Book Review – Olwen and Eisa

Olwen and Eisa by C.S. Watts

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.

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SUMMARY

Volume 3 in the saga of The Ravenstones, introduces the reader to our protagonists’ enemies, the big cats of Aeronbed. The courageous lioness, Olwen and the insightful panther, Eisa must chart a dangerous path through life. Olwen, has received the gift of a prophecy, but she must figure out its meaning and learn how to benefit from that knowledge. Eisa, cut loose from his kin and comrades, comes to her aid.

Eirwen, the polar bear, has accepted the charge to lead the bears of Heimborn in revolt against their oppressors. His road to victory will require every ounce of patience, cunning and ingenuity he can muster. Although he must confront a determined and vicious enemy, often it’s his own side presenting the greatest obstacle to success.

Fridis, the Eider duck, left behind in Vigmar’s capital has set herself lofty goals, ones that require a trip to the southern reaches of the empire. While the trip opens her eyes to the mysteries of the magic Ravenstones, it also brings threatening and heart-wrenching news. The reach of her enemies may be strong and ruthless, but she will not be denied.

REVIEW

The third volume in the Saga of the Ravenstones series introduces us to new characters and gives the reader a peek into what has been going on with the enemies of Eirwen and Fridis, the main characters from the first two books. We get to see how the big cats of Aeronbed see the conflict and there are some unlikely allies made.

The book does still continue the story of Eirwen and Fridis but it allows the reader to see the whole picture and it sheds light on some of the events from the first two books in the series.

The big cats of Aeronbed (lions, panthers, and the like) have been at war for about as long as anyone can remember. The panthers have been oppressing the bears of Heimborn and don’t consider them to be a true threat. What they don’t realize yet is that a certain polar bear has come along to change the situation. Some of the panthers want to take extreme measures against both the bears and those who rule in Aeronbed.

This military maneuvering and political intrigue make unlikely allies out of Olwen, a lion and Eisa, a panther. They must depend upon one another for survival and to prevent utter disaster on all fronts of the war.

Meanwhile, Fridis has been exiled and is learning more than she thought possible about the magic stones she and Eirwen discovered. She may have been kept away from Vigmar but she is not without allies.

Don’t let the fact that this series has talking animals in it fool you. This story is every bit as complex, intriguing and interesting as some of the best fantasy series around. In fact, the plot twists and turns are downright Shakespearian at times. The story will keep you guessing and continues to surprise and delight.

If you love sweeping epic fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or The Shannara series you will get a thrill out of The Ravenstone Saga. This is not a series where you can skip around though, so make sure you read the first two in order to get the fullest picture of the series.

Book Review – Calamity

Calamity by Sam Winter

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.

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SUMMARY

When society collapses, who will you choose to save?

The United States, reeling from an infectious disease, has reached a tipping point. Society’s collapse is imminent. The rabies variant virus is decimating the southern states and the National Guard can no longer contain it. In response, the heavy hand of the government initiates extreme and violent measures to quarantine half the nation.

SWAT Officer Derrick Hart and his best friend, Army Ranger Brandon Armstrong, are at the tip of the spear trying to keep it all together as society loots, riots, and revolts against the government. Hundreds of miles lay between them and their family as another city falls to the vicious infected hordes. These two brothers in arms must choose between their duty and the ones they love.

When the country they once served becomes the oppressive force that now threatens their lives, Derrick and Brandon must fight together if their loved ones stand a chance at survival.

When the country collapses, who will you let die?

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is a virus let loose in the southern part of the United States. Those who are infected become mindless, violent killing machines and spread the infection to others who come into contact with them. As the country tries to keep the contagion in check, extreme measures are taken to stem the tide of the so-called “rabid”. Borders are put in place along with military and police check points and only the privileged few are allowed to escape to the safer parts of the country in the north.

In the middle of all this are two friends, one an Army Ranger, the other a Police SWAT Officer. They’ve made a pact to always look out for one another and they know they can rely on each other to survive the worst catastrophe imaginable. But even Brandon Armstrong and Derrick Hart could not have predicted how bad things were about to get. In order to get those they care about to safety, they are going to have to risk everything.

The book is fast paced with plenty of action and leaves the reading wanting to turn the next page. There are shocking and surprising moments in the book. However, it does read like many zombie books that have come before it. That’s not necessarily a criticism, the parts of the book that make it good are the parts that make all zombie stories of this type good.

One thing the author does notably well is highlight what a likely government response on both a local and national level might actually look like in this type of scenario. In addition the author takes into account what some fringe elements of society might do in reaction to those actions and overall, this gives the book a well thought out and realistic dynamic.

On occasion it can feel like the author is slightly overreaching with the amount of characters juggled here but in the end it all balances out nicely. The end comes together in a natural fashion and has an excellent set up for the sequel in the series.

If you like zombie stories like World War Z, The Walking Dead or Slow Burn: Zero Day, you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy in Calamity. Better news is that this is a series so if you do enjoy Calamity there is more story to find. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

Book Review – The Augur’s View

The Augur’s View by Victoria Lehrer

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

The First Book of the New Earth Chronicles: The Triskelion, On Winged Gossamer, Tall-ah Earth A Visionary Science Fiction


EENA hasn’t survived Solar Flash of 2034 to be detained under the thumbs of remnant Landlords and Social Engineering minions. Three Mountains Community beckons, and though retrievers hunt down escapees from townships, she clasps the Journey of Man pendant and heads for the secret community where the Lakota Elder MATOSKAH awaits her and others.


At the summit of Quartz Mountain, the discovery of a portal to Ancient Mu offers a great boon to the community. Giant birds, once ridden by humans fly over the savannah. Eena bonds with the Augur, Cesla, and she and GAVIN patrol the skies over Three Mountains watching for the approach of rovers and military scouts.


Eena hasn’t come to Three Mountains to escape, but to regroup. Determination to thwart the Landlords’ enslavement of the “workers” in the townships prompts a scheme for a weaponless society to take back their power.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s the future and the world has undergone a cataclysmic event. Solar Flash burned out most of the world’s electronic capabilities and infrastructure. In the power vacuum that follows the United States government is converted to the Union of the Americas of the World Federation. The UA is an authoritarian regime that does not respect individual rights or life choices but will keep the streets safe from bands of criminals if you fall in line with them.

In this new world there is a place that is a bridge between time and Eena has discovered it. Through this portal there are giant creatures, including birds called Augur’s who can bond telepathically with humans. These creatures will be key in the fight to bring freedom back to the world. But, the small community that knows about the Augurs could be discovered at any time as the world outside closes in.

The Augur’s View does a nice job of blending fantasy and science together. There are scenes that feel magical and interesting and ones that bring the scientific to the forefront. Overall it is a good read with an interesting premise. The heroes have a large challenge before them, especially since they prefer to cause as little bloodshed as possible. That some of the heroes are not simply out for revenge was a refreshing and enjoyable aspect of the book.

However, the cast of characters is large and there are times where the author head hops a bit much and keeping everyone straight can be a bit challenging. The events occurring are clear but it is sometimes not as clear who should be the focus of the scene.

The story is dystopian and fits in well with other books such as The Hunger Games series but with a bit more fantasy thrown in. This is the first in a series so if you enjoy it there is more story to read. If you need a book with a bit of future science fiction fantasy rolled up into one this is worth reading.

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Book Review – The Outsider

The Outsider by Stephen King

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here back with another book review. This one kept me up late at night trembling in fear as Stephen King is still the master of horror.I just found out that this one is actually an HBO series so I’ll be reviewing that as well once I have watched it.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A man can’t be in two places at the same time. Everyone knows that. Detective Ralph Anderson knows that too. He has a slam dunk, ironclad, so obvious it couldn’t be more clear case on his hands. Coach Terry Maitland, respected citizen of Flint City, coach to many of the town’s young little leaguers was placed at the scene of a crime more horrendous than any in Flint City’s history. It’s the kind of crime he would never be suspected of. Still, sometimes people snap and Anderson is sure that’s what happened. He can’t let killers walk the streets of his city so he had Maitland arrested in front of the whole town to send a message to anyone else who might want to commit crimes in this neck of the woods.

But Maitland had an ironclad alibi. Even so, DNA evidence should prove without a doubt who did the crime. A man can’t be in two places at the same time. It’s not possible.

I don’t wish to give too many spoilers here but as you might guess with a Stephen King novel, there is more to the story than what it seems. Not all of it natural.

The book is gripping and horrifying, especially in the earlier parts. Strange things happen to innocent people and there is something evil lurking in the shadows.

One thing to note is that there are some characters from the Mr. Mercedes series. If you want to read everything in order, don’t pick this one up first. But even if you do, they mostly mention things from the other books but don’t go into great detail. The Outsider stands on its own but there are mild spoilers from the other series. I hadn’t read the Mr. Mercedes books before reading this one and it just made me want to go back and read those.

The one weak point of this book, like many of Stephen King’s books, is the ending. While still horrifying and thrilling, once the monster is confronted head on, it loses some of its power. There are a few things I couldn’t entirely believe or that weren’t as wrapped up as one would hope.

Still, if you are a fan of horror and of Stephen King, this is a great book to add to your reading list.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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An Interview with Zamil Akhtar Author of Gunmetal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood

Conqueror’s Blood by Zamil Akhtar

Hey internet people, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! Even in my dusty old dungeon I occasionally find a gem or two that shines brightly. Even better, occasionally an amazing author will drop by and let me chat with them for a bit. Today I was able to interview Zamil Akhtar, an author who earned from me not one, but two, five star reviews. He’s written Gunmetal Gods and the follow up to it Conqueror’s Blood. You should all check out his books and give them a read if you haven’t. Thanks Zamil for joining me and let’s get right into the interview!

Slick: You’ve described your first book as “Game of Thrones meets Arabian Nights”. I’d say that’s quite an accurate description, although your books are more than a simple mashup of two books. They have their own feel and characters but are reminiscent of both of those worlds. What appealed to you about merging these worlds?

Zamil:  Whenever I would read A Song of Ice and Fire or watch Game of Thrones, I’d be mesmerized by the worldbuilding. It was one of the first fantasy worlds that to me felt both real and wondrous. I knew that it was mostly inspired by English history, and so as a writer desired to do something similar but based on Middle Eastern history. Whenever writing a fantasy story based on the Middle East, Arabian Nights is a great place to start for inspiration because it has so much lore. So I brought the politicking, wars, and historicity from Game of Thrones and then took the fantastical elements like djinns and simurghs and general feel of the world from Arabian Nights.

Slick: Your first book was mostly told from the point of view of two men who were set on a path to war for various reasons. Your second book is told from the point of view of two women. What made you decide to go that route? Did you find writing from certain perspectives easier than others?

Zamil: The idea for the sequel was to show a different side to war. While the first book is viewed from the perspectives of fighting men and generals, the second book takes the perspective of those not fighting the wars directly but rather causing them. I wanted to tell a more layered story that focused on politicking, intrigue, and mystery. The two women who are the main characters of Conqueror’s Blood just grew out of that idea naturally, as did the harem setting and all the factions involved. I found writing Zedra most challenging because motherhood is a huge part of her character and not having children myself I don’t have those direct insights.

Slick: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you have a routine or do you just sit down when inspiration strikes?

Zamil: When I’m working on a project, I try to write every day, no matter what. It’s like a car battery — if you don’t use it, it goes dead and then it’s difficult to jump start. So I will write as soon as I wake up and have my coffee ready. Normally I’ll aim for a minimum of 2500 words a day, but when I really get going I can hit 7000 words a day.

Slick: That’s an impressive word count!

Slick: When I first read Gunmetal Gods it reminded me of a book I read recently and loved, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. Would you say that book was an influence on your writing? And do you have any book recommendations of other authors that you really enjoy?

Zamil: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is one of my favorite books. It’s the book that taught me how to describe food. It’s the best prose writing I’ve ever experienced and I’ve never felt so transported to a different world since reading it. Saladin Ahmed is doing great things with Marvel but I still wish he’d write a sequel. There are too many other authors I could name, but I’ll just plug Suzannah Rowntree who is also writing Middle Eastern fantasy. Her book A Wind from the Wilderness, which is about a Syrian boy from the 7th century who time travels hundreds of years into the future to the time of the First Crusade, was a SPFBO finalist in 2020.

Slick: I’m still waiting for the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon too. I’ve added Suzannah Rowntree’s book to my TBR list and I hope others check her out as well.

Slick: One of the things that stands out to me in your stories is when we see an intensely personal moment where a character has a personal connection with another and moments later we can be seeing the most terrifying gods and creatures coming almost out of nowhere to just do what they want. How do you balance the personal stories with the cosmic powers in your books? Do you find writing one type of scene more enjoyable than the other?

Zamil: The scenes where characters interact tend to come more naturally to me than the cosmic horror scenes, but I enjoy writing both and I love contrasting them. I think even right now, a giant space monster could appear over earth and just start destroying our cities — it’s not impossible because we don’t know what’s out there in the insanely vast cosmos. Then you would realize how insignificant that argument you just had was…which is what I want the characters to reflect on.

Slick: Well, now I’m picturing a space monster come to devour us… To be fair, if that happened, I would be much less concerned with meeting a deadline at work.

Slick: While Conqueror’s Blood is a direct sequel to Gunmetal Gods, I didn’t feel like a reader had to have read the first volume to enjoy this one. Why did you decide to switch from the more expected route, where we might be following along from the point of view of Kevah and his journey?

Zamil: I knew from the time I was writing the ending of Gunmetal Gods that the sequel would not have Kevah as a main character. I wrote Gunmetal Gods to function as a standalone, so Kevah had a resolution to his story by the end and thus couldn’t be the driving force for the next book. As a writer, I also enjoy doing something different with each book, so I suppose readers should expect the unexpected going forward.

Slick: Kind of like expecting a giant space monster to start destroying our cities. I’m looking forward to being surprised by your writing in the future.

Slick: Do you have plans to continue this series of books and if so do you have a guess as to when the next volume might be ready?

Zamil: I will definitely continue it. I am aiming for an early to mid 2022 release for Book 3.

Slick: Some of the creatures in your book kept me up late at night with horrible images in my head (that’s something I enjoy by the way). Is there a source of inspiration for the gods and other beings in your book or do they just come from pure imagination?

Zamil: I love watching, reading, and writing horror. My brain is also full of terrifying images from all the horror I’ve consumed throughout my life, and this is something I enjoy too. Cosmic horror is my favorite sub genre, so I’m inspired by the likes of Lovecraft, Jinjo Ito, Stephen King, and others. Growing up in the Middle East, I would hear so many stories about djinns and all the things they would do, some of it being quite benign and others horrific, so that thread also inspires me.

Slick: While there are several characters from the first book that show up in Conqueror’s Blood most of them play a more minor role here. Are there plans for those characters to be featured more prominently once again in later volumes?

Zamil:  Right now I’m in the planning stages for Book 3 so many things are up in the air, but I do love the Book 1 characters and want them to feature prominently. Since my books are about half the length of a typical Song of Ice and Fire novel, I have to be careful how I balance characters so that there are not so many on the page that they all feel insufficiently developed.

Slick: Are there genres outside of fantasy or dark fantasy that you enjoy either reading or writing about?

Zamil: I love science fiction. Right now I’m reading the Three Body Problem series and it’s blowing me away with so many awesome ideas. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to write a hard sci-fi novel as they seem to require a tremendous amount of research and I was never the best at science in school.

Slick: You and me both as far as science goes!

Slick:  What’s one bit of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Zamil: Early on, look to identify the problems in your writing and fix them. Seek criticism from others, have a thick skin, and don’t take things personally. This is how you get better.

Slick: That seems like sound advice to me.

Slick: If people would like to find out more about you and your writing, where should they go? 

Zamil: My website ZamilAkhtar.com is a good place to check out my novels and short stories.

Slick: I’d recommend everyone go there and sign up for your email newsletter as well. I’m on your list and you tend to send out some great content about other authors as well as information about your own books. It’s worth it for sure.

Slick: How can people get a copy of your books?

Zamil: My books are available on Amazon. You can check out my author profile here.

Slick: Any final thoughts you would like to leave us with?

Zamil: Thank you Slick Dungeon and everyone who took a chance on a new author and read Gunmetal Gods. It’s not even been a year since I released it, but what was once a hobby is now a driving force in my life. I hope to bring more awesome stories to the Gunmetal Gods series and other series I’m planning in the near future!

Slick: When you do, I’ll be right there ready to read what you release and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me and I hope we can talk again on your next release.

Well, there you have it folks. go out and get Zamil’s books and try not to think about giant space monsters coming down to destroy our cities.

I bet I can guess what you’re thinking of right now!

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Re-Post: Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

Hey all, since the sequel to this book, Conqueror’s Blood (Gunmetal Gods Book 2) is coming soon and I will be reviewing an advanced copy I wanted to re-post my review of the original. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Gunmetal Gods do yourself a favor and check it out.

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kevah was once a hero who did the impossible. He killed a magus and his legend was born. Ten years later he is old and leads a life averse to warfare but his time will come again. Meanwhile, Micah the Metal has been on a conquest for his faith. He has conquered much of the world and now he comes for Kostany, the city that Kevah lives in. He will stop at nothing to achieve his victory.

When an author is bold enough to name a book Gunmetal Gods, they better deliver the goods with a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. That is exactly what author Zamil Akhtar has done.

The parallel stories of Kevah and Micah intertwine and intersect in surprising ways as the world moves with them and around them. As the book progresses, the reader only becomes more engaged in the story as the cast of characters grows.

Battle scenes are fascinating in this book with the combination of swordplay, magic, and technological advancements in the early development of guns. They are vividly described and utterly thrilling to read.

The book is full of well realized characters, a deep culture that is well thought out, incredible creatures and amazing beings that turn the tide of the story and everything else you would want in a fantasy tale. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.

If you love sweeping epics like the Game of Thrones series or Throne of the Crescent Moon, drop whatever else you are reading and pick up this book. It’s as bold as the title and it delivers on all fronts. Remember Zamil Akhtar’s name because if he keeps writing like this, he will be the next well known epic fantasy author to have a global fanbase.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Heir to the Darkmage – #BookReview

Heir to the Darkmage by Lisa Cassidy

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.

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SUMMARY

Ambition drives her. Danger thrills her. But magic always has a price.

Twenty years have passed since the Darkmage was destroyed and the war between mages ended. For Lira Astor, the single living heir to the Darkmage, escaping her name is impossible. People still fear what is long dead, and they see in her the rise of another dangerous mage with deadly ambition. Desperate to claw her way free of her grandfather’s shadow, to make her own name amongst the world of mages, Lira is willing to do whatever it takes. Even if that means joining the secretive rebel group looking to restore his vision.

Survival is a lesson Lira learned early and often, yet when she is abducted and held prisoner in a deadly game of cat and mouse, she finds herself facing a nemesis she may be no match for. Forced to band together with unlikely allies who challenge everything she believes about what it means to be a mage, she will have to rely on every bit of ruthlessness she possesses.

Because the war may only just be beginning…
…and Lira Astor intends to come out on top.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Imagine being the heir to the most hated and feared mage ever known. You’d have to grow up with everyone knowing your name and what your ancestor did. Everyone hates and fears the name of Lira Astor’s grandfather and though she has never met the man, people have judged Lira based on her lineage alone. She grows up on the streets learning to survive with her wits and not much else.

When she is finally accepted to mage school life gets a bit more comfortable, although Lira still has difficulty trusting anyone considering her painful past. She’s learned to place surviving above all else. This will come in handy when she and several other students are mysteriously abducted and face life-threatening challenges. To top all of it off, she’s agreed to do a job for the organization that wants to restore her grandfather’s vision. She’s going to have to rely on all her instincts to survive and perhaps do the one thing she swore never to do again in her life–rely on others to help her.

Heir to the Darkmage takes on an interesting premise. What if a student at a magic school was a relative of the worst kind of mage there was? Lira can’t change who she is or who she is related to but that doesn’t stop most people from judging her without even knowing anything about her.

The book moves back and forth in time to the days when Lira is left alone on the streets to fend for herself and to the dangerous situation she currently finds herself in. Overall, the book works very well and is quite entertaining. It was occasionally distracting to hop back in time or go forward just at an exciting moment but it’s still engaging enough that it is very much worth reading.

Fans of fantasy books with mysteries and action at their core will love this book. There are strange creatures, powerful mages, and life on the mean streets. This was my first read of a Lisa Cassidy book but now that I have read about Lira I’m much more likely to check out some of her previous books. If you’re a fan of hers already, I think you will enjoy this one. Even if you are not, I think this is a good entry point as it doesn’t leave the reader feeling like they need to read any previous books to fully enjoy this one.

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REM- #BookReview

REM by J.D. Valentine

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.

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SUMMARY

Former LAPD officer and recovering alcoholic, Danny Etter, has been working hard to redeem himself. His marriage is barely hanging on by a string, and he knows if he slips up again, it could mean saying goodbye to his wife and the kids.

When Maria and the kids take off to Lake Tahoe for a vacation, Danny expects life to be pretty uneventful as he stays back in Orange County to work. As Danny continues therapy and AA meetings, he is on the road to redemption. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth as a pandemic begins to unhinge the world around him. Danny is left fighting for his life to get back to his family.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Danny Etter wants to be a good man, husband, and father. He is having trouble in his marriage and his wife has taken their kids away for a vacation. Danny is a recovering alcoholic and realizes he is one mistake away from losing everything he cares most about. He figures that he can work on his situation while his family is away and can become the man that they need him to be. Unfortunately for Danny, the world is descending into chaos all around him. There is a sickness that is spreading which causes people to become violent and do unspeakable things that are far out of their typical character. As an ex-police officer, Danny sees the signs of trouble early on. Now it is going to take all his skill, resources, and teamwork with his friends to make it out of Orange County and to Lake Tahoe where his family went. He can only hope that he can make it there in one piece and that his family will stay safe until he gets there.

REM isfull of action and the creatures in the story are an interesting take on vicious zombie-like creatures. The reader cheers for Danny to find his family and for him to overcome his addictions. While not a completely original take on a post-apocalyptic story, there are moments that surprise. There are also times at which the story feels somewhat repetitive but overall holds interest, especially for fans of horror who don’t mind a bit of blood and gore.

Fans of stories like The Stand, The Walking Dead, or Cell will most likely enjoy the book. While REM is a single, contained story, the author does have plans to expand it into a series and it will be interesting to see where it goes after the first volume. If you are looking for a book about the end of the world and can handle some pretty strong violence and blood, REM is worth a read.

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Through a Forest of Stars – #BookReview

Through a Forest of Stars by David C. Jeffrey

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.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

Year 2217. Earth’s biosphere is dying, Mars’s terraforming projects are in ruin, resource wars are brewing, and even the voidoids—eerie portals into nearby star systems—have failed to yield new Earth-like worlds. But that’s about to change with the miraculous discovery in the Chara system. United Earth Domain and the Allied Republics of Mars, rival powers within Bound Space, each want it for themselves, and a cataclysmic war is about to erupt.

Aiden Macallan, Terra Corp’s planetary geologist aboard the survey ship Argo, a man with a troubled past, finds himself pulled into the center of the conflict and into the heart of a profound mystery where the key to humanity’s future lies hidden. To find it, he must trek alone across a living landscape, guided only by a recurring dream that grows more real—and more deeply personal—with each step. It’s the only way to save an extraordinary world from certain destruction and to give the human race its last chance for survival.

REVIEW

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s the year 2217 and humanity is almost out of chances. Earth is dying and while there are colonies on other planets, humans have yet to find a planet as habitable as their own home. However, the discovery of what may be a suitable, Earth-like planet may change everything. As governments, scientists, and private companies all vying for the first stakes in the planet collide, Aidan Macallan finds himself wrapped up in the center of things, perhaps the only person in a position to understand the new planet and with the ability to avoid a war that would lead to the utter destruction of all of humankind.

Reminiscent of the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Through a Forest of Stars, takes the reader on a journey into the future based on sound scientific principles. There are several competing interests who all want to be the first to understand, and in some cases possess, the resources on a newly discovered planet. What this planet is and just how similar to Earth it is, remains in question. Aidan works on a survey team and is used to the isolation of space but this new planet is something else entirely. When he becomes the first human with the chance to experience and understand it, he is going to need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, he is cut off from most contact, other than with the Artificial Intelligence that helps him to run his ship.

The book is fascinating and holds the reader’s interest, although there are times when the science can be a bit overwhelming. If you are a fan of hard science fiction though, this will not bother you. The cosmic politics involved in the competing interests for the planet are well developed and complex and add urgency to the story. The fantastical is here as well, as Aidan is guided by recurring dreams and nightmares that seem to be urging him to act before it is too late.

If you love space fiction, especially with a good dose of science in it, this book is well worth reading. If you love Arthur C. Clarke or To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers, you should add Through a Forest of Stars to your read list.

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The Ten-Cent Plague – #BookReview

The Ten-Cent Plague

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to review another book. This time I am reviewing the book that was on the very bottom of my TBR list. I always meant to read this book but hadn’t gotten around to it. Reading the book at the very bottom of my to be read list was also the first item in my book challenge for the year which you can find here.

The book I read was The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. That’s quite a mouthful but it was a great read. It’s a non-fiction account of the period in the 1950’s in America when there was rising concern that comic books were contributing to the juvenile delinquency of the country. The idea was that books that depicted horrific acts and showed criminals committing crimes were causing kids to imitate those actions in real life. This was mostly spurned on by a book called Seduction of the Innocent written by a psychiatrist named Frederick Wertham.

There’s a lot more to the story than that but essentially, there was a crusade that was enacted and culminated in not only hundreds of thousands of comic books being burned but also led to legislation that banned the distribution of certain types of comic books (pretty much most of them) and caused the comic book industry to adopt its own censorship organization that nearly destroyed comic books as an art form entirely.

While Wertham had some real credentials and was a leader in many ways in his field, when it came to his book about the link between comics and juvenile delinquency, he only used cases he had come across, and his methods were anything but purely scientific. He excoriated comic books, called nearly all of them crime comics, no matter what the subject actually was and made bold proclamations about how these books were ruining children’s minds.

Interestingly, Wertham also was friends with and highly respected Richard Wright, the author of the fabulous book, Native Son. Somehow, it never seemed to occur to Wertham that if Wright’s book were drawn in comic book form, he would not want children to read that either. In fact, there are plenty of instances of classic literature, right down to nursery rhymes that depicted as much violence as some of the comics that were complained about. The difference? One was drawn and sold for ten cents and the rest was considered classic literature.

If, like me, you are an avid comic book reader, you probably know much of the history found in Ten Cent Plague already, however, it is still worth a read. The author David Hadju gives a brief but somewhat oversimplified history of the early start of comics from the first strips in newspapers, to the popularity of Superman right through the explosion of crime and horror comics that were mostly printed by EC comics.

What’s interesting in this book is just how heroic EC actually comes out in the story. They were blamed for causing the antipathy and hatred of comics by concerned parents but they were also about the only company really fighting back, saying that no one was talking to the actual readers of comic books. Particularly, Bill Gaines who was the head of EC at the time went to testify in front of a senate committee and stated that a comic book that had an ax murderer holding up a severed head was in good taste, “for a horror comic”.

That more or less sealed the deal for censors and then the Comics Code Authority was born. It restricted what could be put in comics and made the whole industry a lot less free. The Ten-Cent Plague only touches on it briefly but the whole industry would have gone under if it had not been for Stan Lee and his cohorts at Marvel for reviving the industry with new and interesting superheroes.

EC basically lost everything, except for Mad Magazine which they kept and used to poke fun at everything and everyone. It’s a magazine, not a comic book because it would not have passed through the Comics Code Authority’s restrictive standards. It has the goofy face of Alfred E. Neuman on it so that censors would think it is just a goofy kids magazine, never realizing that inside the pages of Mad was biting satire that was often more politically relevant than some of the major newspapers of the time.

The most difficult section of The Ten-Cent Plague to get through is the part where Hajdu talks about book burnings. Often times, kids were not told that the comic books would be burned. Most of the adults who were on the crusade of destroying these hadn’t read them and couldn’t articulate why they were bad but obviously seeing these covers with the words CRIME, HORROR and WEIRD in capital block letters must have been doing something to their children. It wasn’t all adults though, there were plenty of kids who thought that these books were no good and organized drives to do so themselves in several towns across the country. These were typically good kids trying to do the right thing because what they were seeing in the news was that comics were bad.

The fact that less than a decade earlier books had been burned in Germany prior to and during the second world war didn’t seem to matter to those who wanted to censor comics. They didn’t see it as the same thing but there are distinct parallels. The same parents that would encourage children to read Hamlet would be horrified by a child reading a comic book titled Crime Does Not Pay. Yet, there is plenty of violence and crime in Hamlet. I guess it’s worse if there are pictures to accompany it?

Anyway, The Ten-Cent Plague is a good read even if you are not that interested in comic books, it’s a strange and unique look at a part of American history that we should probably take the time to learn from.

After reading this book, I want to go out and read some pre-code EC comics. They’re pretty interesting, the horror ones are quite gruesome in fact, and over the top. They did not deserve to be burned though and Bill Gaines didn’t deserve to be chased more or less out of comics but it’s what happened.

If you don’t want to go read The Ten-Cent Plague, then do yourself a favor, go out and find a comic book. Read it and enjoy it and think for a moment about the fact that it very nearly did not exist due to the hysteria of a minority of people who never even read the books in the first place.

Comic-ally yours,

Slick Dungeon