Saturday, November 27, 2021

 The Sun Is Rather Shiny In My Review Of. . .

Storm Front

Although I’m an avid sci-fi/fantasy reader, this is my introduction to the Dresden Files. (I know, what HAVE I been doing with my life?) And I’ve got to say, it was a rather good – tongue-in-cheek/rabbit-out-of-the-hat – escapade!

Here’s the blurb to set the scene.


As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put it mildly—stinks.

So when the Chicago P.D. bring him in to consult on a double homicide committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name...


So, what do you get and why did I enjoy it?

First off, you have to understand something about Harry himself. He walks a narrow line between two worlds. On one side, he’s a natural wizard. He’s powerful too . . . if you pick up on the hints we’re given as the story unfolds. But we only ever get to see glimpses of his potential. No doubt because he has to tread very carefully indeed.

There’s a cloud – or in his case, the Sword of Damocles (a commuted death sentence) – hanging over him because of an incident in his early life, during a phase when his gifts were emerging. That incident led to the death of someone, breaking one of the seven laws of magic: Thou shall not use magic to kill. . .

As such, he’s watched closely. Monitored – in a restrictive and often very invasive way. A great hindrance indeed, especially as he tries to make a living as a Private Eye. And one of his biggest customers is the Chicago PD who get to call him in on a regular basis when those cases ‘hard to explain’ come their way. And in Storm Front, the case involves people dying when their hearts burst out through their chests for no reason!

Glorious and blood-festy stuff.

But who could be behind such atrocious acts? And why are the victims being targeted? Yes, this opening case introduces us to some very nasty individuals – both earthly and otherwise – out to cause harm and cover their tracks by any means . . . though as you will see, they prefer the ‘mostly foul’ option.

Harry is a self-depreciating, heart of gold kinda guy who genuinely wants to do right. His police liaison, Lt Karrin Murphy, is blunt as they come, and their relationship is built on patient sufferance and an almost siblinglike friction that’s fun to look in on. (Think X-Files combined with Lucifer and you’ll be on the right track).

The thing is, Dresden is a damned good investigator. But how can he share some of the information he comes across when mere knowledge of it might put the mortal in question in danger? That leads to a bumpy ride with Murphy, who is also as sharp as the proverbial button. She knows Dresden hides things, but can be persuaded to bite her lip IF he comes up with the goods.

Along with those characters necessary to the story arc, we also meet people who are obviously going to be with us in the future. Morgan, for one. A wizardly internal-affairs agent who will also act as Dresden’s executioner if our hero slips up . . . (And boy, does Morgan ache for Dresden to slip). We also meet Bianca, an influential and deadly business woman/madam, who also just happens to be a vampire. (I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them).

But, as Harry investigates all the comings and goings/all the false leads and dead-ends of this murder case, we also get a glimpse of what’s to come. Jim Butcher has very wisely adopted a course that will gradually develop our wizardly sleuth, and help us pick through all the trials and tribulations he has to endure as a wizardly P.I. walking in a human’s world.

There’s an old adage that rings true here. “Don’t run before you can walk.”

I’m glad to say that Butcher has avoided the temptation to give us an ‘all guns blazing’ superhero, and acquainted us instead to a down to earth guy trying to do his best in a dog eat dog world. Oh, and he just so happens to be a genuine wizard as well.

I enjoyed this opening adventure of the Dresden Files. Dresden’s character is engaging. His manner appealing. The supporting cast looks like they’re going to be annoying, complicated, and fun. And the action is gumshoe/urban/noir fantasy at its best. (Some aspects reminded me of J.R. Rain’s Samantha Moon meets Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series).

As for Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden?

Apart from a tendency to be overly virtuous – even when the circumstances call for a coldhearted response – I’ve no doubt he’s far more powerful and complex than we’ve been led to believe. I look forward to how he evolves as the cases roll in.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 This is No Joke - See My Review Of. . .

Dead Serious

Dead Serious (Generation Zed Book 1) is the introductory adventure to the 'Undead Apocalypse Horror Series' by Greg Stumbo.

Here’s the blurb to the first story.


When the zombies showed up, the world changed quickly, as you can imagine. You want to know what doesn’t change quickly? People. My friends and I, unfortunately, are people. People who are now considered food.

How exactly does a group of friends survive when they have the combined life experience of a fifteen-year-old on the opening day of a sci-fi convention? Well, not by being the tough guys in an apocalypse movie. I mean, yeah, that's how we all see ourselves – right up until the dead start walking and you realize that you don't even know how a shotgun works.

Now, I don’t know about you, but having had my fill of zombies on TV, I’m looking for something a little bit different. Something a bit quirky to put the spice back into a genre that’s become somewhat bland lately. You may know what mean. Something like the zany, oddball fun of I Zombie, or the surprisingly entertaining fight-N-bitefest that is Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead.

And basically, THAT’s what you get with Dead Serious. It does what it says on the label, and oh-so-cleverly steers away from ‘a bunch of instant survival experts come to grips with an end of the world scenario.’ As the blurb tells us: “How exactly does a group of friends survive when they have the combined life experience of a fifteen-year-old on the opening day of a sci-fi convention?”

Barely - That’s how. And only then by sheer fluke!

What I particularly liked about this story is the dynamic that builds between the main characters. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing, and argue among themselves as much as hiding/running/frenziedly fighting off infected neighbors who don’t have the decency to stay down when they’re shot/stabbed/bludgeoned, etc. (You get the picture) Yeah, these guys make staying alive an uphill struggle. But it’s great fun and it works!

I was reminded somewhat of the haplessly incompetent husband, Joel Hammond, in the Santa Clarita Diet, (Another superb twist on the genre), who stumbles from disaster to disaster by going with the flow and not really knowing what the hell is going on. Because - in a nutshell - this is how the zombie apocalypse would most likely turn out. And Greg Stumbo manages to encapsulate that atmosphere in a cracking little intro to his world gone cray-Z. (Did you see what I did there?) 

Witty dialogue. Disarming self-depreciation. Incompetence galore. Blind luck. All tied together with a cracking pace that engrosses you from beginning to end. I liked it, and look forward to more.

Stay chewned – my sides . . . get it? There are more great storylines and awful puns on the way.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

 There's Something Brewing

The Trouble With Peace

In The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, we continue the events of The Age of Madness saga, which are set thirty years after the events of the First Law Trilogy.

Here’s a little taster of what’s in store for you:

Unrest worms into every layer of society.

The Breakers lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while yesterday's heroes nurse grievances and noblemen bicker for their own advantage.

The King of the Union struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only to see his enemies, and his debts, multiply.

The old ways are being swept aside, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever

Yes, the Union is decaying under the weight of corruption, greed, neglect, and good old-fashioned ambition. In fact, it’s on the verge of collapse, and it seems there’s nothing a court full of bickering lords or last-minute marriage alliances can do about it. Even Bayaz, First Mage and founder of the Union doesn’t seem all that bothered, choosing now – of all times – to set off on another adventure to goodness knows where, leaving a floundering King Orso at the mercy of his own shortcomings, and of course, those who would take advantage.

And take they do!

Now, I’m not going to reveal anything about the plot. I’ll let you find out all about that yourselves. Believe me; you’ll be glad I did, because what we have – as always – is an immensely entertaining adventure that truly portrays the cutthroat nature of civil war. Manipulators and deceivers abound. Friends turn on their closest allies. Personal convictions and hard won principles evaporate like a wet fart in the wind.

And THAT’s what’s so appealing about Joe Abercrombie’s efforts.

This novel is cinematic in scope, covering a lot of ground from different points of view. But it never feels rushed. You don’t get lost in a cast of villains and heroes and heroines who each thread their unique perspective into the overall tapestry of the story arc. What I particularly enjoyed was the way Abercrombie keeps it real.

Yes, real life fantasy played out on a field of blood!

It’s all about the people. There’s a realistic grittiness to the characters. Their hopes and dreams. Their frailties, shortcomings and moral ambiguity. You can relate to their individual dilemmas as if they’re your neighbors. A feat that injects fresh intensity – an energy, if you like – into the storyline, and keeps you involved down to the very end.

And what an ending it is.

Talk about saving the very best twists for last. I don’t often get caught by the ‘unexpected’ so when I do, I’m totally delighted. (You’ll see)
The Trouble With Peace, a superb way to lose yourself for a few days, while Abercrombie sets things up very nicely for the final book in this series.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

 Muse-Pie Press

Some of you may not be aware of the fact that, as well as being the author of several successful science fiction and fantasy series, I'm also a published poet. Indeed, my work has appeared in the likes of such notable publications as, Penny Ante Feud, The Screech Owl, Leaves of Ink, Pixies of Eglantine, Poetry Pacific, The Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, and Danse Macabre, to name a few.

A little while ago, I submitted a single line of prose for consideration, hoping it would be included in a worldwide community poem to be published by Muse-Pie Press - (Publishers of high-quality poetry for over forty years) - and who were intending to express the emotions and thoughts of people from around the world as they cope with the current pandemic.

I'm delighted to say my submission was selected as the opening line of that poem, which you can read in its entirety here:

If you would like to find out more about the Muse-Pie Press community, just follow the links inside. And most of all, enjoy.