It all starts with a mummified show dog that’s been kidnapped. Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, troublemakers on the side of the angels, are hired to recover the dog, but they suspect there’s something amiss about this deal, and boy, are they ever right. What’s meant to be a quick trade of cash for canine corpse turns out to be part of a bigger mystery, one that threatens to put Hap and Leonard behind bars.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this brief outing with Lansdale’s flagship duo, I was hoping it would last a little longer, as Lansdale’s crackling dialogue and the intriguingly peculiar premise were playing together quite nicely. This story had some meat on it, and the conclusion felt rushed.
Also, for anyone who read Honky Tonk Samurai — the duo’s previous novel-length outing — don’t expect any insight into that book’s final twist. Coco Butternut seems to start sometime afterward, with no mention of the events of that book, save for Chance’s inclusion here. I found that omission more than a little jarring.
That being said, this is a fun little visit with Hap and Leonard, though not quite as satisfying a novella as Hyenas or Dead Aim.
Joe R. Lansdale
Survive Marooned on Planet Tau Ceti g
Very often, science fiction novels tend to be heavier on the drama and fiction than on the science, especially those where the plot involves characters attempting to survive on an alien planet. This novel, however, turns that entirely on its head, placing the science first and foremost. It doesnt entirely neglect the story, but it does place more focus on the characters discoveries than on their plight.
Said plight is thus: The ship Copernicus has encountered a meteor swarm over the planet Tau Ceti g, one which destroys the ship and forces the few survivors to the planet below. The survivors manage to send off a distress call, but even with the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, it might well be years before any rescue arrives. Until then, they must use their wits and skills to live on an alien planet which they are almost entirely unprepared for.
Even though we never see the whole of the planet, Tau Ceti g could very easily stand out as its own character. It has a fascinating ecosystem, and I felt as though I was reading not about the product of someones imagination but about an actual planet that could truly exist in some distant (or perhaps not-so-distant) solar system. Everything felt very well researched and wonderfully put together, and I will admit that at times I almost found myself more intrigued by what new wonders the survivors would discover than by how or if they would make it back to Earth. Thats not to say I didnt care what happened to the characters; their peril was very real, and as the book progressed, I often found myself on the edge of my seat, eager to figure out not only whether the characters would live or die but how they would manage to survive. For anyone whos felt that science fiction novels are a little too close to fiction but dont want to sacrifice any of the excitement, this book is a welcome relief.
Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall
Barras world is dying. Slowly, ring by ring, the loft grows darker, less vibrant. With clues left in her fathers research notes, Barra and her friends, Tory and Plicks, must find a proof to show the elders. To save their world, they must Fall and go farther into the darkness than anyone before them.
Sunborn Rising by Aaron Safronoff is a young adult novel set in the imaginative world of Cerulean. Safronoff has built a rich and vibrant world, full of layers. Each of the main characters is unique and complex.
Barra, Tory, and Plicks are typical teenagers still on the threshold of childish behavior, but wanting to be taken seriously in their thoughts and endeavors. As with most coming of age sagas, this leads to trouble. The story really picks up about a third of the way through when the trio makes the discovery that leads to said trouble.
The accompanying drawings are beautifully detailed and allow the reader to see the world of Cerulean through the eyes of its creator. They are reminiscent of the movie Avatar in the vividness and color palette.
Although the descriptiveness of the writing will be sure to appeal to the YA crowd, the author uses a bit of a higher level of vocabulary, so older readers shouldnt feel like they are reading a childrens book. Dont be surprised if you have to look up the definitions of a couple of words.
My one complaint regarding the story is the elders journey to find the wayward trio. It seemed glossed over and summarized in an effort of expediency to move the story forward.
Even though Sunborn Rising is the first part of a two-part series, it doesnt end in a huge cliffhanger. While it sets up for the second half of the battle, it provides a satisfying close to the first chapter. That isnt to say you wont be left wanting to know what happens next, but you also wont feel like you were left with no answers to the saga that took place.
Maya Rising (Last Call for Caviar, vol.2)
SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for Volume 1 Last Call for Caviar.
This sequel to Last Call for Caviar is equally delicious as the first installment. A warning for persnickety readers, this is not a standalone volume. It will make almost no sense if you havent read the first book. This isnt to say that author Melissa Roen doesnt weave the storylines together seamlesslyshe doesbut she doesnt fully set up volume 2 the way she does volume 1. I recommend reading the books in order to get the full effect. And do NOT miss the prologues. Start at the very beginning.
Having said that
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade is still stranded on the continent during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Having finally found her way out of the Riviera and back into the arms of sexy surgeon Julian, the future is anything but certain. What perils lurk on the interior of Europe? Will they reach their destination in the safety of Switzerland? Will the safety promised there be real? Again, there are more questions than answers. And the few answers there are lead Maya further into trouble and the deviant and devious schemes for power and control that broil beneath the surface of a splintered civilization.
Finally reunited with lover Julian, Maya believes she has escaped the dangers of her past until they appear right on her tail bumper ready to rear end her into oblivion. And we are there to watch her dangle on the edge. Maya Rising jumps right into the action, and it doesnt let up. The plot winds through the French countryside and down back into the Riviera, coming full circle. Maya is forced to face the demons that have hounded her steps throughout both volumes.
The earth trembles with a mystical power that haunts Maya. The mysteries of this force seem to hold her destiny in its grip and the blazing red eye of the Purifier scorches. Through the melee, Maya has to figure out if her love for Julian is as strong as shes always believed. Could her feelings for another powerful man jeopardize their fairytale ending? Could unfinished business render all of the questions moot? Always just one step away from the end, Maya Jade is on an unrelenting journey toward her truth and the fate of the world.
This novel is a fast paced whirlwind of adventure, hurdling towards an odd conclusion that will keep you guessing until the very end. Roen is cruel in her conclusion. I implore her to reconsider, and serve us at least one more serving of Caviar.
Last Call for Caviar ( vol.1)
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade has been stranded in the Riviera during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Author Melissa Roen creates a rather convincing alternate reality in Last Call for Caviar, one in which the world as we know it is quickly and definitively coming to an end. The earth seems to have entered a purge mode, spewing, shattering and shocking humanity right off of her face. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, extreme weather of all kinds are testing the limits of mankind and the results are catastrophic. War rages everywhere as bands fight against bands, governments fight against their citizens, and individuals fight for their lives. The landscape is chaotic.
Yet, in the midst of all this devastation, there are places where champagne still flows lavishly and caviar is consumed in abundance. Tucked away on the beautiful coast of the Côte dAzur, the wealthy hide from the treacherous minefields of the disintegrating world. It is in this glittery, gilded backdrop that Maya finds herselfcut off from the security of family, the safety of civilization, and the love she found in France. Having traveled to the region for school and making a life there because of connections, Maya fell in love with the Riviera. When sexy surgeon Julian steals her heart, Mayas destiny is sealed. After a fated lovers quarrel leads to their separation, and tragic world events lead to a splintering of society, Maya becomes desperate. Should she abandon her hopes of happiness with the love of her life and run tail for home in the US? Should she stick it out on the slim chance that Julian will return to her? Should she cultivate her resources to find another way to survive the end of the world? Is survival even possible? The questions keep mounting as more and more craziness ensues.
With each new episode of insanity, a greater truth is revealed to Maya, a truth that only she seems to understand or see.
Roen is convincing here. Her vision of the end is so well crafted and executed, as I read, the news humming in the background, it seemed not just feasible but utterly possible that Roen herself is a seer. There is nothing overly farfetched here, which makes the fantastical elements of Last Call for Caviar that much more intriguing; any of this could happen at any moment. And thats what made me keep turning the pages (and watching the skies).
A fairly long volume at 302 pages, the book was a swift read, sucking me in from the very beginning. There is little fat here, this is a trim and tone narrative. Maya Jade is a kick-ass heroine, dynamic and organic, nuanced and complex. At turns shrinking violet and fierce lioness, damsel in distress and irreverent daredevil. The plot allows for rich interactions that lend cinematic interest, with intense action, gut-wrenching drama, sensual and haunting sizzle, well-placed comedy, and the type of fantasy/sci-fi that makes you think Could this really happen?.
There really isnt much to complain about here. A word of caution: read the whole book from the Prologue; its incredibly important to understand the story and set you up for Volume 2 (which I started before even finishing volume 1). Small deductions for: cover art, I found myself wanting to turn the book over, but I have never been one for messy eaters; typos, Im sorry to say but there were a few that pulled me out of the story occasionally; and an incomplete and hard to use glossary of terms. These are the smallest of complaints. The meat here is worth the price and then some. I just might feast on this tasty meal again and again. I hate caviar, but I loved Last Call.
Dr. James Tenace is not your typical doctor. The head of the Falkennest Clinic Faculty, Tenace has a preoccupation with those nearing the final stage of life. Working principally with comatose patients, Tenace hopes to capture that very moment when souls leave bodies. A brilliant scientist, Tenace is also undoubtedly eccentric. There is another side to the mad scientist that no one totally sees nor understands and that is his bouts with what appears to be schizophrenia. Tenace constantly finds himself traumatized by his past, particularly with his mother’s death, and his broken marriage, and often carries imaginary conversations with could be demons or simply his younger self. Yet amid his problems, Tenace’s life and experimentations take an unexpected turn when he gets into a car accident.
Yves Bernas’ debut novel incorporates all the elements of a modern-day Frankenstein tale. Bernas’ plot features Tenace, a man who initially has taken all the correct steps to become a caring doctor. But quickly shifting gears to present a different persona, Bernas’ third person narrative reveals another nature to Tenacethe one that he is becoming and truly a product of his own manifestation. While chapters are replete with the expected medical lingo associated with a story such as this, Bernas creates balance by focusing on the human aspect of this supposed madman. Indeed, readers may find themselves easily sympathizing with Tenace’s struggles, but, hopefully, that compassion will be short-lived because many of Tenace’s illegal medical practices are nothing less than unconscionable. To make these medical scenes complete, Bernas even throws in an assistant, Ralf, whose role is reminiscent of Frankenstein’s Igor.
Bernas keeps his story moving by utilizing the aforesaid elements and placing them within alternating character scenes sprinkled with humorous moments, as well as unexpected situations. For all mad scientist aficionados, add Dr Tenace to your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.