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Book Review- Blackout by Alex Segura

BlackoutThere’s a lot of reasons why we read a series of crime fiction novels. They give us exciting action sequences, nuanced characters we root for and against (often back and forth), and moments of powerful and gritty drama. All of that is sort of the frosting on the metaphorical cake though. The real reason we read a good crime fiction series is to go on a journey. We want an identifiable character we can root for, scream at and empathize with when they fall, and stand up and cheer when they get back up and keep fighting. Alex Segura understands that. It’s why his series of novels starring private detective Pete Fernandez have been so good, and it’s why the latest, Blackout (which I just finished) could be his best one yet.

In Blackout, Segura gives us a novel of epic scope and scale. You get cults, the mob, a murder investigation that Pete interacts with at three different points in his life, political intrigues, assassinations, and a climax that takes place in the eye of a hurricane. So going back to my earlier (and perhaps tired and cliched) metaphor, the frosting on Blackout is exciting and great. But what makes all that fun stuff especially resonant is the emotional journey that’s come before and continues in this novel.

To talk in too much detail would spoil a lot of things, but I can say this is a book that offers long term payout to readers of the other books. Over the course of the story it’s clear that Pete grows. He confronts somethings and makes some realizations that makes him an even more fascinating character and makes the end of the Blackout extremely powerful.

And it’s not just Pete that’s great in this book. Over the course of the novels I’ve Seguracome to care for his friends like former FBI Agent Robert Harras. I’m especially attached his pal with a criminal past, Dave Mendoza; and his partner Kathy Bentley. The first two have some great moments in Blackout. I especially love some of the revelations we get into Dave’s past which make him even more intriguing. For me, though the truly awesome supporting character in this story is Kathy.

We’ve got to see Kathy grow too over the course of the Peter Fernandez books and she’s become amazing. In Blackout she’s insightful, tough, compassionate, and the perfect person to play Pete off of. Their dynamic together is fun and heartfelt.

So, if you haven’t read any Pete Fernandez books do yourself a favor, go back and start at the beginning. By the time you get to Blackout you’ll see you’ve been part of a truly special journey. And best of all that journey is far from over! The final pages of Blackout will have you desperately longing to see where Segura takes Pete Fernandez next.

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Categories: Book Review

Book Review-Forges of Mars Omnibus by Graham McNeill

Forges of MarsOne of the great things about the world of Warhammer 40,000 is all its fascinating factions. Its easy to think one is not for you, but like comics all it takes is the right writer to illustrate a group’s potential. For me that faction was the the Tech-Priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but then I read Graham McNeill’s Horus Heresy novel, Mechanicum. In it McNeill showed me the Admech are a fascinating group of characters and there’s a bunch of interesting stories to be told with them. So I thought I’d see what he could do with a whole trilogy of Adeptus Mechanicus novels and picked up the Forges of Mars omnibus, which contains the novels Priests of Mars, Lords of Mars, and Gods of Mars, as well as the short story Zero Day Exploit.

I got what I wanted and then some. Because Forges of Mars is full of a whole host of fascinating characters not just members of the Admech. Plus each book in the series ups the scope and scale . So Gods of Mars is a story full of grand, epic action, and character payouts.

The Forges of Mars omnibus starts out as a tale of exploration. So essentially McNeill is taking a Star Trek style story and giving it a 40K spin.His story is about an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition for a missing ship that traveled outside the known galaxy thousands of years ago. The flagship of this new expedition is a massive and ancient vessel known as the Speranza. It’s almost like a planet and much of the action in the trilogy unfolds in its labyrinthine layout. It’s a pretty fascinating locale that’s almost a character unto itself.

Walking the halls of the Speranza are a diverse group of Adeptus Mechanicus tech-priests. First and foremost is of course the expedition leader, Lexell Kotov. He’s surrounded himself with a number cold and career focused tech-priests like Tarkis Blaylock. What’s great about those characters though is how nuanced they are. Over the course of the trilogy you get moments that show them at their worst, but they also get genuine moments of heroism and altruism. Plus there are some very noble, grounded, and easy to like tech-priests like the father and daughter team of Vitali and Linya Tychon. Their noble nature and genuine affection for each other made them some of my favorite characters in the trilogy.

The nature of the Kotov expedition allows McNeill to expand the cast of Forges of Graham McNeillMars beyond tech-priests and include diverse characters from all over the Imperium of Man. Accompanying the expedition are a band of Black Templar Space Marines, a detachment of valiant soldiers from Cadia, a Legion of Titan war machines and their pilots, a Rogue Trader and his crew, and several normal humans press ganged into being bondsmen aboard the Speranza. But that’s not all! There’s also a crew of Eldar pursuing the Speranza.

As the Forges of Mars trilogy unfolds were allowed to spend time with all of these characters and see things from their perspective. So I really came to care about almost all of them. It heightened all the action scenes and made the climax of the trilogy incredibly enjoyable. There was so much payoff. The character arcs I probably enjoyed the most were the ones of Linya Tychon; Rogue Trade Roboute Surcouf who hails from the Ultramar system which means he’s kind of like James T Kirk mixed with the nobility of Steve Rogers; and Black Templar sergeant Tanna, who really goes on a journey of growth over the course of the trilogy.

I also have to mention that McNeill may have opened my eyes to the appeal of the Eldar. They are another faction that have popped up throughout the  40K novels I’ve read that I really haven’t found all that appealing. In Forges of Mars, McNeill points out how the Eldar are a damned race thanks to their creation of the Chaos God Slaanesh, but they’ve decided to sort of go down swinging and fighting against their fate. That made me see them in an entirely new light. So I may have to seek out some Eldar novels.

I don’t want to say too much about the action of the Forges of Mars trilogy because a lot of of it is shrouded in mystery with some great reveals. What I will say is the story takes readers to pretty fantastic locales like alien planets, a seemingly deserted space station, and a mysterious Forge World. McNeill also has a lot of fun with the tone of the trilogy as well. You get moments of grand adventure, character drama, cosmic horror, and over the top action. The climax of the book is an epic struggle to save the entire universe and features a number of wildly imaginative and gloriously trippy sequences.

All of that makes Forges of Mars an incredible and epic read. For me, its one of those grand trilogies that reflects all the reasons why I love the 40K universe. It’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy and Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords trilogy. It’s that good! I was already a fan of McNeill before reading this Omnibus, but now he’s one of my favorite Black Library authors.

Thoughts About Metal and Visigoth’s “The Conqueror’s Oath.”

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

HornsRegular readers of this blog may have picked up that I’m a fan of Heavy Metal music. In fact the older I get the more I love metal and all it’s varied sub genres. Part of the reason I love it is because it’s a way to cope with the sometimes soul crushing mundanity of life. Metal turns things up to 11. It makes dull, routine things epic and operatic feats. So it’s a really fun genre.

It’s also a genre of extreme emotions. The world is a pretty dark place these days, especially here in the suburban badlands of America where I live. Our numbskull in chief and his cronies have created a climate of cruelty, corruption, and outright stupidity. So I’m angry very often. And when I am Metal is there for me. It lets me howl at the awfulness in the world.

Metal can also pick you up and dust you off when existential dread, ennui, and depression knocks you to the floor. Power Metal is especially uplifting genre. If you take it at face value with it’s lyrics about fighting monsters and dragons it’s of course silly. I would argue it’s sublimely ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point. And I refer you back to what I was talking about earlier; how metal makes life more epic. Plus what better way to slay and confront your metaphorical demons and monster than with stirring, epic, ballads about slaying mythic monsters.

If you want a great example of that I would urge you to check out “The Conqueror’s Visigoth-ConquerorsOathOath” by Salt Lake City based power metal band Visigoth. It was released today. I’ve listened to it several times already and it helped turn a grey, bleak, snowy day into one of epic possibilities. It even made me write about music for the first time.

Conqueror’s Oath is eight, epic tracks about facing adversity with steel, courage, and honor. It will get you pumped up to confront difficult tasks, face your fears, and enjoy life. My two favorite tracks are “Hammer Forged” and “Conqueror’s Oath.” Those tracks especially are a soundtrack for going out and being awesome. It’s like a love child of the music of Dio and Henry Rollins. They’re feel good, self help songs for D&D nerds like myself. The whole album is fantastic and a great example of what’s awesome about metal

If you’re curious check out the title track from Conqueror’s Oath here.

And if you’re just curious about Metal and it’s various subgenres check out this helpful video made by the awesome, Whitney Moore

Categories: Uncategorized

Book Review- “Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter

January 7, 2018 Leave a comment

BonfireKrysten Ritter has been involved with three of my favorite crime shows of all time: “Veronica Mars,” “Breaking Bad,” and Netflix’s adaptation of Marvel Comics “Jessica Jones.” As an actress she was part of the storytelling of those shows. She helped create a character, and she got to witness how the stories on those shows were brought to life. Now I wonder if she was taking notes because I just finished Ritter’s debut novel, “Bonfire,” and it’s a pretty great first crime novel.

In “Bonfire” Ritter takes readers to the fictional town of Barrens, Indiana. It’s a small company town full of unpleasant ghosts and personal demons for her protagonist, an environmental lawyer named Abby Williams. It’s a town Abby escaped from, but the experiences she endured as a teenager at the hands of her family and peers still haunt her. We immediately get the sense of that, but one of Ritter’s strengths as a writer is her ability to convey a sense of place.

She makes Barrens just as horrific for us readers as it is for Abby. She believably brings to life a town swimming in literal and metaphorical sickness. The former is from possible pollution and why Abby has been forced to return home, and the latter comes from the horrific corruption and secrets that took root when Abby was a teenager and have been festering for about a decade.

Abby is a very believable and damaged protagonist. She clearly has PTSD from some of the horrible things she endured as a teenager and often drinks and makesKrysten Ritter bad decisions. You understand why because Ritter allows you to experience Abby’s memories, but memory is fleeting and subjective. Ritter has fun with that as well.

We meet a number of interesting characters as Abby investigates the mysteries in Barrens like the fellow members of her legal team and some of grown up people who tormented her as a teen, but for me the most fascinating character in the book is someone Abby has returned home to find, her childhood friend turned biggest tormenter as a teen, Kaycee Mitchell. Kaycee is a mercurial and vile person, but too Ritter’s credit she’s not a cartoon. You’re given some scenes that give you insight into Kaycee’s action and even allow you to genuinely empathize with her.

Tone is another area Ritter excelled at. Abby’s investigation uncovers some truly sinister secrets about the town and some of it’s residents. So there’s also a very thrilling and palpable sense of paranoia and psychological horror.

 “Bonfire” is a great debut novel about both the damage teenagers can do to each other and the horrific secrets that can hide in small towns. The book is a kickoff to what I hope will be a second successful career for Ritter because I’m eager for both the second season of “Jessica Jones” and to see what she does next as a novelist.

Categories: Book Review

My Top 10 Comics for 2017

January 1, 2018 Leave a comment

I make part of my living writing about comics. So I thought some of my readers might be interested in my list of the 10 best comic series I read in 2017. In this list I tell you where you can start on the series if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, and I try to do justice to each book with a couple of short sentences describing it.

God Country

  1. God Country published by Image Comics. Available in it’s entirety in one collected graphic novel“Reads like American Gods deep in the heart of texas via the wild imagination of Jack Kirby.”

    Hawkeye

  2. Hawkeye published by Marvel Comics. Start with Hawkye: Kate Bishop Volume 1: Anchor Points“Reads like Veronica Mars in the Marvel Universe. Yes. It’s that good.”

    Batman Rebirth

  3. Batman published by DC Comics. Start with Batman Volume 1: I Am Gotham “One of the most fun, heartfelt, and exciting takes on Batman ever.”

     

    Deadly Class

  4. Deadly Class published by Image Comics. Start with Deadly Class: Reagan Youth or the hardcover collection Deadly Class Deluxe Edition: Noise Noise Noise“A powerful, poignant, exciting tale about a high school for teenage assassins in the 1980s. Features my favorite new character: Helmut the East Geman metalhead. Soon to be a Syfy Channel original series.”

 

Mr. Miracle

  1. Mister Miracle published by DC Comics start with issue #1 of the series. No collection as of yet, but issues #1-5 are available via your local comic shop or digitally“One of my favorite creative team in comics takes on one of my favorite Fourthworld character for a story about love and battling inner demons that mixes the wild imagination of Jack Kirby with the surreal nightmares of David Lynch.”

    Defenders

  1. Defenders published by Marvel Comics. Start with Defenders Volume 1: Diamonds Are Forever.“The stars of the titular Netflix show come together in a beautifully drawn and colored series that is an amazing cocktail of street level crime stories and superheroics.”

    Infamous Iron Man

  1. Infamous Iron Man published by Marvel Comics. Start with Infamous Iron Man Volume 1“One of the best written and drawn Doctor Doom stories . . .ever! An incredible tale about walking the rocky and perilous road to redemption.

 

Redneck Image

  1. Redneck published by Image Comics. Start with Redneck Volume 1: Deep in the Heart of Texas.

“A powerful and gripping tale about violence, family, . . . and vampires. And that’s saying something coming from me, because usually I don’t care for stories where vampire are the protagonists. Redneck is amazing though!”

Redlands Image

 

  1. Redlands published by Image Comics. Start with issue #1 of the series. No collection is available right now, but issues #1-5 of the series are available via your local comic shop or digitally.“A haunting and very cool horror series that reads like Charmed by way of the first (the good) season of HBO’s True Detective.

Realm Image

  1. The Realm published by Image Comics. Start with issue #1 of the series. There’s no collection as of yet, but issues #1-4 are available via your local comic shop or digitally.

“What if you took the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead and replaced it with the magic and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons? You’d get The Realm; a fun and fascinating series that offers a refreshing take on apocalyptic fiction.”

Book Review- “What Does This Button Do?” By Bruce Dickinson

December 24, 2017 1 comment

What Does This Button Do?Note: I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction. So I don’t get a lot of chance to review it. In fact this will be my first non-fiction review for this blog. Let’s see what I can do.

The people at Dos Equis got it wrong. The most interesting man in the world was born on August 7th, 1959. His name is Paul Bruce Dickinson. He’s the lead singer of one of the most successful and greatest heavy metal bands of all time, Iron Maiden. He’s also a veteran fencer, an airplane pilot, a small business owner, a screenwriter, a novelist, a documentary film maker, a DJ, a brewer, a cancer survivor, and first hand witness to some major historical events. Being a fan of Iron Maiden since my early adolescent years I thought I knew just how fascinating Bruce was. Then I read his his autobiography, “What Does This Button Do?,” and discovered there’s so much cool and compelling stuff about him that I didn’t know.

In “What Does This Button Do?” Dickinson takes you on a journey through many of his pivotal life events from his early life, to his first bands, and beyond. And he does so with a great and entertaining voice. Iron Maiden fans know that Dickinson has a gift for lyrical storytelling because of the many songs he wrote for the band, but in his autobiography the legendary frontman shows his gifts extend to anecdotal and autobiographical storytelling as well.

The big draw of “What Does this Button Do?” is of course the behind the scenes stories about Iron Maiden’s classic albums and legendary tours. There’s lot of really cool stuff there, but Dickinson’s story isn’t just about that. He gives you a real sense of what it means to be both a singer and a fencer. His love for those pursuits and for flying comes through in the writing and is really infectious. His recounting of his recent battle with cancer is also inspiring and especially moving.

It’s not just personal moments that Dickinson recounts in his book either. As a successful entertainer he was in a position to bear witness to some of history’s harrowing and horrific events. He recounts his time in New York the day 9-11 happened. One of the most powerful and exciting chapters comes though when he takes readers inside a historical event that sadly many people don’t know much about or have forgotten, the Bosnian War of the 90s.

So if you’re a fan of Iron Maiden you absolutely need to read “What Does This Button Do?” But if you’re a fan of great stories and fascinating people you should read it as well. It’s a really fascinating book.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Echoes of the Long War” by David Guymer

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Echoes Long War MP3For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Black Library/Game Workshop’s year long event story from last year, The Beast Arises, is that it’s consistently given me things I’ve never seen or don’t regularly see in Warhmamer 40,000 novels. Those things all feel organic too; so they come off as fun, mindblowing twists. So far, we’ve engaged in political intrigues with the High Lords of Terra, seen Space Marines think and act politically, and have even had Xenos species set foot on Terra . . . twice! And that was just in the first five chapters!

Having now read the sixth installment, David Guymer’s “Echoes of the Long War,” I’m happy to report that the trend of fun, different, and interesting things continues as we reach the halfway point of the series. Plus the book sets the stage for an explosive and exciting second half of the series.

The Beast Arises series is about all the institutions of the Imperium, but so far when it focuses on the Adeptus Astartes the spotlight has firmly been on the Imperial Fists and all their successor chapters. In “Echoes of the Long War” David Guymer takes us on a deep dive inside the culture of the Second Founding Space Marine chapter known as the Fists Exemplar. What’s especially interesting about these guys is they sort of come off as a combination of Rogal Dorn’s Imperial Fists and Roboute Gulliman’s Ultramarines. They have the tenacity and stubbornness of the Fists, but they have the scholarly way of thinking and devotion to code of conduct of the Ultramarines.


Seeing that way of thinking collide with the tsunami of an interstellar invasion of David Guymersuper orks and their attack moons (I will never grow tired of typing that phrase! So fun! So METAL! And so 40K!) Was a lot of fun. And Guymer gives us a great point of view character to follow for most of the action in the form of a by the books Exemplar captain named Zeberyn.

What really makes “Echoes of the Long War” fun though is the characters Zeberyn and the Fists Exemplars run up against in their fight with the orks, the arch enemies of the Imperial Fists, the Traitor Space Marine Legion known as the Iron Warriors. Best of all, it was the Iron Warriors warband that we’ve been following for a few books now, the company lead by Warsmith Kalkator. I’ve grown to like Kalkator over the last few novels in The Beasts Arises, but Guymer made me love him.

That’s because in the book Kalkator and Zeberyn’s forces have a common foe. So the question then becomes can they work together to defeat the orks? I’m not going to comment on that except to say the dialogue and dynamic between Kalkator and the Fists Exemplar is a lot of fun.

The other thing that Guymer does in “Echoes of the Long War” is provide a scenario that turns the Orks into truly frightening foes. For me that’s been sort of the weak link of the series. It’s hard for me to get excited about the Orks as ultimate bad guys because there’s a lot about them that comes off as comical or sort of force of nature like. In this book though there’s an especially savage revelation about the orks that borders on horrific and gives the novel some really great stakes. It also leads to some fantastic action scenes and an incredibly powerful climax that I did not see coming.

On top of that, Guymer also introduces readers to a fascinating group of Tempestus Scions (Think Imperial Guard Spec Ops), while also continuing the stories of the Imperium’s master of assasins Drakan Vangorich, Koorland, the last Imperial Fist, and Magos Biologos Eldon Urquidex. Plus we get a chilling, final scene that digs back into established 40K lore, sets the stage for the back half of The Beast Arises, and makes me eager to read the next book in the series “The Hunt for Vulkan.” So “Echoes of the Long War” was a heck of a lot of fun.