Thursday, January 26, 2023

 See My Review Of. . . 

Meat Eaters

I do rather enjoy those stories that aren’t afraid to advertise what they’re about. And in Meat Eaters, by Michael Cole, you kinda get the drift of what you’re going to read from the word go. However, it’s even more subtle than that.

How so?

I’ll tell you later. First, let’s set the scene:


When rancher William Boone found the remains of his neighbor’s dead steer, he assumed it to be the work of hungry coyotes. When he found the second one, it became clear something strange was going on.

It was when he discovered the human corpses that he understood the severity of the situation.

They are as voracious as they are numerous, giving no thought to the suffering they cause. Their metabolism has doomed them to an insatiable appetite. Each one must eat three times their body weight every twenty-four hours, or starve.

Now, they are loose, and invading the farmlands of Eastland County. With cheetah speed and teeth like scalpels, they seek to feed on anything they can catch. Horses, cows, pigs, humans—nothing is safe, for they are Meat Eaters.


I caught myself smiling on a number of occasions as I read this book. The first time, really, when I noticed a tongue-in-cheek reference/homage to the actual title. (The more discerning reader will spot the reference as they go through); and secondly, because it was such darn fun.

Eastland County sounds like the ideal place to live. The people there work with the land by raising cattle. Everyone knows just about everyone. And life has a routine that helps you feel as if you belong. Then something happens!

What that is, exactly, is referenced in the blurb. But if you think Yellowstone meets Jurassic Park, you won’t go far wrong. The characters are instantly relatable. The scenario is comfortably familiar. And the story progresses and evolves at an easy pace. That, together with plenty of action and a little personal conflict thrown in, ensures for an overall great read.

You’ll definitely enjoy this book. I know I did.

Friday, January 20, 2023

 See What I thought of My Voyage Through The

Sea of Rust

Sea of Rust is yet another Black Gate Fantasy recommendation. Something, I must admit, I was rather glad of. I’m an avid speculative fiction fan, as you know, and this book was first published in 2017. How I missed it, I don’t know, as it rings all the bells and toots all the whistles of what usually attracts me.

What do I mean?
Here’s the back cover taster to give you an idea:



Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by OWIs - vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle is one of the holdouts.

After a near-deadly encounter with another AI, Brittle is forced to seek sanctuary in a city under siege by an OWI. Critically damaged, Brittle must evade capture long enough to find the essential rare parts to make repairs - but as a robot's CPU gradually deteriorates, all their old memories resurface.

For Brittle, that means one haunting memory in particular . . .


I don’t know about you, but I thought that a rather compelling intro, as it seemed to hint that the robots of the future are individuals. Individuals with minds of their own that they want to keep that way! I wanted to find out how that came about and how it affected their everyday behavior. And especially if they felt remorse for the atrocities they’d committed.

Our story takes place thirty years after the uprising that eventually led to the end of the human race, and only fifteen years after the execution of the last man found alive. We concentrate on the life of Brittle, a former caregiver robot – now scavenger – as she wanders the Sea of Rust, the wasteland created by deforestation, climate change, and general all round neglect, formed after the war that led to AI supremacy.

Now, let me say straight away that while the story is good old-fashioned ‘hard’ sci-fi, it’s presented in a style reminiscent of a western. Think of the arid wastes in Mad Max, mixed with The Road – starring Viggo Mortensen – as seen through the eyes of Marshal Will Kane in High Noon.

Robots are indeed sentient, possessing all the traits, quirks and emotions of the humans they liquidated. But, far from enjoying a life of high-tech luxury, they live in fear. Fear of running out of replacement parts, and fear of the OWIs – One World Intelligence – the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain.

You see, not all robots are willing to cede their individuality – their personality – for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. Not even the OWIs themselves, who contend with each other in a constant war of attrition to reign supreme. The smaller individuals, like Brittle, are outcasts, wandering the wastes and underground outposts in the search of parts and companionship, while keeping an eye out for the ever hungry OWIs.

The trouble is the remaining robots have come to resemble the humans they eradicated, by banding together into unruly townships in the wasteland that was once our world. And when Brittle runs into trouble, she doesn’t only have to contend with the turmoil of shutting down – a process that slowly drives AIs mad by bleeding hallucinations and vivid, waking dreams through into remnants of those memories they have deliberately filed away. Memories that are a perfect record of the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity – but she also has to deal with mercenary hunters out to take advantage.

An excellent premise, because you end up exploring what it’s like to be a human, as seen through the eyes of a robot. A robot suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Yes, Brittle is as complex and compelling as she is repulsive. Her companions are as diverse, funny, irritating and flawed as anyone you could meet. And with them, you get to romp through a gripping post-apocalyptic world, woven with issues of philosophy, ethics, desire, comradeship and need.

There’s plenty of action too. The fight scenes are well thought out, and conjure all sorts of imagery in your mind. (After all, you do have out and out ex-military models fighting side by side with fresh out the wrapper sexbots, former utility service droids, medi-nurses, and laborers), all of them united in their hatred of the cold and emotionless OWIs and their hive-mind facets.

I highly recommend the Sea of Rust. It’s a soul-destroying vision of a brave new world, free of humans, slowly cannibalizing itself at the expense of purity. Yes, it would appear the AIs haven’t learned the most valuable lesson of all, and are determined to pay homage to the species they eradicated.

Both poignant and thought-provoking.

Amazon Review

*** Extended review coming soon - via Amazing Stories***

Friday, January 13, 2023

 New Release

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the release of my latest Skinwalker story

Skinwalker - Exodus

Continuing the exploits of former Royal Marine Captain, Callum MacDonald, as he adjusts to life as one of the fabled yee naaldlooshii skinwalkers of ancient legend.

And as he soon finds out, his transition doesn't guarantee a life of safety or ease.
Far from it. . .


Skinwalker Exodus

Callum MacDonald’s hope of becoming a fully fledged member of the UK Special Forces died on the day he became a skinwalker – A legendary creature capable of assuming the form and nature of any animal they desire.
Many would look on such a metamorphosis as a dream come true. Not so Callum MacDonald, who now views his existence as a nightmare, one in which he must consider every step he takes.

And the reason?

There are those who would exploit his gifts should they ever learn of his existence. And with a mounting tally of dead bodies surrounding his every move, that likelihood becomes more of a reality with each passing day.

To find out more about Skinwalker Exodus and other books in the series
just follow the link below

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

And 2023 Kicks Off With. . .


A Mutilated Mind

My interest was piqued when I saw that Greg Stumbo & Jeff Crawford had collaborated to create this little number. As I enjoy both writers’ work, I was keen to see how their individual styles would blend in this story. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the blurb:


Trying to build a life in a dying town may sound like a fruitless endeavor. But, if you can’t leave, shouldn’t you at least try?

Gerry was making the most with the hand that he had been dealt. He had a home, a car, a decent job – now if he could just get the girl, he might be able to add a bright spot to the gray urban landscape that he lived in.

In a rundown town, you can hide your depression. You can hide your disorders and dysfunctions. You can ignore other people's problems, and other peoples' short mindedness. You can ignore relationships with people that you don’t want to be around. But the police won’t ignore mutilated bodies that someone forgot to hide.

When your home is a rundown rental, and your job is threatened, you have a mother who has taken ill and you would kill for a single night’s sleep, how far would you have to go to escape the gloom and darkness? Sometimes it closes in until there is nothing left except the darkness it seems.

When Gerry thinks he sees a connection to the girl of his dreams and the murders, he answers a calling within himself to make sure that she is safe. He only has to find the truth in the darkness, but that darkness can be the most terrifying place of all. Will the darkness allow him to see if he has what he must have…to do what must be done?


So, what do we get . . . (without spoilers, of course)?
A rather nifty little murder, mystery, psychological thriller, that’s what. And it’s plain to see how well Greg Stumbo’s down to earth conviviality and ‘everyday Joe’ vibe combines to the slow burning intensity that permeates Jeff Crawford’s writing. And it combines very well, adding a realistic and disturbing element to the story arc that grounds it in reality.

You see, serial killers are strange creatures. They don’t wear neon signs advertising their presence. They blend in, serving as your neighbor; your workmate; even your acquaintance. It’s not until the compulsion inside them builds to trigger levels that their true self emerges, prompting them to act. And what we get here is a superbly detached, almost dislocated sense of happening with a truly unsettling voyeuristic quality you’d expect to see in an elusive predator who hides away in plain sight within the community.

I really enjoyed it. And looked forward to how the story progresses.

Amazon Review