Novel Review: Indefatigable by J. B. Garner

Indefatigable (The Push Chronicles, #2)Indefatigable by J.B. Garner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The urban fantasy series with the heart, soul and humor of a self-aware comic book continues here after its impressive start with Indomitable. Wishes became reality under the warped plan of an unsure, mad scientist in the series opener. At his mind’s bidding, superheroes and supervillians burst onto the scene. The eternal battle between good and evil was to be led unquestionably by neo-God, Epic–the former professor/mad scientist. Protagonist, ex-girlfriend Dr. Irene Roman leads the charge in countering the comic-inspired madness. She’s one of the few that can see through the new reality to the old one. She’s accompanied by a ragtag band of loyal new superheroes that don’t necessarily agree that everything new, including their powers, is bad.

Another unaffected person takes center stage here, but his methods are too extreme for Irene and he either wants her help or her death. This new mega-foe has lost his moral compass as he coaxes corpses into zombie-like vampires to help bring down the superheroes.

Irene must decide whether everything about the new reality is bad, or if something redeemable lies therein. It’s this internal struggle that makes the series. That, and its sheer sense of fun. The series is recommended.

I received my copy of this novel directly from the author through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Novel Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This brilliant, hefty tome and yet quick read turns the epistolary novel on its head by presenting a researched dossier submitted by the unnamed Illuminae about a sequence of shocking events in the far reaches of space. With a few “researcher notes” amending the files, the dossier contains intercepted memos and emails, dictations of video footage, interviews and AI internal processing.

Indubitably “Young Adult” with two teenaged heroes. Anti-authority, computer hacker Kady and her ex-boyfriend looking for a leader and a romantic reunion, Ezra, play the star-crossing ex-lovers hoping that their story can end less tragically than Romeo and Juliet’s. The tale is also “Sci-fi”, as everything takes place in a far stretch of the universe, first on an illegal mining outpost on an otherwise insignificant planet, and then later on spaceships crossing the void in order to reach a space station. The vastness of space and the loneliness therein are major themes, so too is the breakdown of civilization and order when outside of the view of the rest of humanity.

More interestingly, the subgenres of the novel defy expectation as they morph from one into another. Each holds its own quite convincingly taking the reader on a desperate ride. The first subgenre is militaristic as notions of business, government and military all roil uncleanly together. Then, an unreliable and independent AI abducts the plot. Finally, medical engineering of the nefarious, speculative sort surfaces turning the novel into a full-blown thriller.

The quick pace has the accelerator to the floor the entire time.

I absolutely recommend this is series opener and look forward to the sequels.
 
 
 
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Graphic Release: Genesis V by Double Take

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With the June release of Genesis IV, I praised the sheer number and intensity of social issues raised about privilege, race, gender and sexuality. Set against the backdrop of 1960’s middle America, the contemporary issues rang clear. The series even provided neutral voices in the form of non-Earth beings. If there was any major complaint to be made about the series that drops 10 simultaneous issues together in the Genesis package, it’s that the confluence of zombie lore, mutant superhero lore and alien lore all melding in a single series was indubitably confusing for a single read-through, or five.

This 5th installment to the series addresses the confusion by providing a helpful recap narrator, Kevin, at the start of each issue. He manages to sum up that title’s major characters and their arcs, while providing clarity on previous ambiguities of which there were plenty. He also pulls the separate titles together contextually.

What doesn’t happen is–anything.

With the series finale coming within the next month or so, all the undead meat has apparently been saved for later. Some of the titles even take a serious step back as they merely provide altered perspectives on events already seen in episode #4. The clarity is welcome, but could also have come throughout the series allowing each issue to grind forward.

I’ve previously read Genesis I, Genesis II, and Genesis III.

Short Story Review: “Hairwork” by Gemma Files

3 of 5 stars.

America’s sordid history of slavery and the thousands of untold stories therein come to life in this horror mash-up–two parts Obeah voodoo and one part Lovecraft.

Alternating between equally unsettling first and second person narration, the tale weaves together a centuries-old curse. The first person narrator is a dead former slave that created a second life for herself as a medium and as an agent of revenge for the sake of her ancestors. The second person you is an art dealer hunting for the dark history of the deceased medium and a famous painting of her that’s rumored to be within the decrepit plantation house. [In a nod to Lovecraft, the “painter” of said painting is Innsmouth artist Frank Marsh of Lovecraft mythos.]

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read her “Blood Makes Noise”, “The Jacaranda Smile”, and “A Wish from a Bone”.

 

 

 

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Short Story Review: “1Up” by Holly Black

4 of 5 stars.

The discrepancy between one’s on-line personae–and avatar–and one’s reality can be a big one. Are gamer-friends one has never met face-to-face true friends? And can the differences between reality and virtual reality be plied in one’s favor.

This clever tale is the stuff of urban legend. Four online-only friends make a vow: when Sorry, who’s been sick for years, dies, the others–Toad, Cat, and Decker, will attend the funeral. Within weeks, the inevitable happens. The surviving 3 meet face-to-face and roadtrip to Florida to attend Sorry’s funeral. Feeling out of place at Sorry’s house among his relatives afterward, they wander up to his bedroom. One boots up his computer and awaiting them is a text-only, interactive fiction game called “The Lazarus Game” written by Sorry.

THE LAZARUS GAME by Soren Carp
You are sad.
>

. . .”Look around,” I say. “Type in ‘L’ for ‘look.'”
He does.

You are wearing black, standing in a kid’s bedroom. There are nerdy posters on the walls and nerdy stuff all around you. One of the posters is curled up at one corner and you think you might be able to see writing on the other side.
>

Between the info from the game and a note on the back of a poster in the room, the kids realize they’re already hours into a 5-hour time-limited game that seems to imply that Sorry’s sickness and death were no accident . . .

This tale is highly recommended.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” which is also very good.

 

 

 

[Check out my other reviews here.]

Graphic Release: Genesis IV by Double Take

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Tackling issues of race, gender, and sexuality, Double Take reaches full alien-and-mutant level with the release of its 4th installment in the 6-part series. Ten incorporated titles, simultaneously released, track different aspects of the 1968 societal breakdown in the wake of a pandemic going apocalyptic.

Whereas originally zombies seemed to be the crux of the problem, an evolving array of political players and differently altered victims comes to light. The primary players:
–The US government backs experiments with parasites that cause rage issues in their hosts. They also bring the dead to life.
–EarthWatch, a clandestine US group skirting NASA, has colonized Venus but monitors Earth with shockingly advanced technology.
–Aliens are watching EarthWatch and Earth and infiltrating the laboratories creating the parasites.
–A family of aliens, seemingly unconnected to the monitoring aliens, have been hiding their spaceship in their barn, but slipped and allowed doctors to take their very non-human temperatures in the wake of the pandemic.

The victims/secondary players:
–Organized zombies that think, regenerate and seek power sources and energy infrastructures.
–Mutant humans including ones that grow to gargantuan heights, shape shift, control fire, alter and/or relive time, and have telekinesis.

This confluence of events brings a contemporary read and an urban fantasy feel to the protests of the sixties.

I’ve previously read Genesis I, Genesis II, and Genesis III.

“Remote, Issue 4” of Genesis IV by Double Take

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The drastic transformation of a series within 4 short issues is impressive to watch. What started as absurd fan fiction in the world of Night of the Living Dead [See: Double Take Takes on Night of the Living Dead] veered toward its inclusion of Moth-style stories [See: Double Take incorporates Moth Storytellers] adding quirky fun into the apocalypse-in-progress world. Now it has already moved beyond mere lumbering zombies and into full blown multi-genre social commentary.

“Remote” provides a great example of contemporary social commentary in progress, no doubt aided by political debates and headlines from recent months. As states still argue over gay marriage and now debate who gets to use which bathroom, and all of America slides from being declared post-racial 8 years ago to wondering “which lives matter” today, gender, queer and racial themes and the ensuing tension emerges across the ten storylines of Genesis. “Remote” follows Samantha Stanton trapped on-air for over 24 hrs as the sole survivor of the 1st wave of zombies. She’s as mousy and unassuming as the early art and writing in the series. By Genesis III, the writing and art was solidifying nicely–here, it’s jumped forward again significantly. [One almost wishes the 1st and 2nd issues could be updated and re-issued.] Samantha strips her innocence in Issue 3 challenging the FCC itself as she publicly declares her lesbianism to pre-Stonewall America. FCC can hide behind Sam’s use of the word “pussy” in doing so. But DJs at other stations start the social war without the bureaucracy. Radio preacher, Virgil Rose, and redneck, rockjock, Rockin’ Ricky both go for blood against the threat of a lesbian on the air.

Significantly, all 3 stations are controlled by the same guy, Ed Grubler, who has every intention of making the radio war go national. It’s good for ratings. Nevermind his transvestite man-servant, Crispin, lurking in the background. Ed doesn’t care about the issues, nor contemplate his position of privilege above the fray.

Within the larger Double Take World, zombies have already proven to not fit one model of behavior. Some are sentient. Some are leading rebellions against authority. In Genesis III, it also became clear that aliens were among us and potentially had a hand in some of the arising actions and tensions. “Remote” ups the genre diversity yet again with the emergence of a mutant superpower. Only the past couple covers have hinted at this change coming to the story, but most readers would have considered the covers “artistic license” rather than foreshadowing.

Expect superheroes to emerge. What could be better for ratings than that?