The Emperor’s Railroad (The Dreaming Cities Book 1) – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Young Abney doesn’t have a lot in this world. He has his mother, his wits, and a whole lot of undead creatures threatening their existence. Over a thousand years ago the world was thrown into war between angels, a zombie plague broke out, and civilization was thrown into a standstill. In the kingdom of Virginia, Abney and his mother decide they need to go to the town of Charleston, Virginia, along the Emperor’s railroad. When they get into a spot of trouble, a Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis arrives and saves the day. Quinn, the heavily armed knight, brandishing sword, falchion and gun befriends the pair and is hired to escort them to Charleston. Even when the road seems clear, what they find is mostly trouble. Will they survive the next moment, let alone the next day?

When I first picked this up, I was expecting a traditional fantasy with maybe some modern technology added in (I admit I judged this one on the cover), but what I got was a lot more interesting than that. The blend of angels, who are not infallible, zombies, and a lethal dragon made for a fairly gripping read. And that’s to say nothing of the plain old human threats that faced the trio of Abney, Quinn and Abney’s mother. It was not what I had expected but that didn’t make it a bad read at all. I’m not sure how much I liked the story being told from the point of view of Abney and it did make me wonder how this series will progress. Will we get different tales of Quinn from other people’s perspective or will it be something entirely different? It was also a little jarring to read about these things happening in America, albeit far in the future but occasionally, the mention of some landmark would take me out of the story for a bit.

If you like books full of wandering adventure, fantasy, or dystopian post apocalyptic books you’ll probably enjoy this. It was sort of a mash up of Lord of the Rings, The Walking Dead and True Grit. While it’s easy to like all of those things separately, not everyone will love them all being thrown together. I am definitely interested in where the series will ultimately go with this.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Sawyer Shepherd Chronicles: Rights of Passage – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

An ancient evil, a teenager on the run from a tragic past, and a collision course with destiny, fate, or maybe something else entirely.

Sage City Colorado is a beautiful but struggling town. It’s mining history has dried up, leaving it only with a dark local legend that may just be more history than myth. But an East Coast developer named Lucius Furr and his team, including Lennox Dupree and Elena Cordova, might just bring salvation- or awaken a long dormant evil.

Sawyer Shepherd, an eighteen year old orphan on a road trip of self discovery- and running from a tragic past- finds himself caught up not only in Furr’s plans for the small town, but also an ancient and epic battle between good and evil. Guided by locals Eli Romer and Mandy Jane, Sawyer will seek to overcome the demons of his past while also trying to survive a real life demon that seems to seek only to consume. Or is it also trying to open the door for an even greater and more powerful evil?

REVIEW

2/5 Stars

Sawyer Shepherd has a tragic past and is taking some time to see life on a road trip. He finds himself in Sage City, Colorado, a small town with a bit of mountain charm and a bit of dangerous wilderness surrounding it. While there he runs into Eli Romer, known as the town drunk, Mandy Jane, a beautiful and intriguing local, and a group of developers looking to invest in the town. Soon after he arrives, Sawyer finds himself face to face with a snow storm, an ancient evil, and the tragedies of his own past. Will they survive or will this be the end of Sawyer and his companions?

While the concept of the book was intriguing, a town trapped in a white out with something hunting the people in it, the execution left a bit to be desired. The main characters fall into most of the typical horror tropes. The main focus, Sawyer, has a tragic back story, while still being the cool action hero type, and finds out there may be more going on to this story than he is being told. This could have worked better in my opinion but I do see it having the potential for a series. And while the monsters were well described, they were also somewhat repetitive in their actions which eventually makes the story feel less frightening than it could have been.

There were quite a few spelling and grammar errors in the book. While that’s somewhat to be expected in an advanced review copy, these were excessive in this book. That did make this a somewhat difficult reading experience.

Undoubtedly, there will be people who enjoy this book but it did not ever quite work for me. The concept is similar to things like the television shows Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The best moments of the book were when the group felt trapped with no way out, especially during the snow storm, similar to The Shining but with a different kind of monster coming after them. It felt like something we have seen before in horror books but didn’t add much of a new take to it. There were twists and turns, and there is an ever present amount of gore involved yet the fear one would hope for in a horror book never quite came through for me.

If the series continues it would be nice to see a little less of the expected tropes and a few more surprises for those of us who like a good horror book.

Sincerely yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

An Interview with G.E. Hathaway Author of Burn

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who crawled into my dungeon! G.E. Hathaway, the author of the spectacular book Burn about a post apocalyptic Tucson, Arizona, that you should all go and read, right after you finish reading this post. She was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about the book, about Tucson and about her writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, G.E., and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: Let me start with the obvious question. How does it feel to have a book out that is post apocalyptic while we are in an actual worldwide pandemic currently?

G.E. Hathaway: I have to admit, it’s a bit strange to drive around an empty downtown Tucson- like I’m a character straight out of the book!

I’ve been doing a lot of observing. There’s the world I imagined dealing with a large-scale emergency in Burn, and then there’s our actual reality dealing with COVID-19. I think the fears associated with living in a desert city are quite consistent with the reality. Water and shelter are essential against the heat, and we started hitting three-digit temperatures this week. If the power grid gets overwhelmed, outages occur. Something I’ve been greatly encouraged by, however, is the way people have come together to support each other during this difficult time. Even when things seem the most divisive and hostile, there’s always the helpers.

Slick: Your book is set in Tucson and it’s clear from reading it that you have a love of the area. What about the area inspires you and how did you decide to set your story there? Was there any consideration of setting it somewhere else?

G.E. Hathaway: I was greatly influenced by my time living near downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus. It’s a very old neighborhood, first of all, with a unique charm that you don’t find in many other places. With the development of the downtown area, you have an interesting combination of worlds; modern industrial and traditional Sonoran styles. As a result, the culture is delightfully mixed, and there’s great support for artistic expression. I wanted to present the city in a way that is recognizable to the locals today, and not just as another cowboy western. Tucson has evolved, but at the same time, I knew I needed to introduce it to new readers in a way that may be accessible to them, hence the idea of the “new wild west.”

Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

G.E. Hathaway: I write full time in a different industry and I’m a parent, so my creative writing goals are structured for maximum efficiency, which sounds so dry and uncreative! Basically, I keep a journal of writing concepts, and once I think a concept has enough legs to keep my own attention let alone someone else’s, I flesh out the beats. I sit on it for a while, making edits as needed, and if it continues to hold my interest, I outline the chapters. It takes a couple months before I’ll even sit down for the first draft, and by then I’m dedicated to a full writing schedule. I try not to go too long without writing during this time, because I don’t want to lose momentum.

After I complete the first draft, usually over a couple months because I write straight through without editing, I put it down for another month. Then I revisit it, edit it as best I can, then submit it to beta readers. I want to catch huge plot holes and narrative issues early before I send it to a professional editor.

Slick: Do you remember when you first got the idea for Burn? What was that like and why did you feel the need to tell this story in particular?

G.E. Hathatway: I was driving across town near the end of a very dry, hot summer, when the first monsoon storm hit. The monsoons here are gorgeous. The clouds roll in like a wild animal. Similar to how someone in the Pacific Northwest may come out to enjoy a sunny day, everyone in Tucson will go out to watch the rain. As I watched the first storm roll in, I realized wanted to capture that transition and heighten the stakes of what that relief means for the locals. I imagined the opening scene of the book that day. While the rest of us humans are enjoying the rain, there’s an actual battle going on between the weather, and I wanted to personify that. Although in those early days of brainstorming, the fight between the gods happened in the open desert instead of a convenience store!

Talisa

Slick: In Burn there is a technology called the Grid, which seems to be a renewable power source that doesn’t rely on any traditional power supplies. How did you come up with the idea? Do you think this sort of technology would be something that could exist in reality in the future and, if so, do you think it would be a good idea to use it?

G.E. Hathaway: It’s funny, after I started distributing an earlier draft of Burn to readers, I started getting articles from them they’d found on experimental technology that supposedly generates electricity from ‘thin air,’ either through microbiomes or water vapor. The future is here! I think one of the biggest things to think about is how to set up boundaries to the technology and keep it contained. Similar to dropping a boom box in a bathtub, how can you use the energy without having residual effects somewhere else? I’d also be curious about its finite conditions. If there’s no catastrophic fallout, I think it would be cool to see.

Slick: I loved the interplay of nature and technology in the book. Do you feel that the two can coexist well together or do you have more of an affinity for one or the other?

G.E. Hathaway: That’s exactly what I hope to explore in follow-up books! I think the big question I’m trying to address is: how can the two coexist in a way that isn’t detrimental to the other? I think having this story take place in the desert is perfect, because the environment is so fragile to begin with. On the one hand, our existence as a species is dependent on the health of the environment, but on the other hand, we need technology to survive the brutal heat. As a Tucsonan, I’m in a place that needs both.

Noah

Slick: To me, this book feels kind of like a cross between The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Were you influenced by those authors at all? If not, who are your main influences when it comes to writing?

G.E. Hathaway: American Gods definitely served as an influence because I wanted to explore the deities in this book by how they evolved and are defined by the existing society. I love Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. Their world building is magical. Other authors I love include V.E. Schwab and Jason “David Wong” Pargin.

Slick: What are you reading right now? Any great books you can recommend to people who like Burn?

G.E Hathaway: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is amazing. I keep going back to that one. A time traveler who lives in the ideal futuristic scifi world we originally envisioned from the 50s accidentally changes the past, and creates the present we currently know and recognize. The science fiction in this book is so interesting, with the time travel machine powered by the Earth’s axis. I also highly recommend Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by Jason “David Wong” Pargin, which looks at a dystopian future where our own social media engagement enforces a surveillance state. It’s also supremely funny and smart.

Liam

Slick: Three of the main protagonists, Liam, Ellie and Noah, all find themselves face to face with Gods and Goddesses. Was it difficult to personify these Gods and Goddesses while still making the interactions believable for the human characters?

G.E. Hathaway: I had fun with this one. Each character is driven by their environmental purpose. The Sun God is ruthless and unforgiving, much like the sun in Tucson. Alternatively, Winter is indifferent to humans, more peaceful. Winter doesn’t have the damaging effects in Tucson like it does in other parts of the world, but it does provide relief from the summer. The Rain Goddess gives life to the region, so I saw her as a motherly figure, and therefore more empathetic to humans. Those characteristics fed their interactions with the main characters. Hopefully trying not to give away too much, the stranger the humans meet in the desert was both the most fun and saddest character to write, because it aligned with how humans interact with the area wildlife as both a threat and a treasure.

Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

G.E. Hathaway: Yes! I have book 2 outlined, with ideas for book 3 in development. I just hope my pandemic anxiety calms down enough for me to stick to a writing schedule! Book 2 is going to answer a question that Book 1 leaves hanging. I’m excited about this one, because it will introduce more gods as well as give the readers a glimpse of a modern and active Grid city.

Slick: In the book we find out what happened in Tucson when the Grid goes down but we don’t see what happens outside of Arizona. Will we get a glimpse of that in future books?

G.E. Hathaway: Yup! Our heroes will go outside of their comfort zones and visit the capital Grid city, which is located outside Arizona. Readers will also get to see what politics looks like since we’re in a future where a powerful corporation, Utopian Industries, has merged with the government system.

Ellie

Slick: The book is cinematic in scope and I could see this working as a graphic novel, movie or television series. Have you put any thought to trying to adapt it into any other kind of media?

G.E. Hathaway: I would love that! My hope is that the book picks up some steam in the indie world and attracts the attention of those who could make that happen. I actually have another manuscript with an agent at this time, so maybe if that one takes off, I can bring attention to Burn.

Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

G. E. Hathaway: Burn (Desert Deities, Book 1) is available now on Kindle devices at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086FZ9K4C. I hope to get it formatted for paperback soon.

My website is https://gehathawayauthor.wordpress.com/

Email: g.e.hathawayauthor@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/g.e.hathawayauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gehathaway

Thanks so much for stopping by my dungeon! Now if you could just show me the way out? Oh, um I think she left. Anyway go read the book!

Inquisitively yours,

Slick Dungeon

Note: all art in this post was created by Sofia Bjerned and are property of G.E. Hathaway and can be used for personal/non-commercial use. They cannot be modified/edited for commercial purposes.

Burn – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

Welcome to the New Wild West.

After a devastating power outage wipes out most of Tucson, survivors Liam, Noah, and Ellie have more than the hot summers to worry about. In the absence of modern technology, ancient spirits awaken and the Sun God and Rain Goddess resume their timeless war over the elements. Friendships are tested and lines between good and evil are blurred as the humans are thrust into a strange and dangerous journey that reveals the mysterious forces ruling the desert. When the Rain Goddess is injured and the temperatures rise, Liam, Noah, and Ellie must find a way to restore power to the city before they all burn.

REVIEW

5/5 Stars

It’s been a couple of years since the Grid, a modern technology powering the world fell. While survivors are trying to do the best they can in Tucson, Arizona, three people have their lives and beliefs changed forever. Liam, Noah and Ellie meet a strange woman named, Talisa, who seems to have powers beyond human understanding. She’s on the run from a man that seems to be even more powerful than she is. While Liam and Ellie work to protect her, Noah works to restore power to the Grid. The future looks uncertain for everyone unless they can succeed.

Captivating from the very beginning, this book kept me guessing the entire time. The threats are vivid and well developed. The journey the main characters take is difficult and engaging. The theme of how technology and nature interplay with each other was a constant and welcome presence in the story. While I have never been to Tucson, the descriptions made me feel like I was there and you can feel the author’s love of the city and surrounding areas in the writing.

If you’ve read The Stand by Stephen King and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and enjoyed those, this book is for you. I felt like this took some of the best elements of those books and put them together in an extremely effective manner. The characters are believable even when unbelievable things happen to them and around them. The odds are overwhelming against the characters in the book yet they keep fighting in their own way.

This was a welcome fresh take on a post apocalypse book and I couldn’t put it down until I had read it through. It’s cinematic in scope and I am hoping that this will be the first in a long series of books as I kept wanting to know what would happen next. I highly recommend it.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Roland’s Vow – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

The Warlock of the Marshes is a man marked and cursed by a past of horrible deeds. Will Roland hear his plea? Can Roland trust the daughter of such a man, or will his own desires betray his reason?

Roland and Eldryn take to the seas of Stratvs, alongside their new Slandik friends, and discover an exotic city that exists in the shadow of harsh laws and savage practices. Lavon is home to every type of trade and pleasure. However, such riches place its very soul in peril.
In the distant land of Lawrec, Roland will face trials that will test not only his physical strength, but his own code of honor as well. Roland’s constitution continues to be forged as he struggles against the evils of the world and his own pride. But will his efforts be enough to save a land besieged by raiding armies and a people starved of hope?

Join Roland as he takes Swift Blood in hand to battle pirates, fallen champions, and worse. Roland’s quest to earn his father’s approval continues in Roland’s Vow, Book II of the Heirs of Vanity series.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Roland and Eldryn set out on their journey as young men but now have experience on their side. They continue the hunt for an evil mage that escaped his punishment in Roland’s Path. Along the way they make new allies, learn new tactics and realize that the world is a much larger place than they could have imagined. The world is at risk from the evil Daeriv and Roland knows he must act to stop it from overwhelming the innocent. Along the way he learns more of his heritage and meets beings of incredible power. The companions must decide whom they can trust and watch out for one another before it is too late.

The action Roland’s Vow is excellent and does not let up. The battles are epic in scope and extremely enjoyable to read. The danger keeps looming larger and it was fun to see how it all played out. Roland and Eldryn are not such young men as they were and they are beginning to get some recognition for their deeds. There are new allies that shine in this book and it will be interesting to see how these relationships grow and change throughout the course of the series. Also refreshing was how the motivations of Roland and Eldryn moved from trying to prove themselves to their parents towards doing good for the sake of helping those who cannot help themselves.

The weakest part of the story was the romantic entanglements that both Roland and Eldryn are swept up into. Between that and the somewhat frequent spelling errors, this book doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. The villains motives also remain somewhat vague, although this will surely add to the plot in future installments. Those issues did not stop the story from being an enjoyable read however.

Anyone who loves Dungeons & Dragons and enjoys epic quests, large battles, fast action, and the forming of a fighting party to take on evil will find this book a thrill most of the time. If you love books like The Sword of Shanara then the Heirs of Vanity series is a worthy companion to place next to it on your shelf.

Epically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Roland’s Path – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

SYNOPSIS

When two servants of evil escape during young Roland’s watch, he is driven by his own shame and vanity to take up his axes and track them down himself. Raised on the rural edges of Gallhallad, can he survive the dangers and complexity of the road ahead?With the help of his lifelong friend Eldryn, the Cavalier hopeful, and an uneasy bargain with a dagger wielding cutpurse, Roland pursues a wizard of unknown powers and a woman of uncommon beauty and skill.Will Roland’s vanity not only doom him, but a kingdom he hoped to one day serve as well?In Roland’s world of Stratvs, vanity has a high price. A price paid with the blood of the innocent and the guilty. Around him, swords once pledged to justice rust on the altars of the self-righteous.

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Roland and Eldryn are young men who have large shoes to fill. Roland is trying to live up to his father’s expectations and has his first test before him when two prisoners escape under his watch. This leads to an epic adventure across the lands where danger is around every corner, friends are few and knowledge and training make the difference between life and death. Roland and Eldryn make an alliance with a cutpurse to help them track down and return the escaped prisoners. They will be tested, challenged and hunted. Will they be able to survive, return the prisoners and fight with enough honor to make their ancestors proud?

Rolands Path reminded me of an extended Dungeons and Dragons session. That is not an insult in any way. I love those types of adventures and any time I can go on an epic quest with a well written character, I am on board. The best moments of this book were full of action and heroic sword battles. The action is constant and very well detailed. The danger is palpable and it never feels guaranteed that any of the main characters are going to survive the next minute, let alone to the end of the book. At its best this story feels like something that could sit next to R.A. Salvatore’s famous Homeland book, although with a less flawed protagonist than that series has.

While the heroes are well fleshed out and there was a good sense of where they came from and what they wanted, the villains were another story. Their motivations were unclear and some of the tactics they were using did not always make sense. Some of this is probably due to the fact that this is the first in a series of books and hopefully these characters will be more well developed in the future books.

This was close to a four star book, except for the vague definition of the villains and the fact that there are a lot of distracting spelling mistakes. The ride is fun and the action is good. If you are a fan of fantasy books, this is a good one to pick up. The follow up is sure to be an exciting ride and something to look forward to.

Epically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

A Wind Blown Torment – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

A sweeping epic with an impending threat. The tension builds and the world feels fully realized but could use a little more action.

SYNOPSIS

Ka Lem can take the form of any animal he knows. He chooses the form of a bear for first his soul form, and plans on taking the form of an elk afterward.

But the elk have disappeared, from the land and from his soul. No one can find them.

Unease fills everyone – the Wind People, the Stone People, and the Sea People.

And fires race across the eastern planes, despite the winter rains.

“A Wind Blown Torment” – the first book of a new dark epic fantasy trilogy – presents unique magic, fascinating characters, and a heart-stirring conflict.

Be sure to be on the outlook for the next books, “A Stone Strewn Clash” and “A Sea Washed Victory.”

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

There are three types of people in the world, the Wind people, the Stone people and the Sea people. They all have varying forms of magic. Wind people can change into animals, Sea people can take a water form and Stone people can make their skin as hard as rock. Ka Lem, one of the Wind people, has discovered a terrifying threat. He can no longer take the form of an Elk. Neither can any of the other Wind people. Ka Lem has to travel and consult with the Stone and Sea people to let them know of the threat he believes is out there. Something is killing entire species of animals for their own benefit. What does this mean? And can the threat be stopped before it is too late?

The tension in this book builds slowly, but ever presently. It does give a good sense that something bad is about to happen but there’s not a lot of revelation about what that might be. While I was able to keep track of the heroes of the book, it didn’t give me the best sense of what the villains were and what they might be trying to accomplish. That said, it kept my interest enough that I will definitely be reading the sequels to find out.

I loved the idea of nature under attack being what the threat is in this book. I also appreciated how gender is treated in this book. It’s very fluid and the whole idea of gender is restricting to the Stone people. I found that refreshing, especially in a fantasy setting. To me that’s one of the most fascinating parts of the book.

I did feel like the final conflict was a bit short lived and it left me wishing there were a little more to it, but then again, this is the first in a trilogy, so my guess is there will be more action in the next books.

If you love fantasy, and books where people come together to try and save the world, this one is definitely worth a read.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Edge of Darkness – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click HERE.

Cyberpunk fans and fans of far future fiction will enjoy reading this book.

SYNOPSIS

In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.

Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.

When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Calder Mckenna is an ex-soldier working as a cop who is still haunted by the actions of his past. His life gets a whole lot more complicated when a mysterious package shows up at his door. While what is in the package might unlock hidden potential inside him, it might also make him into a monster. This story is about his struggle to maintain his humanity while still protecting his partner and those around him.

The book starts off strong and is full of action. The integration of technology and humanity is a consistent theme throughout the book. Calder also starts out as a rather interesting character to me. I found myself wanting to know more about him and why he was the way he was. For most of the book I was excited about it and enjoyed the story. There was at least one relationship that I found a little less believable than others but I won’t go into detail about it to avoid spoilers but otherwise I was intrigued.

I was reminded of things like Altered Carbon or Phillip K. Dick novels as I was reading this. While this is not quite as realized as those worlds, this was still an entertaining read. I liked how these mega corporations are controlling everything from behind the scenes but I never got a great sense of what exactly they were doing or why. It was clear that they were not above board and needed to be stopped, but I feel like that is part of the book that could have been strengthened.

The action is fast and continuously interesting and I found myself rooting for Calder to succeed. There is a lot of action and for this kind of story, I find that a great plus. I enjoy a little bit of philosophy about the way things are but then I am ready to get back to the fight. Edge of Darkness provides a constant stream of intense action with real, high stakes.

For me this just narrowly missed being a four star book, mostly because I felt like some of the scenery and background could have been delved into a little more, and like I said one relationship never quite worked for me.

If you like far future fiction, this is a good one to go with and I will be checking out the sequels.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

To Be Taught If Fortunate – #BookReview

Hello out there in cyberspace. Slick Dungeon here and I just read a book about outer space that I want to share with you. I enjoyed this one a lot and I will be doing a little review. There will be some spoilers but I will not give away the whole plot here. You’ve been warned if you want everything in the book to be a surprise.

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers is a hard science fiction novella that had me interested cover to cover. It follows the adventures of four astronauts in the far future who have been sent from Earth to explore a few planets and their ecosystems in the interests of science and humanity. Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena and Jack have all been tasked to take scientific recordings, samples, etc. and sent back to Earth for study.

The book is full of beautiful descriptions of new species, the harsh realities of space exploration and the breakdown of difficult scientific ideas into understandable concepts. The characters are very well developed for such a short book. I was pretty gripped throughout, whether it was the personal struggles of the space explorers or the underlying question of the book; should we seek knowledge just for the sake of curiosity?

Those of you out there who are space nerds will probably know that the title is taken from a small snippet of a quote on the golden record on the Voyager space craft. This book takes the idea that we ought to be curious, that we need to find more out about the universe around us seriously. That can be said for a lot of science fiction and especially hard science fiction books. Where I think this one is different is that it also asks if our curiosity does harm. Are we hurting foreign species we might encounter in space? Are we able to minimize that? And if we can minimize it, is that really enough? Should humanity care about space exploration if there are problems on the ground right here on Earth?

What I love about this book is that it does not provide hard and fast answers to those questions. We follow along as the astronauts go to different environments, with different challenges both for the astronauts and the species (or lack of species) on each planet they touch down on. It isn’t a silly novel where there are a ton of bipedal humanoid species. No, the species they encounter might be microscopic or look somewhat like rats but have truly nothing in common with the earthbound creatures we think of. And it’s very well described.

Maybe the one thing I would change about the book is the ending. I feel like it could have been more conclusive. On the other hand, that may have been the whole point. The book doesn’t give us answers to a lot of important questions, but it dares to ask them. So maybe the end is made that way too. So that we have to form our own opinions and ideas of not only what the right thing to do is when it comes to science, but also how our heroes end up in the long run.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, deep, yet short read, and you have any interest in space exploration at all, I highly recommend To Be Taught If Fortunate.

If you’ve read this, let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

Space-ily Yours,

Slick Dungeon

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A Pizza to Die For – #BookReview

Take the Pizza Leave the Mystery

Have you been stuck inside for days with nothing to do but read or watch movies? Me too. Although, I live alone in a dungeon so it makes sense. Slick Dungeon here with a cozy mystery book review for you in your time of boredom.

A Pizza to Die For by Chris Cavendar is one in a series of cozy mysteries that take place in or around a pizza shop in Timber Ridge, North Carolina. It’s about a pair of sisters, Eleanor and Maddy who run the place called, A Slice of Delight. I’m going to give you a little plot summary but then I had some issues with the whole thing so I am going to rant about that for a while.

If you just want a nice, tidy, mystery, there are definitely worse you could read out there. If you want a nice, tidy, mystery that constantly makes you wish you were eating pizza because they say the word every other sentence, this is absolutely the book for you. I think I gained weight just by reading it to be honest.

The story goes like this. A new pizza place is about to open. The restaurant is called Italia’s and not only will it have a fancy, dancy, high-falutin, wood fire oven, there’s a chef there that will toss the pizza dough in the air right in front your very own face. Maddy and Eleanor are none too pleased with this and so she and her crew go to see the dude opening it up. His name is Judson Sizemore and they basically threaten him to, you know, not open the place, but after he was a jerk to them, so apparently that’s all okay behavior.

I bet you see this coming. Judson ends up dead. Eleanor and Maddy are suspects of course, so they attempt to clear their names by solving the mystery. In case you actually want to read this, I am not going to give away who does it but there are spoilers that follow so you have been warned.

Here are some thoughts I had along the way.

  • At one point this book has the required “get off my lawn” scene where they go to try to talk to one of the suspects and he pulls out a shotgun and says he will shoot Maddy and Eleanor if they don’t leave. So many mysteries have this but this one to me was exceedingly ridiculous. The guy threatens to shoot them for, you know, walking up to his door, but then how is he talked down? Eleanor tells him she also has a house that is a bungalow house, like the one he owns. Oh. Okay. Yeah I was willing to blow your face off two seconds ago but IF you happen to own a home LIKE mine, then that’s all good, no problem, let’s be best friends. Give me a break (so I can grab a slice of pizza).
  • I know this book was written a while ago and takes place far away from Chicago but these people in this town seem to feel like you have to have some kind of magical ability to make Chicago style pizza. They go on about this for pages. Pages I tell you. And you know what? Now I need me some deep dish!
  • So Eleanor and Maddy think what they have to do is figure out who did the killing at Italia’s the night Judson dies. Guess who they never talk to even once? Yeah, everyone that was working there. Nope, none of them could possibly be suspects despite the fact that Judson in his few scenes where he is alive seems like a total jerk. Great detective work.
  • Speaking of detective work. This town has a Chief of Police who warns Eleanor away from doing her own little investigation and other than that pretty much shows up on occasion to order pizza or do some dishes in the back with Eleanor. The Chief, Kevin, has history with Eleanor because they went to the same high school. But he does no real investigating of this whole situation other than to basically ask Eleanor where she was on the night of the murder. I swear I have never read a cozy mystery where the police department ever does a good job. How are the tax payers okay with paying you Kevin? Huh? Come on, man, the Timber Ridge residents deserve better from you!
  • Also, I have made this statement in other reviews about mysteries but how is a pair of civilians going around and bullying people into confessing to them, not to the police in any way, going to help in court? I am pretty sure a lawyer who is worth a dime is going to get that case tossed in seconds flat.
  • Speaking of crappy lawyers. There is a lawyer in this who is dating Maddy, named Bob Lemon. Well, Bob Lemon does the smart thing exactly once. He tells Maddy that she should not go investigating other people for a murder she might be a suspect for. She jumps all over him for it and pretty much puts him in the doghouse for it for a good chunk of the book. And he apologizes for it! I mean, the dude is a lawyer and the first rule of good lawyering is to get your dumb client who is going around looking very suspicious to you know, shut up. If I was Bob Lemon I would not have apologized. I would have demanded my hourly rate of $100 an hour for that one bit of advice and left Maddy to make her own dang mess.
  • The suspects in this book never looked like they had that much guilt or motive or even opportunity to do this crime but why would they confess anything to Eleanor and Maddy? They do have a friend that seems to intimidate people because he must be into some criminal stuff but that doesn’t seem like enough for someone who committed murder to just be like, oh yeah, I am gonna confess every dark secret of mine to you.
  • Also, as I said I won’t give away who did it but like in every one of these stories, why would the killer actually confess in the last part of the book? They had every opportunity to you know, shut up and just kill the people confronting them. All I can think is that person must also be dating and ignoring a lawyer who gave good advice and then apologized for it.
  • This book even has the prerequisite relationship with a criminal and the protaganist (in this case a pizza maker) that makes no sense at all. I mean, this may have come about in previous books but how many small shop pizza owners are like, yeah let me hang out with a mobster? I could almost buy it if the protagonist were crooked or, like in law enforcement but just a pizza shop owner? Really?
  • Speaking of crimes. In several sections of the book they mention that the local health inspector is away on a honeymoon. Well, it’s a good thing because the kitchen in A Slice of Delight seems to be like Grand Central Station. (Well Grand Central Station a few weeks ago). Everyone shows up there to ask Eleanor stuff, tell Eleanor stuff, and do this dishes with Eleanor. I mean, are there no rules about this sort of thing? She doesn’t even tell anyone to put on a hair net or gloves or anything. It made me want pizza less and that is nearly impossible.
  • There is one thing that I can say for this series though. Their pun game is strong. This one is A Pizza to Die for but they have a bunch of other books with titles like, A Slice of Murder and Rest in Pizza. I wholeheartedly approve. I am gonna murder that slice of pizza to die for and go rest in the remains of it now.

Man that book and review made me really want pizza. Think anyone will deliver to a monster filled dungeon out in the middle of nowhere in thirty minutes or less?

Hungrily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

P.S. Hungry for more murder pizza? Check out this series here!