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. Even so, it's not a book without its flaws and readers should be made aware of them.

    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. The supporting cast continues to grow with Viking gods, succubi ex-girlfriends, an insane archangel, 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.

    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 major female character. Despite this, I still enjoyed the novel greatly.

    As mentioned, this is primarily a humor book despite its abundance of action and there's an endless parade of pop culture references alongside oddball characters. 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.

    I recommend you check it 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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Woken Furies review

    The end of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy comes neither with a bang nor a whimper. For me, it reminds me of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Altered Carbon was the best of the series while Broken Angels did something different but was kind of a disaster (much like Temple of Doom). Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returned to the formula of Raiders, much like Woken Furies does with Altered Carbon, but doesn't quite capture the same magic.

    Or have I completely lost myself with the metaphor?

    The premise of the book is Takeshi Kovacs is unsleeved on Harlan's World after the events of Broken Angels. Having returned to his ocean-covered half-Japanese, half-Russian world, he has to deal with culture shock from the way his home has become overrun with religious fanatics as well as the way the rights of the poor have been nibbled away by the upper classes.

    Joining up with a mercenary unit, he discovers a woman has become "possessed" for all intents and purposes by Quellcrist Falconer. Quellcrist is basically a combination of Che Guevara and Jesus on Harlan's World and her followers are determined to resume the fight they began three hundred years ago against the First Families with Takeshi caught up in the middle. Throw in Takeshi being hunted by his own double-sleeve (effective clone) and you have a very interesting premise.

    Kind of.

    I felt like this is probably the weakest of the trilogy while still being enjoyable. The book
largely depends on whether or not you sympathize with Takeshi Kovacs' moral dilemma over whether or not Quellcrist Falconer has actually returned. The problem is, the book does a fairly decent job of making it clear said revolutionary isn't all that impressive and an enormous hypocrite (which Takeshi points out).

    There's a lot of interesting places which Richard K. Morgan could have gone with the premise like the fact people often lionize people to ridiculous levels while ignoring their flaws or that a past revolutionary plopped in the future probably doesn't have any real insights into the new geopolitical climate. Morgan manages to hint at all of these interesting ideas but then chooses to play the role of King Arthur returned entirely straight. This is an odd thing to do for the book and, ultimately, the least interesting option.
    The "Other" Takeshi Kovacs is also a disappointment. Takeshi is being hunted by his own two-hundred-year-younger self. A figure who is, fundamentally, still the same man. However, he's one of the least interesting characters in the books because his personality exists solely to be an angry teenager thinking of "our" Takeshi as a sellout. Some more nuanced scenes where Takeshi talks about the horrors and losses he's suffered seems like it would have been a better use of our heroes' time.

    Harlan's World is an interesting new environment for Takeshi to explore and I would have liked to have spent more time there. I was less interested in the Martian technology present and more in the concepts of how the First Families related with the public, the local cultural traditions, plus how the world has changed since Takeshi's return. Sadly, a lot of time is spent on the Martian technology business and we only get bits and pieces of Harlan World's human element.

    Fans of grimdark will note Takeshi remains philosophically psychotic. One minor subplot is talking about how Takeshi murdered all of the adults in a village which killed an ex-girlfriend in an honor killing and how he's now working to exterminate the religion. There's an uncomfortable scene also where he lectures a woman about how her religion keeps her oppressed which comes very close to being "women's rights are only what I believe them to be." Which is hampered only by the fact the person he's lecturing is a caricature of a religiously oppressed woman.

    In conclusion, Woken Furies is an okay novel but my least favorite of Richard K. Morgan's works. There's a lot of thought provoking ideas but they are buried underneath an unclear center. Takeshi has long since passed the point of being irredeemable (which is part of what makes him so interesting) so confronting the complex ethical questions of war, peace, and revolution are things which he's just not a very good character for. Still, there's a lot of interesting stuff in the book regardless.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is now available on audiobook!

 Hey folks,

I'm incredibly pleased to announce that CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is now available on audiobook for your listening pleasure. Better still, Jeffrey Kafer, who made the Supervillainy Saga and Esoterrorism so good will be lending his voice to one last series of mine. I think this is probably our best work and fans of post-apocalypse fiction, science fiction, horror, and the Cthulhu Mythos will all enjoy it.

“Under an alien sky where gods of eldritch matter rule, the only truth is revenge.”

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters). 

John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends.

It’s the one thing he has left. 

Available for purchase here