Death Unmasked: A Book Review

death unmasked

Cover image of the novel “Death Unmasked” by Rick Sulik

Disclosure: Almost three months ago, author Rick Sulik asked me to review his 2015 novel Death Unmasked. We had an email discussion and I agreed with the understanding that I would provide an honest review, no holds barred. I subsequently received a kindle edition of the book and finished reading it yesterday.

You should probably know two things about Rick before we get started. He’s a retired police officer, having served on both the Houston and Pasadena (Texas) police forces. He believes in reincarnation. Both of these figure prominently in this novel.

Imagine that you’re a homicide detective in Houston and nearing retirement. You’re a loner, both on the force and in your personal life, and yet there is this longing in you for connection.

Then, little by little, you begin to recall experiences from a past life, your previous name, your wife, how you died, and how she was raped and murdered.

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Meg: A Story of Deep Terror – Book Review

meg

Cover art for the 1997 novel, “Meg: A Story of Deep Terror” by Steve Alten

A few days ago, I came across something about a movie due in theaters in a few weeks called The Meg starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson. It’s based on a 1997 novel written by Steve Alten called Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror. Yes, it’s about a shark, but an extinct species called Megalodon, something about the size of a school bus, but a lot meaner.

I doubt I’ll go see the movie, but curious, I found the first novel (in a series of five) at my local public library.

Not to sound cliché, but it is a real page turner. One of those “I can’t put it down” novels. Our hero is paleontologist Jonas Taylor, a former deep-sea diver and marine biologist who, after a brief encounter with a Meg fifteen years before, and having caused an accident that caused the death of two Naval personnel, has never been able to get into the water again. His ambitious, career-minded wife has written him off as a failure and is having an affair with his millionaire best friend.

In spite of the more “soap opera” aspects of the book, which fortunately are held to a minimum, the story is full of “pulse-pounding action,” and, as far as I can tell not being a shark, ship, or submarine expert, seems to be full of pretty accurate and well-researched material.

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The Last Hunt: A Short Story Review

to be men

Cover image of the soon to be published book “To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity.”

I’m in the process of reading for review the Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. I plan on writing both an Amazon review and a much more detailed one on this blog when I finish.

But I can’t wait. I’m going to create a wee preview highlighting one of the short stories enshrined therein.

But first things first. Why an anthology about “celebrating masculinity” when so much of what has been traditionally defined as masculine (for good or for ill) has been deemed toxic, not the least of which by third wave feminists and progressives?

Here’s an answer I found in the descriptive “blurb” for the book on Amazon:

Tired of stories about men as bumbling idiots? Of fathers as incompetents? Of masculinity as “toxic”? Tired of misandry? Ready for some real masculine role models? Stories about heroes and men who do the right thing? Stories about real men? The kind that provide for their families, love their wives and children, and make sacrifices. And save the world. A collection of seventeen stories and two essays, To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity pays homage to men and masculinity. Fun. Action-packed. Thought-provoking. Whatever your tastes, you will find enjoyment in these pages.

In other words, as I wrote about here almost a year ago, Not All #menaretrash.

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Galactic North: A Brief Book Review

galactic north

Cover art for Alastair Reynolds’ book ‘Galactic North.”

A friend of mine loaned me his copy of this book because we share similar tastes in reading and I must say I found it well-written and compelling. Galactic North is a collection of eight short stories all set in the same “universe” and spanning centuries.

They involve different variations of the human race, and how they cooperate and compete with each other across the ages and light years. It’s space opera at its finest including plausible “space pirates.”

Author Alastair Reynolds has a Ph.D in Astronomy and was previously employed as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency, so he definitely possesses the qualifications for writing “hard science fiction.”

Interestingly enough, in addition to realistically portrayed interstellar travel, suspended animation, and human cybernetic hive minds, he focuses quite a bit on the medical adaptations to human beings, from the hyper-cerebral Conjoiners, to the terrifying Denizens.

The only thing that put me off a bit were the instances of what I call “medical atrocities,” that is, how some of the people in the stories end up horribly altered and mutilated, but that’s more a problem with my squeamishness than Reynolds’ writing.

As I understand it, Reynolds has written a number of other short stories and novels in the “Revelation Space” series, comparable to Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series. I have no problem giving “Galactic North” a solid five stars on Amazon, which I will be doing in just a bit.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories: A Book Review

steampunk

Since I’ve been toying with writing a few steampunk stories of my own, I decided I should get a better feel for the genre. To that end, I searched my local library system for what would be considered a definitive collection of such tales. At the top of the list was Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

I didn’t know what to expect, so I dived in. Well, that’s not true. I did look up several definitions of “steampunk” online, but then while reading, I started wondering if I hadn’t gotten my wires crossed.

While the stories did seem to either take place in the late 19th century or otherwise use steam and gear related technology, most of the missives didn’t seem to capture “steampunkness.”

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Raising Lazarus: A Book Review

lazarus

Raising Lazarus by Aidan Reid

I just finished reading Aidan Reid’s novel Raising Lazarus and I must say I am impressed. I’ve read other works of his including “Sigil”, “Pathfinders”, and his short story “Spectrum”, and I think “Raising Lazarus” is his best authoring effort to date.

There will probably be a few “spoilers” in my review, so if you don’t want important plot points revealed ahead of reading “Lazarus,” stop reading this review now.

The novel follows college student Molly Walker, who, as part of writing her University thesis, interviews an incarcerated male prostitute named Lazarus. After he is released, she continues to be fascinated by him and throughout the first half of the novel, they casually pursue each other, with Lazarus slowly letting Molly into his world.

The novel moves back and forth between the present and seven years ago when Lazarus was a refuge in Syria being harbored by a Catholic Priest, giving the reader the opportunity to compare “past” Lazarus with who he presents himself as today.

Eventually, Lazarus reveals that he believes he is the Biblical Lazarus, the man who was resurrected by Christ after being dead and entombed for over three days.

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Planetary Anthology: Venus – A Book Review

venus book

Cover art for Venus Planetary Anthology

I’m delighted to be the first person (on Amazon) to review the Planetary Anthology: Venus. I’ve been aware of the Superversive SF movement and their publications for a few years now, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to review any of their works apart from God, Robot.

Each anthology in the series takes the theme of a particular planet or other major body in our solar system and asks contributors to create a short story on that theme. In this case, it can be about the planet Venus, but it can also be about the mythological goddess, or even on the wider topic of love and romance (with or without the SciFi/Fantasy elements).

One of the motivations for reading an anthology is to become exposed to a wider variety of authors (twenty in the case of “Venus”) and then decide which ones you like well enough to read more of their works.

I downloaded “Venus” onto my Kindle Fire and spent a few weeks of lunch hours reading stories and taking notes.

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A Not Entirely Objective Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”

handmaid

Promotional image for Hulu’s television series “The Handmaid’s Tale

I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I can tell you it’s not a book you review without doing a bit of research. Of course I knew that going in.

I’ve been peripherally aware of both Atwood’s novel and the television series on Hulu but didn’t give either much attention. Then I read a few stories about this year’s Women’s March and noticed in the news photos amid women dressed in vagina hats and full-body vagina costumes, there were groups who wore the red and white wardrobe of the handmaids (I assume the protestors’ inspiration was more the TV series than the book but I have nothing with which to back that opinion).

Since the Women’s March largely is a protest against the administration of President Donald Trump, I became curious as to the connection (I already knew what the vagina costumes were all about).

Fortunately, my local public library system had a copy, so I reserved it and when it arrived at the designated branch, I eagerly began reading. I’m going to break down this review into sections both to make it more readable and to keep things straight in my head. It’s not that I found the book itself so complex, but there are wider social implications to consider.

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Book Review of Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!

righteous indignationA few weeks ago, I went to my local public library and checked out Andrew Breitbart’s book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!. Actually, my wife checked it out first, but she said she couldn’t get into it. I returned it for her, then put a hold on it so I could have first crack at checking it out again on my own library card.

I can see why she had a tough time with the beginning of the book. It’s a bit of an autobiography of Breitbart’s youth growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood. In his early life, he’s shallow and self-absorbed and the first chapters tend to drag.

But as I pressed on, I realized he wanted the reader to know about how he was as a teen and young adult so we could witness and understand his evolution into a “Tea Party Protector.”

I learned quite a lot, especially about the century-long growth of the liberal news media and university system and why they, along with the liberal entertainment industry, are so hard to refute. They seem to be the voice of our nation, defining good vs. evil, and stating that if we don’t let them program our thoughts, our words, and our actions, then we are evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, throwback neanderthals.

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Book Review: Transhuman

transhumanI know I’ve read one or more science fiction novels written by Ben Bova before, but I can’t recall which one(s). However, the cover of Transhuman, published in 2014, boasts of him being a six-time hugo award winner, so this should be a pretty good novel, right?

Turns out, all six of those awards were for Best Professional Editor when he was working at Analog, not for any of his written works, although he is certainly a prolific author.

I was interested in this tale because it involves a grandpa and his little granddaughter. Being a grandparent myself, I know I’d do anything to protect them, which is exactly what 74-year-old Luke Abramson does for his eight-year-old granddaughter Angie.

You see, Angie’s dying of an inoperable cancerous brain tumor. She’s got six months or less to live. But Luke is a cellular biologist and believes a new technique he’s developed can cure Angie’s cancer.

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