Novel Review: The Alpha Plague 7 by Michael Robertson

The Alpha Plague 7The Alpha Plague 7 by Michael Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This action packed British urban fantasy follows a tight cast of characters through a rage-style zombie apocalypse. Organized into trilogies, the opening trilogy details the hourly spread of the apocalyptic pandemic from the POV of a father just trying to save his 6 y.o. son, Flynn. The second trilogy jumped ten years to show the dystopian micro-communities that existed in the ravaged landscape. Each micro-community was largely isolationist since infected zombies ruled the world.

This installment repeats the trick of the fourth book by fast forwarding yet another ten years–again to shocking effect. Here, the zombies died out 8 years prior. So everything’s good, right?

And, no. Dystopian and sadistic micro-communities still dominate the countryside, but now unchecked by the undead. With dwindling resources, communities enslave or outright kill each other. Others turn to cannibalism.

Flynn, now 26 and after accepting the sanctuary of Home for a decade, strikes out on his own to find a better community. Home isn’t what it once was. The electricity and running water failed during the intervening years. However, what Flynn finds with another community is so much worse. Captured and imprisoned, he needs to outwit and outsurvive 19 other prospects for a single spot in their community. Failure=death. [Think: Hunger Games]

The nice sub-theme of this installment is trust. Flynn didn’t trust Vicky during his teen years, and then she left. Then he didn’t trust the new leaders of Home. Unless he wants to go it alone forever, he needs to learn to trust. But who to trust when it’s every person for oneself . . . to the death.??

This series is recommended.

I’ve previously read this author’s:
     The Alpha Plague–5 stars
     The Alpha Plague 2–4 stars
     The Alpha Plague 3–5 stars
     The Alpha Plague 4–4 stars
     The Alpha Plague 5–4 stars
     The Alpha Plague 6–4 stars
     “The Arena” (The Shadow Order)–5 stars
     The Black Hole (The Shadow Order, #1)–2 stars
     Crash (Crash, #1)–4 stars
     New Reality: Truth (New Reality, #1)–3 stars
     New Reality 2: Justice (New Reality, #2)–4 stars
     New Reality 3: Fear (New Reality, #3)–3 stars
 
 
 
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Novel Review: The Alpha Plague 6 by Michael Robertson

The Alpha Plague 6: A Post-Apocalyptic Action ThrillerThe Alpha Plague 6: A Post-Apocalyptic Action Thriller by Michael Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading and recommending this series as an apocalyptic guilty pleasure. Whereas the opening trilogy brilliantly details the first couple of days in a British-style rage zombie apocalypse, this installment completes the second trilogy which follows a couple of the characters from the beginning of the series as they wander out into the apocalyptic zombie-infested landscape ten years into the pandemic.

A community called “Home” stands as its own character in this trilogy. For fans of the Walking Dead, they know to be wary of innocently named survival groups and locations: Terminus, Sanctuary. In book 4, Home was an alluring destination calling out over the radio waves. Book 5 saw the shortcomings of the Utopian Home with its electricity and contained farms away from the undead. It also showed the uneasy truce with the sadistically led neighboring group.

This book culminates with a war between the groups. Moira, leader of the neighboring group, wants Home for herself. She steps up the torturing and murdering of innocents teasing everyone to war. Vicky, a major player throughout the series, rallies the Home troops, but she’s not without her enemies. In a reflection of partisan politics, a few naysayers with their heads in the sand want to believe that every bad thing developing boils down to Vicky . . .

There have only been a few truly shocking moments in this series. One comes early in the 4th book when the quartet of main characters is thinned. The second comes at the end of this book. One must read it to the last page. Where the series goes from here, I don’t know. But it does go on . . . This series is recommended.

I’ve previously read this author’s:
     The Alpha Plague–5 stars
     The Alpha Plague 2–4 stars
     The Alpha Plague 3–5 stars
     The Alpha Plague 4–4 stars
     The Alpha Plague 5–4 stars
     “The Arena” (The Shadow Order)–5 stars
     The Black Hole (The Shadow Order, #1)–2 stars
     Crash (Crash, #1)–4 stars
     New Reality: Truth (New Reality, #1)–3 stars
     New Reality 2: Justice (New Reality, #2)–4 stars
     New Reality 3: Fear (New Reality, #3)–3 stars
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Strungballs by Mike Russell

StrungballsStrungballs by Mike Russell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rooted deeply in absurdism, this tales touches on themes of conformity and identity before moving on to reality and existence. With a creepy sci-fi feel to the beginning, a 10 y.o. boy awakens from surgery having had a cube of flesh cut and cauterized from his chest. Everything he sees, and indeed everything in the city, is sterile white and modular. The rooms are all perfect cubes. The city is a torus within a sphere. The sphere surrounding the torus is comprised of all of the surgically removed cubes of flesh removed from the citizens.

In an important rite of passage, not only does he give flesh, but he receives a ball on a string to push into the cubic hole in his body–a Strungball. Everybody wears Strungballs. Adults may sport 6, 12, even 24 if they’ve been particularly . . . giving.

Adding to the creepy tone is the stilted dialogue of conformity reminiscent of 1960’s television banter. Think: Stepford wives.

This isn’t the where the tale goes weird. But it starts with the boy questioning his role in the society, the limitations of the society and even the real purpose of the Strungballs. Then things start to transform. Reality shifts and bends, and not towards something less absurd.

I like this tale. Characters don’t develop to any real extent, but the themes do.

I received my copy of the collection directly from Strange Books through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com. I’ve previously read Russell’s anthologies of short absurdist stories: Nothing Is Strange and Strange Medicine–both of which I gave 4 stars.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: The Back Doors of Fancy Places by Anderson Ryle

The Back Doors of Fancy PlacesThe Back Doors of Fancy Places by Anderson Ryle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This curious, short tale has the detective noir voice, scenery and pacing headlined by possibly the world’s worst detective. He manages to solve and resolve practically nothing and cannot tell when a clue or coincidence could be pertinent.

“My mother always used to say I would never make it as a detective, said I trust people too quickly . . . “

. . . She leaned in closer than she needed to as he fumbled with his lighter. She smiled from beneath her dark hat and took a long drag. “Go on, Stranger,” she said.

The wannabe detective trustingly relates details of three curious cases or situations to a sexy woman he doesn’t recognize in a dark alley behind a club. The 3 scenarios involve 1) the strangest thing he’s noticed while wandering the streets [dodgy thugs possibly disposing a body], 2) a case looking for a runaway, and 3) a missing person’s case. He solved none of these cases and seems genuinely not curious about coincidences and details in all three cases.

He’s also not curious about the attention he’s getting from the strange woman in the dark alley.

Even as it becomes clear that the situations might be interconnected, the “detective” does nothing with that information and the entire evening remains unresolved. Somehow, this tale seems like the first part of a two-part sitcom detective show–and then the second part never airing.

The overarching plot holds much potential to be truly interesting and deliciously nefarious, however, that potential isn’t quite reached in this stand alone tale.

I received my copy of this novella directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novella Review: Clay Tongue by Nicholas Conley

Clay Tongue: A NoveletteClay Tongue: A Novelette by Nicholas Conley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful modern day folktale as a girl explores the scary and wondrous world beyond her house in order to alleviate the family’s frustrations in the wake of her beloved grandfather’s stroke. He’s been left aphasic, and the stress of caring for him weighs on the girl’s mother. The tale builds on the Jewish lore of the golem, a clay-made servant that has the ability to grant wishes. Though, with a girl turning toward fantasy, albeit unknown potentially scary fantasy, in order to solve a family’s problems, one is reminded of a less-dark Pan’s Labyrinth.

The seed for young Katie’s adventure is planted when she secretly reads her grandfather’s notebook containing either a story he’s written or a journal entry he’s made. The tale is unfinished, but tells of a young married couple many decades ago moving into a house just like her grandfather’s house that she lives in with him and her parents. The house in the notebook is in her town. And the name of the young bride is Kate’s grandmother’s name. When the couple move into the house, they are told of a cave in the back forested part of the property which–legend holds–houses a golem made by the original owner of the house. The golem was created to grant one wish to each person who dared visit it.

Even with such ripe fodder for the imagination, Kate’s brave adventure amusingly cites other fantastical creatures. With a mysterious key in hand, she finds a cave in the forested back part of the property:

Right above her head was an iron lock with foreign characters cut into it. Katie knocked, waited for a moment, hoping that maybe a friendly troll or fairy might answer. No answer came–so if there was a troll on the other side, it wasn’t a nice one . . .

The cave rumbled, as if from a minor earthquake. Katie stopped, and a deep growling noise reverberated from deep inside the cavern–a low, guttural moan, as if a dragon had just awakened . . .

“I’m here,” she whispered to any friendly trolls that might hear her.

This tale is highly recommended.

I received my copy of this novella directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Metronome by Oliver Langmead

MetronomeMetronome by Oliver Langmead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s fantasy–and then there’s fantastical. Metronome takes the reader and the narrator on a fantastical journey worthy of a Miyazaki film. Elderly Scotsman, Manderlay, once was a celebrated violinist and avid sailor. Now, he bides his time breaking rules at the retirement home, until his increasingly vivid dreams sweep him away to the fantastical world where all dreams come together.

Amid memories of his deceased wife and of his former musical glory, Manderlay sets off on an adventure through stunning towered cities forever bathed in light, to dark shadowed places always under the moon. Aboard the clockwork flying ship, Metronome Manderlay and his odd companions of a nightmare, a nightmare hunter and an insane pirate captain set off for the eye of the storm always churning at the edge of the world of dreams. Their only map is the music of Manderlay’s last album . . .

Others have learned how to manipulate their shared dream so as to create magic in the world. Manderlay wants to do the same, and fights the inclination to awaken into his elderly limited world again.

The writing creates a beautiful, wondrous landscape leading to a meandering pseudo-ending that won’t satisfy all as it doesn’t feel the need to justify and situate its Neverland/Wonderland/Oz/Narnia.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the publisher, Unsung Stories, through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Blood Rites [The Dresden Files, #6] by Jim Butcher

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The modern day Chicago wizarding detective, Harry Dresden, throws himself headlong, as he is wont to do, into yet another deadly situation making himself the target for multiple supernatural nasties. The brilliance of this series doesn’t reside in the details of the individual cases but in the continual development and enrichment of both the urban fantasy world and in the abilities, mindset, and personal connections of protagonist Harry Dresden.

When the series started, Harry was a loner running half-afoul of the law and the ruling wizarding counsels. He quickly added Karren Murphy of the Chicago PD to his friends list as they investigated supernatural crimes that found their way into non-supernatural awareness. Other cases, but still including the increasingly less skeptical Murphy, took place entirely in the realm of the Fae or the war between the wizards and the vampires.

This installment manages many things for the series. It opens the closed book on orphaned Harry’s family. His mother’s history comes to tantalizing light. A half-sibling emerges from the ether. And seriously concerning enlightenment is cast upon Harry’s foster-parentage. This is very welcome development.

Also, the world of the vampires along with the cultures and politics gets blown open in unexpected ways. While previously established that the 3 “courts” of vampires are very culturally different, here it’s seen that they are unrelated species barely tolerating each other. This case revolves around the lust-feeding, emotion-devouring foppish White Court vamps. They may not touch blood, and they don’t, but they are no less toxic. Making them major players in the world of porn production is just plain fun–no need to stalk prey if they’ll come willingly to you . . .

I’ve previously read the following Dresden books and stories:
     Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)–4 stars
     Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)–4 stars
     Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)–4 stars
     Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)–4 stars
     Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)–4 stars
     “Last Call” (The Dresden Files, #10.6)–5 stars
     “Love Hurts” (The Dresden Files, #11.5)–5 stars

 

 

 

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