Iain McKinnon, known for his apocalyptic zombie novels Domain of The Dead and Remains of The Dead moves into the realm of science fiction with From The Torment of Dreams, which has absolutely nothing to do with zombies. In deep space, a war is being waged between the Terrain Alliance and one of their subjugated colonies, Neotra. The author doesn’t provide the reader with an in depth political explanation of why the Neotrans have fought to separate themselves from Earth and its allies at the start of this tale, instead choosing to thrust us right in the middle of a battle in space, or to be more exact, a rebellion ambush of a ship filled with ground troops being brought in to fortify the Alliance’s positions. The only survivor of a devastating attack on the ship is Lan, a young man who joined the military to get away from a lost love. Unfortunately for Lan, his cryogenically induced deep space dreams are filled with visions of Nicola, his former love, playing in his head like a broken record. Even as he awakens to make his way to an escape pod as the ship is breaking up, visions of the woman he loved and who dumped him plague him relentlessly.
We are also introduced to Captain Jackson, one of the rebel leaders of the assault on Lan’s ship, who crosses paths with the injured soldier as the battle rages on aboard ship. Mistaken for another rebel when Terrain reinforcements arrive, Lan is imprisoned along with Jackson and his crew.
At the same time, we are introduced to Zinner, who is a Bavashee, a part of the Terrain military Special Forces who are genetically grown to be the perfect warriors. Only a few remain in the galaxy (they were plentiful during the Apocalypse Wars in the ancient past), and Zinner is one of the best still around. In his efforts to infiltrate Neotran on a secret mission, he comes across and wipes out a small, somewhat primitive village far away from the main civilized outposts of the colony, in an effort to maintain secrecy. He kills them all out except for Nasim, who was away from the village at the time, returning to discover the horror Zinner and his team have left behind. Nasim, who has some intriguing talents of his own, chooses to pursue the Special Forces leader in an effort to get revenge.
The author pulls together a great many ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ subplots while the threads of the main story get weaved together with the others at a steady pace. The author leaves the main path a time or two, but always returns to it in time. With these diversions we get to see the war in a bigger picture format-from the Terrain General discussing strategy with his right hand man to one of the men plotting to assassinate a key political figure. The plot does meander a bit, but the stories kept my interest throughout.
The writing here is solid, and Iain has a strong concept of military tactics and makes the science fiction plausible-allowing the tale to not get gummed up with over the top details that would have been a distraction. The characters make sense and fit well into their environments-with enough background details to enlighten but not smother. Zimmer is understandably brutal and vicious, while Lan is tortured but transformed by both his military training and the torture of his body while imprisoned and by the dreams that endlessly haunt him.
I thought it interesting that the author was able to deftly steer me away from rooting for either side in this war (or so it seemed). Sure, there were reasons for believing that the Neotrans deserved their freedom, but it was the characters major and minor, including the Terrain General who plots and plans both the attacks and defense of his forces, that really mattered here. Iain McKinnon has a knack for crafting characters that you feel an emotional attachment to-whether you love them or hate them, they get under your skin and stay there for a while.
Overall, this is a fun sci fi tale of rollicking space battles and the soldiers who fight in them. But this story told could take place in space, on earth, in the future or in the far flung past and it would still make sense. It is a saga of men and the wars they wage, which is a timeless concept, and one that is endlessly intriguing.
From The Torment of Dreams can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D4DVCHU/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Not too long ago, I was approached by an author friend of mine with a request to help promote their new fantasy novel on my blog, which I did, happily. I tend to write reviews of horror novels, but I thought that since I am a big fan of fantasy as well I would also read her book, and not just promote it. So here is my review of her book, which I would say fits nicely in the realm of young adult fiction, with both fantasy elements as well as a bit of horror-with werewolves and vampires playing a prominent role.
Charming Incantations: Enticed tells the story of Lisa, a young woman whose parents were tragically killed in a fire, which thrusts her into a world she never knew existed: one with supernatural creatures that expect her to do her part as the surviving heir to the human representatives on a council that works to keep the world safe from darkness.
While the story provides a prolog explaining the alliance between the six races: human, werewolf, vampire, shape-shifter, witch, and banshee, the first chapter of this tale bypasses Lisa’s initial realization of what she must do or any revelations she has that there is an entire world that has been hidden from her. Instead, her tale begins with her knocking on the door of the meeting place of the six representatives of the six races. There she meets the five other generals, or leaders of the armies that hold back the evil known as goblins from taking over the world. One of them, Romulus, the leader of the werewolves, will take her in and protect her from danger until she can be trained to protect herself and take over her duties as a leader.
Lisa faces a great deal of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that she is falling hard for Romulus while she is trying to grasp this new world that surrounds her. She fears these supernatural races but must come to terms with them all so that she can insure that her status as protector of humanity comes to pass.
This tale is part romance and part fantasy adventure. There is magic here, and I am sure there will be passing comparisons to Twilight, but this is a tale on a far grander scale. Lisa is learning about this new world as we learn about it, and is forced into battle even though humans are deemed the weak link in the alliance. She cannot raise her own army of humans because the secrets of the other races must be kept, so the burden is even greater for her than for her counterparts. In some ways, this is a coming of age tale as well, with Lisa doing her best to find her place in a world that is scary, exciting, and quite dangerous.
This is the first book of what I believe will be a series, but this story can certainly stand on its own as a tale of a young woman coming into her own in a world filled with both dangers, delight, magic, and mayhem.
Charming Incantions: Enticed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Charming-Incantations-Enticed-Monique-Snyman/dp/0987874721/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336631184&sr=1-1
I’m pretty excited about a newly release anthology that one of my short stories appears in. I had the opportunity to write a story that was a bit different for me, though at the same time, still shared a bit of DNA with many of the other stories I’ve written over the years. This particular one was originally intended for another anthology, and fit the it to a T. Unfortunately, before that particular anthology got very far, it was cancelled by the publisher. I was ‘stuck’ with this story at that point, which was unfortunate, because I thought it was one of my better tales. It was my effort at writing a war story set in the future, but having some very traditional horror elements to it-a particular menace that I had never written a story about before, and was a new challenge for me. So when I heard about Static Movement producing an anthology entitled Dark Dispatches, which wanted tales of war, real or imagined, here on Earth or elsewhere, in any time period–past, present or future, I knew my story might have a second life. So I submitted my tale, entitled “One Shot, One Kill”, and George Wilhite, the editor, responded within a couple of days, snatching it up.
And now this tale has been released to Amazon, and I am asking you to check it out. I’m not sure how Static Movement works on ebooks, but the paperback version is now available. Keep an eye on the link for further information on the kindle release, and probably over on smashwords for other ebook releases.
I would ask that you consider getting a copy of this book in paperback-a slew of war stories that contain supernatural, alien, and plain old human warriors-all with compelling story lines. I have had the privilege of reading one of the other tales in this book already, by Richard Marsden, and I can tell you that it is excellent. Well worth the price of admission for these two tales alone…but there are many, many more!
So go ahead: click the picture, and head on over to Amazon to pick up your copy of Dark Dispatches. Thanks!
Captain Nate Leathers of the U.S. Army is in Iraq on a routine patrol in a small town outside of Basra when his Humvee convoy gets ambushed by insurgents. As the only survivor, he is taken prisoner and dumped in an underground dungeon by the insurgents. Not long after that, there are explosions and other chaos from up above, and a strange green mist starts floating through his prison cell. Concerned that it’s a chemical weapon, he tries to avoid it, but after a while comes to accept that it seems to have no effect on him. He manages to escape the abandoned dungeon and makes it to the streets of Basra, where he discovers that it seems as if the dead are walking and there are very few people still left alive. Hiding and escaping on foot from trouble with an Iraqi named Muhammad, he discovers there are far worse creatures than zombies roaming the streets-creatures that seem to have crawled (and flown) up from the depths of hell. But even with all of that, the real trouble starts for Leathers when he comes across a group of survivors who create even more of a hell on earth for him.
Archeron starts out strong as a tale told in first person. The author does a solid job of explaining military terminology and other aspects of life in the field without going overboard with it. He also does a good job of keeping the reader in the dark as to what is happening outside of the narrow perspective of the main character early on. This gives a sense of claustrophobia which increases the story’s intensity level a few notches for the first third of the book. Even as Leathers makes his escape from the insurgent’s dungeon, the mystery surrounding the green mist and the strange, zombie-like creatures that bewilder him at first kept the story moving at a rapid, entertaining clip. He starts to get his bearings and discovers there are more than just zombies involved in this strange new world he is a part of, which makes the story even more interesting. I liked it when Muhammad, the Iraqi who saves Leathers early in the story, does his best to explain that the shambling figures out on the street are indeed zombies, despite a language barrier. I thought he put the message across in a very creative way. I do regret that Muhammad didn’t play a bigger role in this tale. I would have liked to see more of him.
I enjoyed the fact that this story does take place in Iraq, which is not the typical locale for a zombie story. But as I read through this book, I realized that this is not a zombie story, but a story of demons and ancient mythology. The author has a strong knowledge of how the military operates and the ancient mythology he chooses to develop his horror creations. The action moves at a steady clip early on and in the latter stages of the book, with quite a bit of time in the middle dealing with interpersonal conflicts and the characters pondering what is actually happening.
Unfortunately, I did have a couple of issues with the story that took away from my enjoyment of it.
The first is what I will call ‘asides’ that distract from the main tale. These take place when, for example, the main character spends a chapter discussing the benefits of wearing your combat boots while you sleep, or when the main character starts contemplating the meaning of life-an example of this is when Captain Leathers states that one man’s religion does not make him any more or less moral than another man. These asides bog down the story for me, slowing the tempo and detracting, rather than adding to the texture and complexity of the tale.
My second issue was with Leathers himself. He struck me as a contradictory character. One the one hand, he is a combat vet and an officer who has the guts and confidence to make life and death decisions every day. On the other hand, he fails to take aggressive stance that would diffuse a dangerous situation again and again. I won’t elaborate on this further to avoid revealing spoilers. I will say that I do like a character that is human in their failings, and make mistakes, but the mistakes Leathers makes seemed redundant to me.
While I had some issues with this book, I think the author is a talented writer who has come up with a very interesting universe inhabited by not only zombies, but mysterious netherworld creatures. I will be curious to see what happens in the inevitable sequel to Acheron.
Acheron can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Acheron-Bryon-Morrigan/dp/1934861677/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1