary and wounded Agent Pendergast, a man unsettled emotionally, and very much off his game. What you might expect to be a sad, disappointing exploration of a hero who has lost his powers (so to speak), however, is instead a fascinating look at how that same hero emerges from his own darkness.

For their 17th book in the series, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child reunite Agent Pendergast with Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta, reuniting them in a case that harkens back to their earliest adventures, but which is also something new. The central mystery is entirely ordinary, devoid of even the hint of the supernatural, but a fitting commentary on the clash between poverty and the one-percenters, as well as the culture of 'fake news.' It's a fun mystery, involving locked rooms, James Bond type infiltrations, and decapitations, but the thrill here is less in the solution and more in the solving.

Watching Agent Pendergast come alive is a real treat, with the slow reveal of the personality traits, behaviors, and dialogue we've come to appreciate over the years. He moves from disinterested, to frustrated, to curious, to fully engaged . . . from mortally human to the intellectual superhero who blew our minds in the first few books. It all culminates in a cat-and-mouse game inside the ruins of an abandoned asylum where the hunter and the hunted are interchangeable, presenting him with a worthy adversary - and one who doesn't have the advantage of being family.

While it's a standalone thriller that does little to advance the overall mythology, City of Endless Night does feature a significant death. and has a gut-punch of an epilogue that demands we keep reading.

As if we could ever turn away.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Grand Central Publishing

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday - Art of War edited by Petros Triantafyllou (@booknest_eu)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Art of War: Anthology for Charity edited by by Petros Triantafyllou 
Expected publication: February 13, 2018

"War, my friend, is a thing of beauty."

How do you get forty fantasy authors to contribute short stories for a war-themed anthology without paying them? It sounds as if there should be a good punchline to that, but all Petros Triantafyllou did was twist the moral thumbscrews and tell them all the profits would go to Doctors Without Borders, a charity that works tirelessly across the world to alleviate the effects of conflict, sickness and poverty.

So, with clear consciences, several busloads of excellent and acclaimed fantasy authors have applied themselves to the task of penning a veritable mountain of words on the subject of The Art of War, expect bloodshed, gore, pathos, insight, passion, and laughs. Maybe even a wombat. Who knows. Anyway, as the original blurb said: "It's good. Buy it."
-Mark Lawrence

Featuring: Mark Lawrence, Ed Greenwood, Brian Staveley, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne, Sebastien De Castell, Mitchell Hogan, Stan Nicholls, Andrew Rowe, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, Nicholas Eames, Mazarkis Williams, Ben Galley, Michael R. Fletcher, Graham Austin-King, Ed McDonald, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark, RJ Barker, Michael R. Miller, Benedict Patrick, Sue Tingey, Dyrk Ashton, Steven Kelliher, Timandra Whitecastle, Laura M Hughes, J.P. Ashman, M.L. Spencer, Steven Poore, Brandon Draga, D. Thourson Palmer, D.M. Murray, Anne Nicholls, R.B. Watkinson, Charles F Bond, Ulff Lehmann, Thomas R. Gaskin, Zachary Barnes & Nathan Boyce. With a Foreword by Brian D. Anderson.

Print version includes 40 black & white interior art pieces.

That list of authors is a serious who's who of modern fantasy, with at least a dozen absolute must-reads for me, and twice as many more new authors to discover . . . PLUS it's for charity. To paraphrase Mark Lawrence, It sounds good. Buy it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

#Horror Review: Honger 2 by Terry M. West (@TerryMWest)

Whereas the original Honger was a sad, violent tale, one with a solid backstory and a well-developed mythology, the sequel is more gleefully vindictive, with a thread of dark justice that moves it beyond the sorrow and regrets.

In Honger 2, Terry M. West passes the inhuman appetite to a new generation, a homeless junkie who turns out to be a pawn between the men of the first story.

Just as violent as the first story, this is a book that's full of bloodshed, cannibalism, and brutality. West never shies away from Chloe's hunger for human flesh, but deals with the entire experience of wanting, fearing, enjoying, and rationalizing the experience.

What makes this book even more engaging than the first is how her hunger brings her into contact with a pair of amateur snuff pornographers who see in her the perfect victim for their latest client's dark, perverse demands. It probably comes as no surprise that she doesn't play the victim well, and it make for a suitably glorious and grotesque finale.

Kindle Edition
Published January 9th 2018

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#DNF #Horror Review: Arachnosaur by Richard Jeffries

This sounded like such a fun read, and all I was really looking for was b-grade schlock, but it was still a disappointment.

The characters all fell flat, with nothing to distinguish them, to the point where I just stopped trying to match names to personalities and just assumed they were all soldier clones. The writing itself was uneven, sloppy and lazy in places, but strong enough in others to trick me into continuing with the read.

My two biggest issues, though, were the locker room sexuality and the lack of spiders.

Let's start with the sexuality. Take, for example, Second Lieutenant Barbara Strenkofski, who is described as "five-seven, a hundred and twenty pounds; thirty-six, twenty-five, thirty-six," and whose "one-inch black pumps looked tailored to her with a laser measuring device." Not offensive, but embarrassingly juvenile.

Take, also, Private Terri Nichols, who "could have been anything: a ballerina, a gymnast, a nurse, a cheerleader" (reach high for those career goal, ladies!), but who chose to be a marine. Okay, that's a little more offensive, but where it gets really offensive is with the prolonged musing on hookers in Chapter 11 (which is where I stopped reading and started skimming).
In the same way every good soldier was ready to fight 24/7, a streetwalker was always sexually available, always on the make, always willing.
And later in that same chapter.
“How do you know if a hooker is lying? Her eyes are open.”
At least our hero is capable of "quelling the urge to write B+ on her spine in lipstick." Such admirable chivalry . . . at least, that is, until he throws her at a terrorist like "a screeching, wet, terrified cat." It all makes for cliched character building from Richard Jeffries, with men who are cartoon stereotypes of the worst sort, and hardly heroes.

Now, to get back to the spiders, they get a great opening (prehistoric) scene where they are glimpsed, but never truly seen, and a fantastic moment in a cave with the marine who could have been a cheerleader, but after that we wait until about 42% of the way through the book to see them again. Even they, they don't really do much, and certainly don't factor into the kind of action-packed madness you'd expect from a book called Arachnosaur.

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published December 26th 2017 by Lyrical Underground

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vampires: More Human than Humans by S.M. Perlow (@smperlow)

Vampires: More human than humans
by S.M. Perlow

In my dark fantasy series, Vampires and the Life of Erin Rose, some characters question the nature of vampires. The potentially immortal creatures rise from their coffins only at night. They have superhuman strength and speed, and they’ll heal from almost any physical injury. They’re also beautiful and had once been human, before being turned—before craving, and needing to drink blood to live.

So what are they?

Villains? Those who oppress humanity, perhaps.

Heroes? The ones who oppose the villains, sword in hand (because the surest way to kill a vampire is to take their head off with a blade), maybe.

Or are they all demons, inhuman things best cast back into whatever pit their kind emerged from in the first place?

The answer, of course, is up to the reader. And whatever position one takes on those points of view, I’ll argue for a fourth: in many ways, vampires are even more human than everyday people.

A person might live eighty years or a hundred. Choices and their consequences will brighten or weigh on their lifetime. But that lifetime ends in relatively short order. And while that limited lifetime heightens the importance of a human’s decisions, a vampire’s unlimited lifetime raises the importance of their decisions in a different way. A vampire might live hundreds of years, thousands, or forever. Their choices and whatever outcomes, good or bad, stay with them the entire time. Vampires generally face the same dilemmas as humans, but with forever before them, can have more at stake in their choices.

Most people seek companionship—a husband, wife, partner, or close friends. Human connection in some form is important to them. For vampires who feed off mortals’ blood, human connection is vital. Put another way, people might yearn for connection, while vampires would die without it.

My vampires do have superhuman strength and speed. Yet those are human abilities, simply taken to an extreme. Likewise, that my vampires will heal from almost any injury is an extreme. People heal, just not like vampires. A dying person finds finality to whatever joy greeted them each waking morning, along with an end to their sorrows. But vampires? Whatever the world throws at them, as long as vampires find blood to drink, they’ll bounce back, ready to take on the world anew, whatever happiness or sadness their nights are full of.

So vampires are not exactly the same as humans, but in some of the most fundamental ways, they’re even more human than humans.

Vampires live longer, they need human connection, and their yearning for it can far outlast a single human lifetime. Whatever choices vampires make, for better or worse, can echo for an eternity, with the vampire around to hear it.

Those deeply human vampires are the ones I write about, because those are the vampires I love reading, watching on screen, and imagining. My new novel, Choosing a Master, is set in a world with those vampires. I hope you enjoy reading it.


About the Author

S.M. Perlow is the author of the dark fantasy series, Vampires and the Life of Erin Rose. A longtime entrepreneur, he’s now focused on writing fiction, where his creativity can be both fantastical and deeply human. He loves history and traveling, and brings elements of each into his novels. He lives in Austin, TX, the setting of his new satire, “The Girl Who Was Always Single: A Short Horror Story for the Dating App Age.”

Get the story at smperlow.com.


About the Book

Choosing a Master (Vampires and the Life of Erin Rose)
by S M Perlow

"Like the blood of God..."

In New Orleans, a passage from a Renaissance-era book is Ethan's only hope to save the woman he loves. He's a vampire, so he can live forever. Ellie, however, is mortal, ill, and running out of time.

"If Sanguan vampires drank synthetic blood, like Spectavi vampires, the world would be so much safer for humans."

In the Spectavi laboratory where synthetic blood was created, Vera is making no progress with her current projects. But for her devotion to the Spectavi cause--and their leader--she will go to any lengths.

"She would hold me when she bites, and at least while she sips my blood, I wouldn't be alone."

In a nightclub in France, John has an unusual encounter with a gorgeous vampire, but his love for a mortal woman forces him into a devastating choice.

Reason or passion, good or evil, duty, love, or pure pleasure--in a world with two vampire factions at war, choosing the right master is everything.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday - Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore (@r_a_salvatore)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore
Expected publication: February 6, 2018 by Tor Books

From R. A. Salvatore, the legendary creator of Drizzt Do’Urden, comes the start of a brand new epic journey.

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home.

The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

It's been a while since I last gave Salvatore a read, but Drizzt is one of my favorite fantasy heroes, and I'm always up for some more traditional fantasy.