Wychwood by George Mann is a dark and menacing crime drama with just a hint of paranormal activity to keep the reader on their toes. Elspeth Reeves is a woman whose life has come apart at the seams and so does what any self-respecting woman does: she moves back home to spend some time out of the city. However, she was not expecting to be met by a murder quite literally in her back yard followed by a string of equally bizarre attacks all linking back to the ancient mythos of the homicidal Carrion King.
Mann does a wonderful job of constructing his sleepy little English village. And Elspeth is a completely believable main character, and I appreciated the details that make her more dimensional, such as her ritualistic selection of music to fall asleep to. DS Shaw, detective and childhood friend, is just as well illustrated in his thoughts and actions, and they provide a perfect realist canvas for a slightly unreal villain to work against.
The murders and murderer are at first firmly rooted in realism, though the killer’s motivations are arcane, and it is not until you have made some inroads into the book that you begin to question whether there might actually be something supernatural at play. I leave it up to you to decide.
Tomorrows End Book One
Tomorrows End is the first book in a series by author G. R. Morris. This book starts with some pretty basic science fiction themes and extrapolates out in some interesting and unexpected directions. Focusing mainly on two teenage main characters who come into their abilities in varying stages of reluctance, this novel follows Daren, a girl trapped in a horrible foster home, and Kevin, a boy trapped in a home with an abusive stepfather. Both characters become major players in an age old battle of light vs. dark. Mr. Morris also introduces a very interesting theory about free will and destiny in Kevins story arc, while also informing readers about alien technology that is running the world, as well as aliens who are impersonating and replacing humans.
Part one unfortunately begins with a few stumbles and has lines of banal text such as; Some people believed love conquers all. And they were right. It had beaten him. However, I would urge readers to keep reading past the initial pages and really discover the original ideas that Morris has integrated alongside traditional sci-fi staples. The dual story lines are not perfect, but they are handled well and have completely different styles and tones. I enjoyed Darens story line more because the audience was allowed to share her story and her experiences, we got to know her as a person. Kevins story seemed more like exposition. There was an entire three or four chapter section in the middle of the book devoted to explaining the philosophy behind the story. At one point the author seems to even make light of the length with this exchange; Stop interrupting. Robert yelled, I have a whole speech going on here. Sorry, Im beginning to get bored Kevin laughed.
While Tomorrows End may not be the most entertaining novel I have read recently, it is one of the more thought provoking. In a genre that is already crowded with rehashes of ideas, it is truly remarkable to find a debut novel with something new and compelling to offer readers. I hope to see this creativity continue throughout the rest of the series.
After delighting growing fans with a classic ghost story in Heart-Shaped Box and a tale of terrifying horror in NOS4A2, in his latest tome, weighing in at 768 pages, Joe Hill presents his world on the edge of apocalypse. No one really knows how or where it started, but wildfires are tearing through the country and they’re being cause by people. Now, when I say “people,” I literally mean people are bursting into flame and starting these fires.
Doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton, but everyone else refers to it as Dragonscale. It’s a highly contagious spore, and you know you’ve got it when you find these lustrous black and gold bands on your body. It’s unknown what happens in between getting the scale and spontaneously combusting, but there are a lot of people burning up, and society is starting to fall apart. There are roving gangs looking to put an end to anyone with the Dragonscale, to prevent it spreading further. Meanwhile, the government says it’s working on a cure, but really has no idea what it’s doing. Things escalate and continue to get worse and worse.
Our story focuses on Harper Grayson, a talented and compassionate nurse who cares greatly for others and is working her butt off with the current crisis. Her husband, Jacob, barely sees her and doesn’t really get why she’s trying to save all these people with Dragonscale. When Harper contracts the spore, he goes off the deep end mentally, and it turns into a very different relationship. Harper doesn’t need convincing and tries to get the heck out of dodge, but Jacob has other plans. Harper makes it out of the house, but the maniac formerly known as her husband, is after her. That’s when the tall drink of water with a British accent known as The Fireman comes to save the day.
Harper joins a commune where they have apparently mastered the power of Dragonscale. By joining together and singing, they are able to control the incendiary ferocity of the disease and keep themselves alive and well. But, in any group fighting to survive, tensions are strained, and stress is at an all-time high and things turn into a kind of Lord of the Flies situation. But there is a rumor that has become legend of an island off the coast of Maine where they are taking in people with Dragonscale, where they can live a nice, normal life without prejudice or persecution.
The Fireman is a wonderfully original tale that takes a few elements like plague and fire and churns them into a compelling story. As with all stories of an apocalyptic nature, it is ultimately about the choices and decisions that people make to survive. Hill’s characters are varied and interesting and definitely give the novel and realistic feel. The middle of the book lags a little and, overall, could have had some pages editorially excised, as the downturn of the commune gets pretty predicable and uninspiring. But the last third of the book is nonstop action, and, even though Joe Hill seems to suffer from his dad’s problem of executing a good ending for the book, The Fireman is a fun escape from you mundane life into a world of fire and fighting and people who give a damn.
Light of the Sovereign
Light of the Sovereign by Nelson Sack is a beautiful story with many layers, set against the backdrop of an imaginary and dazzling world three millions years from now. Imagine a galactic universe operating as one world, with the earth being the capital of 307 other worlds. Humanity has evolved with its civilization and people experience peace and freedom, but things aren’t going to be the way they have been for millennia. Chaos will break and the entire universe will be plunged into a war like no other. Will the protagonist succeed in mastering the one weapon necessary for the redemption of her world?
Sonata Pleaides is just nineteen years old when she wakes up in a far island, eighty-nine thousand light years away from earth (Tera) to discover that she’s been named successor to the throne of the Queen, but there is a condition — she has to find her way home to Earth to prove herself worthy of the throne. It is interesting to see how the protagonist grows from a young girl to a leader, a powerful and respected warrior upon whom rests the destiny of many worlds. Most interesting is the bond she develops with the extraordinary Sword of Epsilon, otherwise known as the Guardian. Her relationship with the powerful weapon becomes a wonderful journey toward self-discovery as well.
The cast of characters is impressive, drawn from different backgrounds, interests, and professions. Sack demonstrates a wonderful imagination and genius and it’s surprising to see that he keeps track of the numerous characters, including war men and women, legal personalities, mentors, space ship captains, and a lot more. Some of the interesting characters will include the protagonist, Sonata, the First Sovereign of the Republic, Alara Petronia, Laran the combat officer, and many others. The plot is compelling, construed with different subplots that add to the excitement and the suspense while also being wonderfully executed. At times one feels like there is a lot of digression and it fuels the need to look forward to what happens next to the main character, Sonata.
Light of the Sovereign is a work of beauty, a tale that will entertain readers for many years, a proof of a bubbling imagination. Gird yourself for a thrill ride into worlds unknown to humankind and realities yet to be named. This one is highly recommended for fans of futuristic fantasy and sci-fi.
The Methuselarity Transformation
Raymond Mettler is a wealthy recluse, obsessed with his personal safety and staving off death at all costs. Marcus Takana is a poor athlete with big aspirations and no hope of realizing them. They would never have met, if not for a stranger named Terra, wielding an incredible offer: making Marcus’s dreams come true if he agrees to let Raymond’s mind inhabit his body when Ray dies. In a world where genetically engineered grass is choking the planet and aging can be held off indefinitely for the right price, both Ray and Marcus will discover the dark side of the secret Faustian bargain they’ve struck.
The Methuselarity Transformation feels like vintage sci-fi, tackling hard questions like social equality, economic disparity, and the consequences of genetic tinkering by crafting a human narrative around them. As Ray and Marcus’s bargain with Terra plays out, the reader slowly gains a foothold in this advanced – yet still very familiar – version of Earth.
That ambitious storytelling spirit also informs the novel’s pacing, as frequent jumps forward in time grant a glimpse of years in the lives of our protagonists, all told in the looming shadow of Ray’s eventual death and transfer into Marcus’s body. (Though, as the novel moves between the two main characters, it’s sometimes unclear how much time is passing.)
The various romantic and scientific subplots that weave in and out of our paired narratives help move Marcus and Raymond beyond being pieces on the gameboard, giving their stories a depth and resonance that move this beyond a simple “what if” scenario. But while the HibernaTurf crisis subplot provides intriguing insight into both Ray and Marcus’s individual histories (and adds a touch of backstory to the narrative), the SPUDs/sentient beings subplot never really gels with the novel’s major themes, adding color but little substance.
Cleverly, Moskovitz’s social commentary and scientific insight add a timeless quality to the book, preventing it from feeling too anchored to a 2014-fueled mentality. The Methuselarity Transformation is socially conscious sci-fi, something we could use more of these days.
Eons ago, the nation of Caladorn and the kingdoms of the Rhen existed in harmony. Those days are long past. Though they still share a root philosophy, at least so far as the nature of magic is concerned, relations between Bryn Calazar and Aerysius are far from friendly. Braden Reis is a Master of the Lyceum, sent to Aerysius as an ambassador in a last-ditch attempt to prevent war . . . but all is not as it seems. When an Acolyte from Aerysius Hall of Watchers stumbles upon an unholy conspiracy involving the demonic power of Xerys, Prince of Chaos, Braden finds himself embroiled in a struggle against the most powerful members of both Colleges of Magic for the future of his entire world. If he fails, Chaos will reign supreme. If he succeeds, it may mean the end of the world as he knows it.
The world presented in Darkstorm is fascinating, to say the least. I initially feared Caladorn would prove the stereotypical fantasy land where women are forced to rely on men to protect them, but this wasnt quite accuratethat only proves necessary if the woman in question has little status. There are many powerful women in Caladorn, though a good deal of their status and prestige seems to be founded in how alluring they are able to make themselves. Aerysius seems to be a bit more founded on equality, but as we spend a comparatively short time there I cannot say for certain. Fantasy tropes pop up left and right, but usually cast in a new light or employed in interesting combinations that dampen any potential annoyance.
The characters shown here are without fail three-dimensional and complex. One seems inconsistent at times, but that turns out to be intentional. Braden Reis is a man of convictions, with blood on his hands despite (or because of) his strong moral compass. Bradens lover, Master Sephana Clemley, holds a similarly steady morality despite serving a rival nation. Faced with evidence of corruption infecting both their orders, Braden and Sephana barely hesitate before seeking the truth. Also caught up in events is Sephanas apprentice, Merris Bryar, whose nosiness tips the Masters off to the conspiracy in their midst, and Bradens wine-sotted brother Quinlan. Even the antagonists prove complicated, and their motivations understandable even as we deplore their methods. We arent even entirely sure theyre wrong, in most cases.
Bottom line, this was an amazingly entertaining read. I do have some issues with the ending, but I cannot discuss them without courting spoilers, and so will leave off with merely that vague caveat. I look forward to seeing more in this trilogy when the time comes.