Happy Publication Day – Unlikely Hero by Sian B. Claven

Sian B. Claven’s Unlikely Hero is available now – read the synopsis and pick up your copy today!

Synopsis – Unlikely Hero

In a world where transport is the main control of the universe, one spacehiker is tasked with the unfortunate job of helping two refugees get across the civilised universe without being detected. The only problem is it sounds easier than it’s done. With no trust between them, Jasy must get Mark and Lizzie the hell out of dodge for a reason they won’t tell her. While Mark and Lizzie must place their safety, their lives, in the hands of someone who breaks the law on a daily basis. 
From award winning author Sian B. Claven comes her first fantasy novel debut – Unlikely Hero: A spacehiker adventure.


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A Story of Parallel Universes and Human Histories

Synopsis

Wherever Hel looks, New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. As one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States—an alternate timeline—she finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York. The slang and technology are foreign to her, the politics and art unrecognizable. While others, like her partner Vikram, attempt to assimilate, Hel refuses to reclaim her former career or create a new life. Instead, she obsessively rereads Vikram’s copy of The Pyronauts—a science fiction masterwork in her world that now only exists as a single flimsy paperback—and becomes determined to create a museum dedicated to preserving the remaining artifacts and memories of her vanished culture.

But the refugees are unwelcome and Hel’s efforts are met with either indifference or hostility. And when the only copy of The Pyronauts goes missing, Hel must decide how far she is willing to go to recover it and finally face her own anger, guilt, and grief over what she has truly lost.


Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 324 pages
  • Published March 5th 2019 by Tin House Books
  • ISBN1947793241 (ISBN13: 9781947793248)

My Thoughts

The butterfly affect. Beautiful.

Excerpt from Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

K Chess’s debut novel, “Famous Men Who Never Lived” is a diverse blend of different science fiction, sociological, and psychological ideas. Profoundly cerebral, it is a collection of thoughts that pose the question: who we are, and how do we go on? Are individuals a collection of their past moments? Or, are people (specifically the UDP) the promise of what they can bring to the future?

The premise of this story is simple. Take a group of people, UDP (universally displaced persons), from a failing dimension almost identical to ours, and have them escape to our dimension. Things are almost the same, but not quite. Technology is slightly different, history and culture are almost but not quite the same. How do survivors of that world fare in our new one. That is the questions K Chess asks. The UDP’s each have a different past both large and small, and even though they have gone through an intensive reintegration program to adapt to the new timeline, they still remain a curiosity to some and a focus of outright hostility and prejudice for others. If you have ever seen the show Fringe in season 3 of their run, they had a very similar premise. I felt like a lot of the tone from Fringe and Famous Men was very similar.

The narrative follows different people as they surf the woes and difficulties adapting to living in a new timeline — specifically those of Hel and Vikram. Vikram’s favorite author, a man named Sleight, died at a early age in out timeline. Thus he never got to write the book Pyronaughts. When Vikram fled his own dimension he grabbed a copy of this and with the destruction of his home world, his copy is the only known copy in existence. Hel feels as if there is something strange about Sleight, a divergence that happened around his life and death between the two timelines and Vikram and Hel decide to figure out what that is. There is a lot more to this story, but I don’t want to give it away.

Thus prepared for the worst, Hel brought practically nothing. Packed in her padded shoulder bag: her portable ordinator and its charger (not compatible with anything here, of course), the medical journal she happened to be reading at the time, her allergy medication, two liters of water. And just to be safe, inside a plastic folder, her passport, birth certificate, and a copy of her New York State medical license.

Excerpt from Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess

“Famous Men Who Never Lived” is marketed as a science fiction novel; however, I felt it was more a character study based in a science fiction premise. The writing is well done, the characters are well-formed and interesting, especially for a debut novel, but I felt that the story did not know precisely what it wanted to be and that led to it feeling choppy chapter to chapter. I enjoyed reading it, but due to its narrative style I could not connect with the story as much as I wanted to.


Procurement

I received an eARC from Netgalley and Tin House Books in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

K Chess was a W.K. Rose Fellow and her short stories have been honored by the Nelson Algren Award and the Pushcart Prize. She earned an MFA from Southern Illinois University and currently teaches at GrubStreet. She lives with her wife in Providence, RI.

Review of John Dies at the End by David Wong

“Son, the greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing the world there was only one of him.” 

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”

― David WongJohn Dies at the End

This book is not for everyone but it is certainly for me. Weird and smart and rather wonderful.

I read a lot and because I read a lot I don’t often come across things that are new and exciting. So when I do come across something that is different I get really excited. This is different. This is a cross between bizarro, science fiction, horror, and comedy. It has the best of each of these genres in a mish-mash snowball of glee. I am not even sure I can adequately describe the plot of the story. It is secondary to the dialog of the main characters. They are a pair of sarcastic semi-losers thrust into a surreal situation. It also involves parallel dimensions, hell, and an exploding dog. They sorta just roll with every scenario they fall into.

The imagery is graphic and tinged with the gross, ““Fred said, “Man, I think he’s gonna make a fuckin’ suit of human skin, using the best parts from each of us.”

“Holy crap,” said John. “He’ll be gorgeous.”

Also includes a large use of the profane. “No, no. Keep driving,” said a soft voice in my ear. “She will not bite if you keep driving.” Fuck that. Fuck that idea like the captain of the Thai Fuck Team fucking at the fucking Tour de Fuck.”  C’mon that’s funny.

It was made into a so-so movie.

Just go with it. I know I am selling the hell out of it, but It is one of my favorites!

What is the Fusion World Project?

“No, I don’t care about the rug!” Vai roared, and then immediately retracted his statement. “No, I take it back. The rug is what I care about most in the world. This is something else, though. I’m not insane. Something is wrong. I can feel it.”

Fusion World by Joesph Tamone

Stats

  • Review 4 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Edition 
  • 327 pages
  • Published October 15th 2018 by Chandra Press
  • ASINB07JH3LN4X

Synopsis

From the publisher, “A small band of young people must find a way to come together as a team to stop a maniac bent on the destruction of the known universe. Through the course of the story the team grows tightly knit and is ultimately successful. Raven, an assassin for the enemy, has a change of heart and joins forces with the team. Her transformation from cold and ruthless killer to caring teammate is a focal point of the story. The metamorphic theme is one of the core components of the work. Vai, the snarky sarcastic kid, becomes a compassionate leader. Sajaler, finds that he can turn the tide in a battle without killing. Marissa learns she has what it takes to do what needs to be done. All the characters come away more mature and surer of themselves. When the dust settles after the crescendo, Cain has been stopped, but Vai and Adam are missing.”


The First Chapter, First Paragraph

“People tend to be resilient by nature. They fight for what they believe in, and it takes a lot to make them give up that fight, but take away their home, clean air, food, water, and all other essential needs to sustain a normal life, quality of life is diminished, and that resilience is weakened to a considerable extent. When people get desperate enough, they will obey just about anyone or anything.”


My Thoughts

“You will stop acting like a bunch of immature pricks, and you will behave, or I will shoot you all. Trust me, I have plenty of bullets.”


Fusion World by Joesph Tamone

When reading this story the question you have to ask your self repeatedly is:

“What is the Fusion World Project?” 

Because while reading the first hundred pages or so, the reader doesn’t know. Fusion World is written as if you are coming into a TV show in the middle of a show season. This might seem a bit discombobulating for some readers, but for me, I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about the characters and why they were reacting the way they did. The author keeps you in the dark a bit, doling out pieces of information as the story progresses until you can put everything together like a jigsaw puzzle in the end. Often when authors write multiple books in a series, each book is a mini story in of itself. I don’t get that impression with this story. I felt like I was reading one part of a single long story. Yes, there was a story arc to this book but it seemed small potatoes compared to the larger story.

One thing that completely floored me was the ending. As I said, I spent a lot of this book grasping at the pieces of the story and slowly filling in the backstories. Right around the 75% mark, BAM. Everything began to fall into place and I audibly said “Oh Holy Shit” a few times. Tamone brought everything together and I was cheering for the characters.

A fun parallel I drew while reading this story was the Philanthropy Team was a ragtag group of members. All had different strengths and weaknesses as they tried to overcome huge odds. It made me think of the 80’s movie Red Dawn. The writing is much better in this story, but I could just imagine Sajaler shouting “PHILANTHROPY” while spray painting it on an enemy tank.

I had a lot of fun reading this story. Even when it felt disjointed in the beginning, it still had amazing dialog and character creation. I am looking forward to the next book where Tamone feels even more comfortable in the characters and they stretch out a bit. Give this story a try, you will dig it. It is a great example of science fiction.


Procurement

I received this as a review copy from the publisher, Chandra Press. In exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

Joseph Lewis Tamone lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Despite getting a degree in Environmental Engineering, Joseph has always found an escape in his quirky imagination that lent its way to his passion for writing. Joseph is an avid animal lover and history buff. When he is not writing, he enjoys escaping into the world of video games, nature, and most importantly, reading and researching. He lives in Delaware with his lovely wife, Erica, and their house full of animals.

First Chapter, First Paragraph – Rijel 12: The Rise of New Australia by King Everett Medlin

I have gotten a wonderful opportunity to read some of the great work coming out of Chandra Press. The first book I am tackling is a book called Ryjel 12: The Rise of New Australia. Let me break it down for you:

” The remote Intergalactic Penal Colony on the planet Rijel 12 is a very profitable enterprise. Its desolate surface is an uninhabitable wasteland relentlessly scorched by its sun, but inside the planet is a vast treasure trove of the most precious resources in the galaxy.

Prisoners sentenced to Rijel 12 know it’s a one-way ticket. It used to be a convict would serve their time and come home. That stopped a while ago. Inmates are forced to work the mines in wretched conditions and the death rate is staggering. Luckily for the warden, new inmates arrive monthly to replenish the labor pool. Business has never been better.

From the darkness of their miserable existence, one prisoner decides to take a stand and begins to organize a resistance. Inmates rally to the cause and prepare for rebellion. Can the rag-tag rebels of ‘New Australia’ succeed in their quest for freedom or will the warden and the overpowering might of the Interplanetary Authority extinguish their only hope?

From new author, King Everett Medlin, comes an action-packed epic of hope, rebellion, and the quest for redemption.


What we have here is a dystopian space opera. Yes! You have to love a well-done space opera.

First Paragraph, First Page

“The President of the assembly, an aged and respected Suidonji named Abrafrilric, suddenly stood up and cleared his throat. The murmuring inside the gigantic hall swelled into that kind of roar that comes as a result of hundreds of people making discreet and not so discreet comments to the neighbors seated next to them.

Pig-like, rotund and gruff just like most full-Suidonji, Abrafrilric’s throat-clearing was like snarling, snorting, gurgling, growl, but even this had little effect on the mass of beings crowded inside the convention hall. It was a gigantic building, spanning a quarter mile square, located near the supreme government building in the planetary capital of Suidonj.”

Right away we have some world building, Humanoid species creation, and politics. I am looking forward to seeing where this story is going.


About the Author

King Everett Medlin has been writing since 2013 when he first developed the idea for Rijel 12. It was originally designed to be a SciFi series, with the objective of creating several short installments. Instead, he got a lucky break when Chandra Press from San Diego responded favorably to the original draft, deciding to publish it as a full-length novel. King lives in Denver, Colorado with his lovely wife Caroline and has two grown children. He’s a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where he played college Rugby and remains a diehard Sooners fan to this day. His specialties are Science Fiction and Mystery/Suspense novels, focusing on unusual stories with intriguing plot-lines and amazing characters.

A Story of Violence – “Vigilance” by Robert Jackson Bennett

About

From the publisher, “Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance is a dark science fiction action parable from an America that has permanently surrendered to gun violence.

The United States. 2030. John McDean executive produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize.

The TV audience is not the only one that’s watching though, and McDean soon finds out what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.”


Stats

  • 5 Very enthusiastic stars.
  • 208 pages
  • Expected publication: January 29th, 2019 by Tor.com
  • Original Title Vigilance
  • ISBN1250209439 (ISBN13: 9781250209436)

My Thoughts

It is a terrible and wondrous thing to be so stunned by a story you lose your ability to use words. This story literally stunned me into silence. The only response I could muster for the first day after finishing was, “That was fucked.”

I’ll tell you why. I am from Las Vegas, Nevada. Born and bred. On October 1st of 2017, my hometown was visited by the worst act of mass gun violence in US history. I watched the news in horror as people ran for cover. I searched the videos streaming on youtube with tears running down my face looking for people I knew. I looked for my family. Thankfully none of my family and friends were involved in the shooting, but only just. I know lots of people who work in the hotels. On December 11th of 2012, the Clackamas Town Center mall was riddled with holes as a single gunman went in and shot shoppers. At the time of the shooting, I lived 800 feet from the entrance of the mall. My husband was home during the shooting, although he didn’t hear anything and oddly enough I was in Las Vegas at the time. It still significantly affected us. I was having lunch in the food court, exactly where the gunman shot people 1-week prior. I was not directly involved in that shooting, but for a month afterwards, I saw the masses of flowers and teddy bears laid out on the Clackamas sign. People died 800 feet from my home.


“The more people were afraid, the more they bought guns. The more guns that were around, the more people tended to use them on each other. The more they used them on each other, the more they were afraid—and so, the more everyone bought guns.”

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

I am an American, and my life has been touched by gun violence if only by proximity to it and that is the point when it comes to this story. Gun violence by proximity. Most of the story is about people watching gun violence take place elsewhere. It is over there. In that mall with those people, you don’t know. Viewers eyes are glued to the screen, and they wonder what is going to happen. They armchair quarterback what the victims would do or not do. It is chilling and so very real. John McDean’s job in this story is to ask, “how do we get more people watching?” “How do we manage this and cause these scenarios to happen?” We create Fear. America is a nation of Fear. Let’s feed that! He produces scenarios where Americans worst fears are played out for the masses in an engorged “Bread and Circuses” scenario. It is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself like an ouroboros and Bennett created the perfect story around that idea.


The heart of the matter was that, from the beginning, America had always been a nation of fear.”

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Mcdean is disgusting, he is immoral, and not too far from how the media handles these things right now. I have never been disgusted by a character as much as I was with him. In 10 years, maybe 20 who knows perhaps we will have a Running Man by Stephen King or a Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett television show on our hands. Or, maybe books like this will help us wise up and see what we are doing to ourselves. I don’t know, but I can hope. Read this. Read it if you are American, read it if you are not. Just read it. It is worthy of your time and money.


The quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Procurement

ARC provided by Tor.com in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. His eighth novel, FOUNDRYSIDE, will be available in the US on 8/21 of 2018 and the UK on 8/23.


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

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.