Swine Hill is full of the Dead in Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

eARC Review of “Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones”
by Micah Dean Hicks

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • Hardcover
  • 304 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

About

“[T]his novel is extraordinary . . . It is Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, mixed with H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, set in the creepiest screwed-up town since ’Salem’s Lot . . . [A] major achievement.” — Adam-Troy Castro, Sci-Fi magazine

Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms . . . They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.

When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.


My Thoughts

“They could hurt

you. Worse,

they could

change you.”

Swine hill is a place that will hurt your body, wrack your soul at the altar of human selfishness, and destroy you. Imagine living in this place. Imagine working at the store or a packing plant here. Imagine having to share part of your soul with the undead. Hick’s characters do, and for a short time, we readers also do.  Hick’s has invented a story that is so rife with pain, imagination, and horrors that if you could take the spawn of Dr. Moreau and The Haunting of Hill House you would have something close to this. Haunt is unsettling in ways that made me uncomfortable deep down in my bones.

Hicks explores the premise of a haunted family in a haunted town. It centers around the protagonists Jane and Henry. Brother and sister trapped with the souls of unsettled ghosts inside them. In Jane’s case, it is the soul of a woman who thrives on conflict and secrets. The spirit silently whispers to jane the horrible thoughts and intentions of those around her. Henry has the ghost of a mad inventor inside him seeking to create incredible and awful machines whose purpose is sometimes unknown. The pair is also influenced by their mother and father, both haunted. Her mother is haunted by a person so craving affection that her body physically radiates heat. Enough to burn and scar. Jane is the heart of the family. Silently she pounds away at life and looks after her family as best as she can within the circumstances.

The crux of the story rests around Henry and how his mad ghost creates things. This time Henry invents pig people. Upright human-like animals that are built to self-slaughter and could eventually render the town and by extension humans obsolete. Henry creates many, but individually we meet Hog Boss and his kind son Dennis. Both are good-natured and thoughtful people set at deliberate juxtaposition to the rest of the “human” inhabitants of the town. Enter the fearful townsfolk, frightened of the unknown, in both the pig people and the loss of their livelihood. What happens next can only be described as an explosive clash between the old ways and the new all within the context of Jane attempting to save people.

“Her mother’s ghost

made the house

a suffocating place.

She didn’t touch Jane

often for fear

that she would burn

her.”

The setting in the story is unrestrainedly unworldly. The writing drips darkness and moisture from every page and sometimes, I could swear my kindle was fogging up from the cold. Hicks absolutely has created a world where you should be very afraid that ghosts will settle in your bones.

The underlying theme of this story is relationships: sister to brother, mother to son, lover to lover. In this, it is the immense power of links that can drive a person to the unthinkable or the extraordinary. What would I do for the person I love? What would I do to the person I hate? Person to person a spiderweb of narrative and relationships is created. This web holds the town together and eventually culminating in it blasting apart. 

It is poignantly cruel that these characters, so afflicted, must also contend with the worst problems we see in our own world. Hicks will unflinchingly show you the horrific visage of ghosts and nightmares pulled from the headlines of our own world, leaving you to wonder whether one lot is truly fundamentally worse than the other. And yet, perhaps it is true that they who would grow must first be made to suffer. Certainly, the growth we see in these characters is the result of a purposefully built set of trials and woes; it is not an easy journey for us to follow but it rewards us as only a master-crafted tale can.

Things get harsh and really painful for the characters in this story. I know I have alluded to it vaguely, but I don’t want to give away the cleverness of the story. It is scary, mystical, and bittersweet. It absolutely deserves all of the forthcoming awards that are going to be thrown at it. If you are a fan of the horror/bizarro genre, look no further than this book, but even more so if you are a fan of the written word and the power it can wield, this is a worthy read.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication.

About the Author

Micah Dean Hicks is the author of the novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. He is also the author of Electricity and Other Dreams, a collection of dark fairy tales and bizarre fables. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Hicks grew up in rural southwest Arkansas and now lives in Orlando. He teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

10,000 Bones – A Science Fiction Action Packed Thriller that Asks the Question, “What if there were no Calcium?”

eARC Review – 10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 240 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by Diversion Books
  • ISBN 1635760569 (ISBN13: 9781635760569)
  • Genre: Science Fiction

About

From the publisher, “On the planet Brink, calcium is cash. The element’s scarcity led the world’s government to declare it the official currency. In the decades since, the governments of other colonized worlds have suppressed shipments of calcium in order to maintain favorable exchange rates, while Brink’s Commerce Board has struggled to negotiate importation quotas to keep the population alive and growing.

Taryn Dare is a Collections Agent, a specialized detective tasked with finding black market calcium and recovering it so that the Commerce Board can recycle it and distribute it as currency. Taryn is fueled by one goal: to save up enough currency units for a one-way ticket to a better world. But when a job recovering a human corpse uncovers a deadly conspiracy in the system, Taryn is drawn into an investigation that may threaten her life, and the very fabric of her society.” 


My Thoughts

Stop Taryn, breathe.

You’re a professional.

If you let this world and what it

has done to you get a grip on you,

it will swallow you whole.

10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

The Author, Joe Ollinger’s timing is just right. The science fiction genre is saturated with dystopian novels that ask questions of the reader, “What if there were no water? Or Food? Or Sunlight?” None I have seen until now have asked the question, “What if there is no calcium?” It is a perfect question to ask. In the reader’s mind, calcium is the most benign of things, and it surrounds us. Ollinger creates a vibrant world built around the procurement of calcium tinged with mystery, adventure, and a kick-ass female protagonist. 

The world Ollinger creates resembles a world that, to me, is a cross of a wild west town and a city from the TV show Firefly. Named Brink, it is all hot and bright with a thin patina of red dust the encapsulates everything. It is full of inhospitable people scrabbling out a living in the dirty, dusty land, and always in need of calcium and water. Ollinger describes it as “…a last chance gas station on one of Earth’s old, long highways – a staging area, a waypoint to more promising, more hospitable worlds…” Also present is the very visible Oligarchy of the rich described as having more elegant clothes, healthier bodies and a distinct lack of hypocalcemia bruising often found in the poor.  The dichotomy of the poor versus the wealthy is fascinating here. Something as simple as drinking a glass of milk is considered the highest of high falutin living. 

This book is in the classic “who done it” style. We have our heroine, Taryn. A rough and tumble collections agent described as muscular and robust that wears body armor. Her job is to seek out leaks of unauthorized calcium currency and return it to the government. In this world, calcium is cleverly written as tradeable currency.  Doing her job, she is always surrounded by the unlawful, the dying and the dregs of society. This brings up shattering moments from her past that often play a part in her decision making in the present. She also has a wealth of empathy, tho to function in her position as a collections agent, and by extension survive in this society, she has to suppress it. She reminds me very much of Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She has a similar attitude and position minus the superpowers. 

The story progresses with Taryn becoming enemy #1 of the state as she hunts for who is stealing the calcium supply. It is exciting and turbulent all within the context of an investigator type mystery. Along the way, we meet various side characters including a sidekick/romance interest of a sort in the form of a wealthy calcium auditor, Brady. He is a described as “looks more like a business executive than a bureaucrat.” The absolute only complaint I have in this story is I found Brady to be a tad unbelievable. His motivations as a character and dialog were muddy. This threw me out of the story at points. I just could not suspend belief when it came to Brady’s and Taryn’s interactions. However, this book could easily have a sequel. If so, as a reader I would love to know more about Brady’s backstory and have him fleshed out as a more substantial character. 

There are beautifully created images throughout the story that keep the pages turning as the reader seeks out the “who did it.” All of this climaxes into a rather explosive denouement. This, in turn, finalizes into an open ending that is rife with a possibility for sequels. 

The author asks us, “What if there is no calcium?” As a reader, I can say “I know that one. It looks like this…”


About The Author

Joe Ollinger grew up in a small swamp town in Florida. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he worked for several years as a reader and story analyst for an Academy Award Winning Filmmaker. Currently residing in Los Angeles, he works as an attorney when he’s not writing

The Five W’s Book Tag

The Five W’s. What are yours?

Books In Library
image courtesy of http://www.techcrunch.com

The Five W’s Book Tag

What a fun tag. I found this over at Thrice Read and loved the idea. So here we go.

WHO | WHO IS AN AUTHOR YOU’D LOVE TO HAVE A ONE-ON-ONE WITH?

Seanan Mcguire. There are a lot of wonderful authors out there. But, I have consistently loved her books, both Mira Grant, and as Seanan Mcguire and I think she would be a fun person to talk to.

WHAT | WHAT GENRE/STYLE DO YOU MOST OFTEN GRAVITATE TO?

Probably Science Fiction and Graphic Novels at the moment. But I do love fantasy as well. Most books have merit one way or another.

WHERE | WHERE DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

In Bed or bathtub. Gives me an excuse to take long baths.

 

WHEN | WHAT TIME OF DAY DO YOU PREFER TO READ?

All freaking day.

WHY | WHY IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?

That is an outstandingly hard question to answer. I think the Saga series really stands out for me right now. I have never been so shaken by writing in a graphic novel. It is superb.

BONUS: HOW | HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING WHAT BOOK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I check my multitude of lists. Hey, everyone has neurosis. Find one that looks tasty and go for it.

 

List NPR Science Fiction and Fantasy

As you know dear readers, I am a sucker for a list. Booklist is even better. The cherry on top, the creme de la creme of all lists for me is a Science Fiction and Fantasy book list. When I find these little education jewels, I want to share them with like-minded folk. I came across this one the other day while on Pat Rothfus’s Blog. I peruse it often. He is a great writer and has interesting articles on there. Plus his philanthropic work every year is a thing of beauty. He does a lot of good for a lot of people. Not bad. Only 21 to go. I absolutely refuse to read The Road because I don’t think I can handle the imagery. I don’t want to stain my brain that way. Completion for me will be 99 books. What is it like for you?

The List is from here:

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

The Spice Must Flow

Dune is a ridiculous book. Don’t hate on me for saying it. I only read the first book, so maybe in the sequels it gets less “odd.” I am not honestly sure. It is probably the perfect book for the sci fi lover who likes out there works like Dune and Octavia Butler. But, seriously. It was so ridiculous in parts that it made me giggle uncomfortably. The movie with Sting did not help much. Even if it was true 1980’s in all it’s glory.

That being said, the book has some seriously kick-ass quotes and the sand worms are awesome. I decided that the, “The Spice must flow,” is the quote for my spice wall. I have a lot of spices, some of which I have never used. But it is like tools, eventually you get around to using it for something. Besides, it gives me a chance to go out and make odd dishes for the hell of it. The moral of this story is “Must have many odd spices.”

I decided to make a wall of spice. I still want to get a picture of a sand worm instead of the cooking picture. But you get the point.

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Remember, “Fear is the mind killer.” Or whatever…