Friday, October 21, 2016

The Immorality Clause by Brian Parker review

    Bladerunner was one of my favorite movies growing up and it's easy to see why. It's a Noir Detective story which just so happens to take place in a proto-cyberpunk future. Replicants took the place of Blacks as an exploited underclass but they were actually in a state of full-on slavery again.

    Bladerunner's hero, for lack of a better term, was the kind of man who existed to hunt them down and exterminate them when they went rogue. A few novels have managed to recapture that sort of world with Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery by Jim Bernheimer and Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan being the two best off the top of my head.

    The Immorality Clause is a more low-key version of the story with true Replicants not having yet actually emerged, just robots. There may be true A.I. in some of the more advanced models but most of them are merely life-like dolls which serve a variety of functions for men and women in the setting. Particularly sex because this is a Noir story.

    Homicide Detective Zach Forrest is invited down to Easytown, a kind of Storybrook-esque slum of New Orleans, to investigate a murder in one of the sexbot establishments there. This gets him involved in a strange and dangerous mystery which involves a serial killer and a political assassination on the eve of worldwide robotic legislation.

    The book has a nice down-to-Earth feeling which I felt made it stronger. Zach is a Detective but even he can afford an A.I. to manage all of his affairs. New Orleans, already one of the more diverse cities in the world, now has a bunch of Arabic immigrants. The world-building is subtle rather than in your face and works better for its groundedness. It simultaneously manages to have a 1940s-esque feel in some places while also feeling like it could plausibly take place in the future.

    Zach Forrest is a much nicer man than Bladerunner's Decker but he's still an individual who is deeply set in his ways and both repulsed as well as fascinated by the newest models of sexbots. Paxton is a character who exudes so much mystery the audience almost certainly thinks she's a robot herself but may well be something more complicated. The serial killer, himself, is a figure which doesn't get much in the way of development but shows himself to be clever but not quite as much as he thinks he is.

    The supporting cast is also interesting as we get to see New Orleans citizens from all branches of life. I also felt like the book did a good job of stretching out the investigation. As opposed to it all happening in a couple of days, the story takes place over a couple of weeks and feels more realistic. There are times when leads dry up and they just have to wait for resultd which made things feel more authentic.

    Finally, I give credit for how they handled the issue of A.I. It didn't spontaneously develop but is something which the developers have very clearly designed within limitations. Machines never suddenly go "rogue." They may malfunction but the majority of problems in the world with robots are because people programmed them to be problems--a nice change of pace from most science fiction.

    In conclusion, this is an excellent work of science fiction. Brian Parker did a wonderful job of creating a seedy Noir future setting which invokes Bladerunner without copying it.


Two essays by me for the Fantasy Book Critic!

Hey fans,

The FANTASY BOOK CRITIC has been a big supporter of my work. It's probably my favorite review site on the web right now. One of the things they've done for me is they've shared two of my essays on writing which I recommend to both of you.

TO MYTHOS OR NOT MYTHOS - An essay which talks about whether or not to do works set in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos when you're a new horror writer. It's how I decided to do CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON.

GIVING BACK VAMPIRES THEIR BITE - An essay which discusses the nature of vampires in recent years and how they should be treated to get the maximum effect from their horror/sexiness. An essay related to STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON.

I hope you guys will enjoy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flotsam Prison Blues (Technomancer 2#) review

    Flotsam Prison Blues is the second novel in the Technomancer series by Michael Gibson. I enjoyed the first one tremendously, so much so I wrote the Foreword for it. It's a mixture of action, comedy, and urban fantasy which I heartily recommend.

    The premise of the Technomancer series is it's 175 years after the Biblical Armageddon. After an attempt by a cyberpunk corporation to clone Jesus, God has abandoned the Earth and allowed demons to conquer Creation. This proved to be more difficult for the Infernal than they expected since humanity had the advantage of technology. Eventually, the demons won but the resulting world was one of cyberpunk technology mixed with a feudal despotism.

    One particular human who is harder to kill than most is Salem, a 200-year-old Lightrunner (which is perhaps a little too similar to Shadowrunner), who was the only human being equipped with nanotechnological enhancements before the world ended. In this volume, he's managed to successfully convince the demonic hierarchy to ignore the fact he killed one of their princes last book but the price is having to pay an exorbitant tax for the humans who live on his land. Unfortunately, Salem can't quite afford said tax and he ends up getting thrown in the worst prison in a world ruled by Hell.

    The book is an interesting series of misadventures from our protagonist as he struggles to deal with a world where absolutely everyone is trying to betray everyone else. Salem is a non-stop source of pop culture quips, much like Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy. I felt it was one of the weaker elements of the book that Salem never quite seemed to be touched by all the horror around him and I'm pleased to say the protagonist gets a lot more development in this book.

    We get a glimpse into Salem's backstory and the kind of terrible secrets which have driven him to try and pretend to be a goofball rather than the 200-year-old man he is. The fact he used to be a very different person adds layers to his character and opens up many new avenues of exploration in future volumes. We get to see some truly interesting scenes where he deals with the fact humanity is fighting its way to extinction in the two wars against demonkind. When surrender to evil is the only hope for humanity to survive.

    The supporting cast continues to grow with Viking gods, succubi, fallen angel wardens, and a Nephilim psychopath who makes the prison run at statistically maximized despair-inducing efficiency. Not all of the characters make it to the end but the sheer number of weirdos Michael Gibson has created for this world deserves a reward of some kind. They are all extremely well developed and draw from multiple mythological sources.

    The primary flaws with the novel is it's a little too weird to always take seriously even when it's going for poignancy. Michael Gibson has a Joss Whedon-esque quality of veering from the silly to the soul-rending in one paragraph but doesn't quite have the same level of timing. Likewise, I was very annoyed with the causal murder of a certain character. Despite this, I still enjoyed the novel greatly.

    My favorite part of the book is the section set in Flotsam Prison. Seeing Salem so helpless and having to make alliances with the scum of a world ruled by hell is very entertaining. I also loved the sections which deal with Salem's only known romance. A hero is never more interesting than when he's trapped or outmatched and that certainly is the case here.

    As mentioned, this is primarily a humor book despite its abundance of action. That doesn't mean the book doesn't get dark, even very dark. There's torture, flashbacks to the near-genocide of humanity, and also periods where Salem isn't all that nice of a person. This peculiar cocktail is where the book is at its best, though.

     In conclusion, Flotsam Prison Blues is an entertaining oddball fantasy and science fiction-themed sci-fi novel. It's very close to the Dresden Files and Laundry Files in terms of humor with oddball characters, movie references, and lots of interesting world-building. If that's your thing, and why should it not be, this is a book to check out.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Two new reviews of CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON and an interview

A pair of awesome new reviews for my other favorite series after the Supervillainy Saga.

Beauty in Ruins: Horror Review: Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps: Cthulhu Armageddon is a book that blends the elements of several genres, and does so with some surprising success.

HOB'S REVIEWS CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON: Have you ever read anything by H.P. Lovecraft? how about listened to one of the radio plays by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society?   No?   Well why the hell not? Go and read them! 

I also have a great interview on the Dab of Darkness website!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross review

    The Laundry Files are a series I am very fond of but haven't hesitated to criticize in the past. Basically, they're a combination of spy thriller, Cthulhu Mythos series, and office comedy. The strangest thing about that is such isn't even the weirdest part of the story as they also go in bizarre directions such as parodying vampires and superhero fiction. It's sort of an ad hoc Dreseden Files but, in many ways, even more peculiar.

    One of the series' biggest strengths as well as weaknesses is Charles Stross refuses to let it fall into routine. Every book is a different genre and he has been known to switch protagonists as well. This is the second book in the series where Bob Howard, the nominal main character, doesn't appear at all. In this case, he's replaced by Alex Schwartz, the lamest vampire of all time. Alex was a rich twenty-something virgin banker before he became a vampire by discovering the secret mathematical equation for doing so. Now he's been dragooned into the Laundry at a 70% pay cut with his romantic prospects having gotten worse.

    Alex and Peter, a local vicar, have been assigned to investigate various old Cold War bomb shelters in hopes of finding a new home for the Laundry after their last one was compromised by a hole in the universe. This results in Alex becoming entangled in an invasion of the British Isles by a race of elves. Yes, elves. It turns out the sidhe have been sleeping for the past few millennium and are fleeing their alternate Earth to try to take over ours. Humanity has been so busy preparing for the invasion by the Great Old Ones, they've completely screwed up prepping for a more mundane threat.

    I've taken awhile to read The Nightmare Stacks because, bluntly, there's a weird coincidence here. Elves invading the British Isles and getting repulsed by the weird secret conspiracy government agency which protects the world is actually the plot of my upcoming Esoterrorism sequel, Operation: Otherworld. It's otherwise different from The Nightmare Stacks but reading this book was such an odd feeling I didn't know how to convey my thoughts.

    So what did I think of this book?

    Eh, it's okay.

    The primary focus of the book is a romance plot between Alex and a elven agent who has stolen the memory and identity of a woman named Cassie before going native. Cassie is meant, by Word of Stross, to be a deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl archetype. In other words, a fascinating character who comes into the life of a boring schlub and makes it interesting. The problem is there's not really that much deconstructing.

    Yes, Cassie is an agent for the Mein Alf-spouting elven empire but that's just combining the MPDG with that of the femme fatale who falls for the hero. Given Alex has almost no charisma by design, being a deliberately designed boring person yet "Cassie" falls head-over-heels for him, it seems like a strange thing to say the character is deconstructing anything. The romance, as a result, feels contrived and is probably the least interesting part of the novel. This is unfortunate as it's the primary focus of events.

    The book has a large collection of interesting supporting characters, including ones which were formerly part of Bob Howard's but gradually drifted out of his pages. I'm particularly fond of "Pinky and the Brain" returning as the gay mad scientist couple are always a source of amusing anecdotes. The Dungeon Master is another great character, being a game theorist and strategist who puts everything in 1st Edition D&D terms.

    The elves, themselves, are a decent enough opponent for the Laundry. They're only a tiny remnant of a once-vast civilization and hopelessly outclassed by the modern British military. They aren't aware of this, though, and their magic-based weapons system is actually better equipped to fight the Laundry than the people the Laundry are supposed to be protecting. The fact they're a despicable evil race (justified by the fact they're all mind-controlled from birth in a magical pyramid scheme) while also still having some measure of sympathy from the narrative is interesting too.

    In conclusion, this is a decent enough book but not my favorite out of the series for a varity of reasons. The book changes the narrative of the Laundry-universe so is a can't-miss for fans but, otherwise, skippable.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lucifer's Star is now available on Kindle!

Hey folks,

Being a writer is a time of feast or famine and it's good to have a feast time. I have yet another book which has come out this year and it's not even my last. LUCIFER'S STAR is now available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited for those who want to pick up a copy. Written by me and Michael Suttkus, it is a space opera novel I think folks will quite enjoy.

Count Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he'd been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on a interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland. Their mission for him? Destroy his clone before he's used to rouse the defeated Crius Archduchy from their apathy.

LUCIFER'S STAR is the first novel of "A Spacer's Saga", which is a dark science fiction space opera novel set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Available for purchase here

Friday, October 14, 2016

Interview with C.T. Phipps on THE FANTASY BOOK CRITIC


The FANTASY BOOK CRITIC was very good to me this month and did a kickass interview with me about my books STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON, CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON, and LUCIFER'S STAR. They asked a lot of really good questions and I got a chance to talk about details I wouldn't normally be able to talk about.

Check it out if you want to learn more about my books!

Available for reading here.