Monday, September 30, 2013

Stacking the Shelves

If it's Monday, then it must be time for Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme that provides a virtual gathering place for bloggers (and readers) to share the books that came their way over the past week. Originally hosted by Marcia, of To Be Continued..., it has since become something of a book tour, with a new host each month. This month's host seems to be MIA this morning, so please enter your links below:




Just the one new title for review (I'm trying to catch up on my existing titles), courtesy of Joseph D'Lacey, who will be stopping by next month in celebration of his bestselling 'eco-horrors' Meat and Garbage Man.


I did, however, nab several interesting Kindle reads - which convert very nicely in Calibre if, like me, you have a different e-reader:




As for what we're reading, the team has reviews coming up over the next 2 weeks for:


What's topping your shelves this week?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jim Chapel Has a New Mission in Myrmidon by David Wellington (#bookreview)

Jim Chapel has to be one of the most unique heroes in fiction, especially within the thriller genre. Normally, a military veteran with a mechanical hand would be played up as some of superhero, a supremely confident - if not downright arrogant - man of action. As we saw in Chimera, Jim Chapel is nothing of the sort. Don't get me wrong, he's a loyal, dedicated, brave soldier, but he's also too humble to ever suggest he's the right man for the job.

Chapel is back in Myrmidon, an e-book only novella from David Wellington that once again puts him in a situation he's cautious about controlling. Unlike his first adventure, the threat here is entirely human - and significantly more chilling because of it.

The story starts with an odd scene that really drives home Chapel's human sort of heroism. About to be tattooed with a swastika in order to infiltrate a white supremacist group, he bails on the whole idea, unable to compromise his flesh and betray the memory of his grandfather's struggle against the Nazis. Instead, he suggests an entirely new approach to his bosses, one that basically boils down to walking up to the gates, knocking on the door, and politely asking for the cache of AK-47s.

Without giving away the unique twist that transforms what could have been an otherwise average story into an eye-opening read, domestic terrorism, white supremacists, and anti-government sensibilities are at the heart of the story. There are more than a few interesting developments, as Wellington proves himself entirely comfortable exploring the mistakes and misjudgments of an ordinary man. Chapel may be as brave as he is selfless, but he's also vulnerable, and that's what makes him interesting.

I really wasn't sure where the story was going to go in its final scenes, and was honestly surprised by the final body count. Where as Chimera was a creepy tale of government sanctioned experiments run amok, Myrmidon is a chilling tale of how far one man will go to prove a point. While both kinds of story have their own strengths, it's the character of Jim Chapel who makes them so compelling.


Expected publication: October 1st 2013 by William Morrow
ebook, 100 pages

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rowena Cory Daniells Talks King Breaker

Good morning, all, and welcome to the first Friday of Fall.

I'm very excited to have the lovely Rowena Cory Daniells stopping by for a return visit to celebrate the publication of her latest, the fourth and final chapter in the saga King Rolen's Kin. For more details on King Breaker, stick around for the synopsis following Rowena's interview, and then be sure to stop by next Friday for my review.

Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by again, Rowena – hard to believe it’s been over a year since you stopped by to chat about The Price of Fame. For those who missed your first visit, or who may be new to your writing, please tell us a little about yourself.

A: Arghh. How do you answer a question like that? Let’s see… I grew up loving books and trying to figure out people. I was so socially awkward I thought no one would ever love me. Now I’m married with six adult children and I can share my love of books with readers.

(Me at 15 with the weight of the world on my shoulders. Wish I could reach out and tell her it all comes out right in the end)

Q: The fantasy genre is ever-evolving, with various sub-genres vying for spotlight, but it always seems to come back to the traditional epics, full of magic, monsters, and heroes. What do you think it is about those stories that keep bringing readers back?

A: We need stories that give us hope. In the golden days of science fiction the classic authors wrote upbeat stories about space travel: to boldly go… etc. Now we live on a planet where the news saturates us with horror stories and big business seems to control politicians. Dude, where’s my Flying Car?

Yet people post pictures of their cats, kids and gardens on the internet and start petitions to try to right the world’s wrongs. We need to believe there is hope. Big fat fantasy epics give us a glimpse of worlds where virtue is rewarded and those who are pure of heart triumph. What’s not to like about that?

Q: King Rolen's Kin is a bit of an unusual trilogy, in that it ended with many of the core conflicts unresolved. Was that intentional – i.e. did you always know that a fourth book would be coming – or was it just the way the story arrived upon the page?
 
A: KRK wasn’t really a trilogy in a traditional sense. I wrote three books of what I thought be an ongoing series, then thought, wait a minute, I’d better see if anyone wanted to publish this. I always intended for there to be more KRK.


Q: That makes sense. If we can talk a bit about The Kings Man for a moment, where did that novella come from? Did you set out to bridge The Usurper and King Breaker with something separate, or did that particular story just not fit into either novel?

A: In the front of The King’s Man there is a dedication: To Leanne, who refused to believe that Garzik was dead. Leanne was my work colleague and she really enjoyed KRK except for what happened to Garzik. As soon as she turned around to me and said, But Garzik can’t be dead, I knew he wasn’t.

After that it was just a matter of finding out what had happened to him. So I wrote The King’s Man for Solaris, who wanted more KRK to bridge the gap between the trilogy and the next book. I worked alongside Leanne for a year while all this was going on, never letting her know what I was up to. Then when The King’s Man came out, I sent her a copy. She got such a surprise when she saw the dedication.

Q: That's a great story - I love it! Aside from Leanne's surprise, what has been the strangest or most surprising reader reaction to your work that you've encountered to-date?

A: Ten minutes ago a comment arrived on my blog. A couple had discovered my books and read both trilogies. The wife told me her husband had ADHD and it’s normally hard for him to read a complete book but he’d really enjoyed mine.

This makes writing worthwhile.

Q: Your work has (not surprisingly) been long-listed and short-listed for a number of awards, including the Ned Kelly Award and the Gemmell Legend Awards. Clearly, being nominated for any award must be a huge thrill, but is there one award that you secretly long for, a trophy on the mantle that would top all others?

A: You know what would top everything? Being able to give up the day job and write full time. And if you could throw in someone to do the washing and cooking that would be great!

Q: Boy, way to put things in perspective (LOL). To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who continues to influence and inspire you, or someone who just refreshes your literary batteries?

A: I do love reading but I’ve been taking a break from fiction and I’ve been doing a lot of research. Sometimes you need to let the brain lie fallow and feed it a mix of rich nutrient so that when you come back to writing (or whatever you do) you feel refreshed and inspired.

Q:  It’s a tough question, especially if you’re wary of putting faces before your readers, but if King Rolen’s Kin were to get the blockbuster movie treatment, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

A: This came up in The Price of Fame and the main character said what I would say. I’d like to see some complete unknowns play the roles because not only would it give someone a break, but it would mean the audience wasn’t seeing a famous star play the character, they would be seeing the character battling great odds. And that’s what I like to do, challenge my characters.

In King Breaker I really put Byren through the wringer. I hope readers enjoy seeing how he faces up to adversity.

On that rather fitting note, Rowena, we'll let you go to put some laundry through the wringer instead, so you can get back to creating heroes and villains. :)

Thanks again for stopping by.

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King Rolen's Kin: King Breaker
by Rowena Cory Daniells

Paperback, 782 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Solaris

The conclusion to the hugely popular King Rolen's Kin series!

The story of Byron, Fyn and Piro picks up immediately where the cliff-hanging ending of The Usurper let off! When Cobalt stole the Rolencian throne, Byren, Fyn and Piro were lucky to escape with their lives, now they’ve rallied and set out to avenge their parents' murder.

Byren is driven to defeat Cobalt and reclaim the crown, but at what cost? Fyn has sworn to serve Byren’s interests but his loyalty is tested when he realises he loves Byren’s betrothed. And Piro never wanted to win a throne, now she holds the fate of a people in her hands

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Be sure to check back next Friday for my review!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The God Killers by John F. Allen (#bookreview)

Initially, reading The God Killers reminded me very much of my first encounter with Anita Blake. John F. Allen appeared to have crafted a standard urban fantasy tale, immersed in the supernatural, and spiced with elements of paranormal romance. Even the narrative structure and pacing of the first few chapters reminded me of Laurell K. Hamilton's work.

That's not a bad thing, and not at all a knock against either author. It's simply an acknowledgement of how the book initially struck me.

I say 'initially' because as Allen settles into the story, becoming more comfortable with the lovely Ivory Blaque in the process, he begins layering in some really exciting story elements that definitely kick the story up a few notches. Before long we have a great story behind the God Killers themselves, a pair of antique pistols that Ivory is hired to recover for their rightful owner - or owners, to be precise, since she's hired twice for the same job, but two very different clients!

In addition, we have a well developed hierarchy of the supernatural, complete with warring vampire clans and close-knit werewolf packs, and an uneasy alliance with humanity that's as imaginative as it is simple. Where Allen really won me over, though, is with a back story that brings it all together. His interpretation of mythology is fascinating, and I really liked the way he managed to weave centuries of faith into one crazy roller coaster ride of warring gods. He also gives us a peek behind several historical events, with one tragedy in particular revealed as a cover-up for vampire activity, which helps to put a veneer of plausibility on the tale.

All of that would be wasted, however, were it not for the ability of Ivory to carry a story. Strong, confident, and appropriately flawed, she's an entirely human protagonist in an otherwise inhuman world. She has a flair for goading people, loves retail therapy, and isn't shy about her loves or her lusts. While it's really become something of a cliché within the genre, her reluctant entanglement in a vampire/werewolf love triangle actually works because of how well she's been established as a character, and how willing she is to defend her honor and her right to choose.

There are a lot of questions left unanswered, but that's to be expected from the first book in the series. While there is something of a cliffhanger to the last chapter, it's a development that comes after the main story is resolved, making it more of a tease. Overall, The God Killers is a fun story, with great imagination, and a heroine you want to read more about. If you're a fan of the genre, then you'll definitely enjoy this.

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JohnFAllenTourBadge

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JohnFAllenAbout John F. Allen: John F. Allen is an American writer born in Indianapolis, IN. John began writing stories as early as the second grade and pursued all forms of writing at some point, throughout his career. John studied Liberal Arts at IUPUI with a focus in Creative Writing, received an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force and is a current member of the American Legion. John's debut novel, The God Killers was released in 2013 with Seventh Star Press.

John currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife, son and daughter.

Website/Blog - www.johnfallenwriter.com

Facebook Author's Page - https://www.facebook.com/#!/johnfallenwriter

Twitter - https://twitter.com/johnfallen1970

Facebook Fan Club Page - https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/650402134970441/

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9781937929169-tradecover.inddBook Synopsis: In The God Killers, the first book of The God Killers Legacy, former professional art thief Ivory Blaque is hired to procure a pair of antique pistols and gets much more than she bargained for when several attempts are made on her life.

Her client turns out to be a shadowy government agent who reveals that she is descended from a race of immortals, and that the pistols are linked to her unique heritage and the special psychic gifts she possesses. He uses the memory of her father to guilt her into working for him.

Ivory eventually gives in to his request, and in return, he presents her with her father's journal, which was written in an unbreakable code. Bishop believes that she is the only one capable of breaking the code and unlocking the plans of the vampire hierarchy. But when the city's top vampire is a sexy incubus with an attraction for her and she's assigned a hot new lycan enforcer to protect her, she finds herself caught between two sets of rock hard abs.

To regain her autonomy, clear her name, unlock the secrets of her past, and protect the lives of those closest to her, Ivory must play along with the forces trying to manipulate her. Ivory's life is rapidly spiraling out of control and headed for an explosive conclusion which she just might not survive.

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This review copy was provided by Tomorrow Comes Media in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - Bleeding Shadows by Joe R. Lansdale

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Bleeding Shadows by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean (November 30, 2013)

Bleeding Shadows is Joe R. Lansdale's largest, most varied collection to date. Weighing in at 488 pages and 150,000 words, these stories, poems, and novellas--supplemented by the author's introduction and by an invaluable set of story notes--move effortlessly from horror, adventure, and suspense to literary pastiche. It is, by any measure, a major addition to an already impressive body of work.

The volume opens with 'Torn Away,' in which a small town sheriff encounters a man on the run from his own predatory shadow. The stories that follow come from all points of the narrative compass. In 'Morning, Noon, and Night,' a young boy stumbles across a monstrous, multi-faceted killer from which there is no escape. 'The Bleeding Shadow' is a tale of music, monsters, and deals-with-the devil set in post-WWII Texas. In 'Star Light, Eyes Bright,' an ordinary husband makes a startling discovery, one that leads to an unimaginable act of personal transformation. Elsewhere, the author offers us twisted Christmas stories ('Santa at the Cafe'), tales of a zombie apocalypse ('A Visit with Friends'), and one story--'Christmas with the Dead'--that encompasses both of these elements. Other highlights include a pair of informed, affectionate acts of literary homage. 'Metal Men of Mars' pays tribute to the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, while in 'Dread Island,' the masterful novella that concludes this collection, the world of Huckleberry Finn merges seamlessly with the worlds of H. P. Lovecraft and Joel Chandler Harris.

Sometimes funny, often horrifying, and always compulsively readable, this generous gathering of stories--few of which have previously appeared in book form--constitutes a significant publishing event. Bleeding Shadows is an indispensable, vastly entertaining volume, one that no admirer of Joe R. Lansdale's distinctive brand of fiction can afford to miss.


Lansdale is a man of many talents, with his literary travels taking him - quite literally - all over the map. Perhaps best known for his Hap and Leonard novels, I first discovered him through The Drive-In series, before becoming a fan forever with Bubba Ho-Tep. Yes, before Bruce Campbell made the role his own on the screen, Elvis faced off against the soul-sucking mummy on the page, courtesy of Joe R. Lansdale. That alone should be enough to convince you he's worth a read.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Goodreads Review Guidelines Controversy - Huh?

So, apparently, there's been a huge controversy brewing over at Goodreads, ever since they posted an update to their Terms of Service on Friday. If you're so inclined to read through nearly 3,000 comments, you can check it out here.

I have to be honest, I don't get the controversy - at least not for the most part. Yes, Goodreads should have been clearer and more public in announcing the changes, rather than burying them in a discussion group that less than 1% of its members belong to, and yes, they should have provided some advance notice to members before removing their reviews and/or shelves, but those are the only real issues I see here.

As for the changes themselves, I think they're simple, straightforward, and common sense. Basically, they ask that you review the book, not the author . . . that you remain fair and honest . . . that you keep your comments tasteful . . . and that you respect the community - authors, readers, reviewers, bloggers, and publishers. It's not that far off from my own review policy, in fact.

I don't know everything that led up to the TOS changes, but I do know there have been several discussions about bullying and abuse on the site over the past few months, with both authors and reviewers at fault. At it's simplest, you have the readers who are assigning 1 star ratings, without the benefit of a review, as an attack on an author, and others who are doing the same with 5 star ratings, in defense of the author. At the next level you have readers who are posting reviews about what a terrible/wonderful person the author is, without ever saying a word about the book itself.

Then you have the reviewers and authors who are engaging in heated arguments, descending into name calling and emotional outbursts, in the comments of 'offending' reviews. Finally, at the lowest, most despicable level, you have readers shelving books as 'deserves-to-be-raped' or 'should-be-killed' to show the world which authors they really, really, don't like.

That kind of bullshit is hard to fathom, and definitely needs to be addressed.

What I don't get is how, in a society that is so concerned with bullying, an anti-bullying measure so quickly turned into an issue of censorship? I suspect a large part of it is lingering anger over Amazon buying the site, and fear of what might be coming next, but I hate to think people would rather indulge in some retailer backlash than put a little effort into understanding why we should all get along.

It would never occur to me to post a review here or on Goodreads that is nothing more than a diatribe against the author, their religion, their politics, or their sexuality. I may very well choose not to read an author because I believe them to be a sexist, racist, homophobic, holier-than-thou jerk, but I'm not going to hijack a review just to share that opinion. Similarly, there may be books that I actually enjoy, despite knowing the author is a sexist, racist, homophobic, holier-than-thou jerk, but I'm also not going to dwell on the fact in the context of reviewing the book. I may mention it, just to preempt the "how could you read him/her" outbursts, but I'd never make it the focus of a review.

Finally, should an author or a fellow reviewer decide to attack me for not sharing their love/hate for a book . . . so be it. I'm more than happy to debate a particular take on a novel, but if I find they're getting too personal and making me uncomfortable, I can either delete their comments (if the discussion is here), or escalate the issue to the administrators (on a site like Goodreads). The one thing I'm not going to do is drag the conversation out, add fuel to the fire, and continue to give them their soapbox on which to vent. Schoolyard, back alley, office, or Goodreads - it doesn't matter the environment, bullies simply thrive on an audience.

Bullies are everywhere. It's a sad fact of life. There's nothing anybody can do to stop that, but there are things we can do to help insulate one another and lessen, if not deflect, the harassment. As much as I loathe censorship, and will forever rage against books being banned, I will also applaud every effort to force bullies into behaving.

Like I said, Goodreads could have gone about things better, at least in terms of how they communicated the changes, but the changes themselves were done for a reason, and I (for what it's worth) think they have merit. So long as they learn from the controversy and are a bit more upfront and transparent about their actions, I don't have an issue.

But that's just me, and I won't deny anybody's right to disagree - just keep it respectful. :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mailbox Monday

If it's Monday, then it must be time for Mailbox Monday, a weekly meme that provides a virtual gathering place for bloggers (and readers) to share the books that came their way over the past week. Originally hosted by Marcia, of To Be Continued..., it has since become something of a book tour, with a new host each month. This month's host seems to be MIA this morning, so please enter your links below:




Here are the books that found a home on my shelves over the last week:

Staring Into the Abyss
by Richard Thomas

In this collection of short stories Richard Thomas shows us in dark, layered prose the human condition in all of its beauty and dysfunction. A man sits in a high tower making tiny, mechanical birds, longing for the day when he might see the sky again. A couple spends an evening in an underground sex club where jealousy and possession are the means of barter. A woman is victimized as a child, and turns that rage and vengeance into a lifelong mission, only to self-destruct, and become exactly what she battled against.

These 20 stories will take you into the darkness, and sometimes bring you back. But now and then there is no getting out, the lights have faded, the pitch black wrapping around you like a festering blanket of lies. What will you do now? It's eat or be eaten--so bring a strong stomach and a hearty appetite.


by Keith R.A. DeCandido 

For two seasons, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine® chronicled the intense struggle of the Federation, fighting alongside the Klingons and the Romulans against the overwhelming forces of the Dominion in some of the most exciting hours of television ever produced. 

Now, for the first time, see how the Dominion War affected the entirety of the Star Trek universe. From the heart of the Federation to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise™. From the front lines of Klingon™ space to the darkest recesses of the Romulan Empire. From the heroic members of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers to the former crew of the U.S.S. Stargazer. From the edge of the New Frontier to the corridors of station Deep Space 9™. 

Some of the finest Star Trek novelists have been gathered to provide a dozen new tales from this seminal period in galactic history. Heroes from three generations -- Sisko, Picard, Spock, Kira, Calhoun, Klag, McCoy, Gold, and so many more -- brought together in these... Tales Of The Dominion War.


by Stephen Zimmer

Journey into realms of darkness and explore the regions where angels fear to tread! Welcome to the Hellscapes, featuring tales of the infernal in settings where the horror never ends and the inhabitants experience the ultimate nightmare. In "Blood Dreams" follow the tale of a woman who knew great political authority and influence in life, as she discovers the reward awaiting her in the next world. "The Grove" welcomes a new arrival, a wealthy man who is looking forward to a weekend of indulging in lust and libation, as he has for many years in this secluded convocation for the elite. Something is different this time, though, and he soon finds that his visit will be taking a very different turn. In "The Smallest Fish", the story is told of a ruthless business mogul who finds himself in an abandoned, ruined version of the city he knew well ... in life. This city won't be remaining vacant for long. "Drowning in Tears" tells the story of a young man's unhealthy obsession for a suicidal girlfriend that leads him on a path of severe transformation. The final tale of Volume 1, "Lords of War", follows the story of a man who wielded military power on a worldwide scale as a Secretary of Defense, who now learns the deeper nature of war and what kinds of monstrosities it breeds. Hellscapes, Volume 1 is the first release in an exciting new themed horror collection from Stephen Zimmer.


As for what we're reading, the team has reviews coming up over the next 2 weeks for:

 

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reliving my Childhood with Buck Rogers (#bookreview)

Back when I was a kid, Buck Rogers was probably the second coolest thing on television - the first being, of course, Battlestar Galactica. I mean, Buck was a way cooler hero, but Galactica had the cooler robots, the better ships, and - supremely important to a kid - awesome toys, just like Star Wars. In fact, I can still remember the neighborhood gift exchange where 3 of us boys got Cylon Raiders . . . and the other one got clothes. That was probably the first time I heard a kid my age swear out loud, in front of our parents!

Anyway, the point of all this reminiscing is that I recently got my hands on a copy of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Western Publishing Years Volume 1. From the cover of the first issue to the cast photos and memorabilia at the back, this is a collection that's just chock full of memories.

The first thing that struck me about these comics is just how recognizable everything is. The artwork is pretty standard, late 70s kind of stuff, but so were the Batman and Spider-Man comics I remember reading at the time. This ships looked exactly like I remember, and I was able to identify most of the characters without even reading their dialogue. The only real exceptions are Wilma Deering and Princess Ardala, neither of whom looks at all like the galactic beauties I had such a crush on.

The collection opens with the 3 issue adaptation of the original Buck Rogers movie, and does a decent job of conveying the basics. While I found it lacked the charm and the sarcasm I remember so well from Gil Gerard, it did capture the coldness of Wilma from early in the series, as well as the guiding wisdom of Dr. Theopolis - absent the comic chirping of Twiki. It definitely leans hard on the post-apocalyptic element, far more so than I remember as a kid, but that very well be because I was focused on the robots, the spaceships, and the women.

Following that, we get a standalone issue that takes Buck to one of Saturn's moons - the one with an atmosphere comparable to Earth (somehow, I think my science classes overlooked that). There he encounters a beautiful, big-headed alien woman, and negotiates a deal to obtain grain for Earth. It's actually an interesting issue, because it tackles just how easily life in Earth's only remaining domed city can fall apart.

After that, we get part 1 and 2 of a story that puts Wilma on trial - with none other than Dr. Theopolis as the prosecutor - for aiding and abetting her brother, who was previously banished as a traitor. It's a great story, one that nicely resolves the question of what happened to Princess Ardala, and one that gives us our first real hint of romance between Buck and Wilma. Unfortunately - and here is my only real complaint - the collection doesn't include the part 3, so we're left hanging, with multiple lives in the balance.

Instead of giving us part 3 of that story, the collection ends with a copy of the first Buck Rogers comic, dating back to 1964. While it's a bit off-putting for fans of the television series, it's an interesting look at where the character came from, complete with very 1950's sort of costumes, plastic helmets, and big-eyed little green men. It's almost impossible to compare the two interpretations, but it's clear they share the same source material.

That peek back at the origins, combined with the memorabilia featured at the back of the book, is what makes this collection more than just a hardcover reprint of some average 70s science fiction comic books. It really ties everything together nicely, reminding us in vivid color of the television series we fell in love with, but also reminding us that it was just the latest in a long line of interpretations.


Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by Hermes Press

Underwhelmed by Under the Dome

I don't usually write about television, but sometimes you just need to get things off your chest. Case in point, the travesty known as Under the Dome. My wife and I finished watching the last few episodes last night, and we're pretty much agreed that a once promising show not only went off the rails, but ended with one of the lamest cliffhangers imaginable.

While there were a lot of things wrong with the show, I think their biggest mistake was in trying to make the show about the dome. It became one of those mystery-driven shows, à la Lost, where the writers tried harder and harder each week to make the dome - what is it, where did it come from, why is it there - the center of attention. The Scooby gang, the mini dome, the egg, the mysterious apparitions . . . all invented by the writers to try and make the dome something more than it really is.


What's more, they tried to make the dome bigger, badder, and scarier than in the book, but they just made it more ridiculous in the process. In the book, it was clear that the dome was at least somewhat permeable. Air and water could pass through it, as could radio and television signals. All of that was important, because it resolved the very real concerns about running out of things like oxygen and water - common sense fears that the series barely touched on. Sound was transmitted through it as well, making conversation with the outside world possible . . . and the soldiers' deliberate refusal to communicate all the more chilling.

The problem is that Stephen King's book was never about the dome. The dome was nothing more than a plot device to isolate a town, cut them off from the outside world, and then watch what happens. His was a story about the people inside the dome, about how their lives were impacted, and about how the niceties of polite civilization fall apart under stress. It was a fairly typical Stephen King story of small town politics, human failings, and ordinary people standing up for what is right.

It was a big book with a large cast of supporting characters, but it was really only a small cast of core characters that mattered - and those characters were strong, consistent, and well-developed. The TV series not only made the mistake of arbitrarily adding new characters, but it couldn't seem to make up its mind about who they were. Some of it was clearly stunt casting, as was the case with Norrie and her lesbian parents, and some of it clearly desperation to keep the story going, as was the case with Maxine.

Don't get me wrong, I actually liked Carolyn and Alice. I liked the 'outsider' element they brought to the community, and I thought their relationship was one of the strongest, most positive, and best acted of the series. Making them lesbians, though, was like hitting the viewer over the head with the message that they really were outsiders. As for Maxine, her introduction was absolutely, positively, and unequivocally the moment where the show jumped the shark. Having her just wander onto the screen after weeks of being inside the dome was laughable, especially given how prominent her role in the town was revealed to be, but it was the artificial way in which forced a link between Big Jim and Barbie that really had my eyes rolling.


As for Barbie and Big Jim, far too much effort was wasted on trying to blur their lines and force viewers to question their motivations. Barbie was tarnished from the start by the murder of Peter Shumway, and the resulting romance with Julia was just gross and uncomfortable. The more of his back story we learned, the more questionable he became as a hero, which really distanced him from the book. As for his butt-kicking heroics in the last two episodes, taking out one armed assailant after another, while handcuffed, using nothing more than his legs and his head . . . well, even Chuck Norris must have been shaking his head at that nonsense.

That brings us to Big Jim. I actually liked the way he was originally portrayed, making the viewers really question his villainy, but then it seemed like the writers simply gave up and descended straight into cartoon villainy. Just when we were really beginning to wonder whether the writers were doing something clever, and leading up to a role reversal between Big Jim and Barbie, he whips out the proverbial black hat, starts twirling the metaphorical mustache, and begins snarling like the ghost of Cujo. He became absolutely comic in his over-the-top villainy, and the love-hate-love-hate-make-up-your-damn-mind-already relationship with his son (the most poorly acted role in the entire series) was just atrocious.


When it was originally announced, Under the Dome was supposed to be a single season, limited run series. Had they stuck to the plan, I suspect it might have been a better show. Instead, they were given a second season late in the game, forcing them to find ways to extend the show and delay a conclusion. Again, had they stuck with the spirit and themes of the book, making the show about the people and not the dome, a second season may not have been a bad thing. Instead, they offered us a lame cliffhanger that was entirely about the dome, a fact driven home (with all the subtlety we've come to expect) by the fact that Julia chose the dome over Barbie.

Personally, I thought the ending was the weakest part of King's book, but at least it was simple, and it kept the characters at the forefront. If you're only exposure to Chester's Mill has been through the television series, then do yourself a favor and read the original source material. Be warned, however, that you'll likely join my wife and I in having zero interest in a second season.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Linda Bell Brighton asks Where are all the Mythical Creatures? (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

Dragons and griffins and unicorns. Oh my! Centaur and Satyrs and Sphinxes.

So vividly do these names bring up images that it seems impossible these creatures never existed, that they are but a figment of someone’s imagination.

Are they? Why would the Ancient Egyptians build a colossal statue to a beast who never existed?

But if these beings did once live, where are their archaeological remains? Since we haven’t found any, these beasts must be figments of someone’s imagination. And around and around these arguments go.

Stop. Let’s assume these creatures existed. Where could they have come from? Ancient astronaut believers might answer they were from another planet. But the myths themselves argue against that explanation. No myths mention creatures by themselves coming from flying or fiery crafts.

Back in 1957 a scientist by the name of Hugh Everett came up with the many-world idea. Yep, this is the one that says all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an actual "world" or "universe." So these creatures might have existed on those worlds.

But, you say, just because they existed in another world doesn't mean we’d know about them.

You’d be right if it wasn't for the weirdest phenomena called entanglement (quantum entanglement to be more exact.) For the longest time, scientists thought this was as rare as finding a Hope Diamond. But it turned out to be an entangled diamond mine, that entanglement overcomes barriers of space and time and knits the entire cosmos into an integrated whole. Everyday objects are entangled with most everything with which they have previously interacted. Cool, huh?

But we haven’t interacted with these creatures, you argue.

Have you heard of the scientists’ idea of a wormhole, the tube that can connect two parts of the universe? Well, there’s a theory of “traversable wormholes.” So sometime in the past, these creatures might have interacted with us. And because of entanglement, we are still writing about them.

And maybe, on their worlds, they are writing about the strange creatures who stood upright on two legs and built buildings.

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About the Book

Wolgast Castle (Book One of the Sidonia The Sorceress Series)
by Linda Bell Brighton

Forced to attend Princess Maria regent's celebration at Wolgast Castle, 1560 Germany, Sidonia von Bork, fears her magical abilities will be discovered and she'll be burned alive as a witch. When she discovers she is actually a member of an ancient shape-shifting race and the prophesied Golden One, she must face her destiny: to save the multiverse from the daemons determined to destroy all humans, and stay alive in the process.

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About the Author

Linda Bell Brighton fell in love with myths, magic, and monsters at an early age. On a thunder-storming day in the Keys, her father—in his bass reading voice—brought The Hound of the Baskerville to too-vivid-life. From that day forward, Greek and Roman myths merged with Wonder Woman and Super girl. After studying medieval and Renaissance literature in college, she now combines her loves by writing an alternate history of the Witch Burning Times that she calls magpunk: real history with myths, magic, monsters—and daemons, too.

Linda Bell Brighton’s Website
Linda Bell Brighton on Twitter
Linda Bell Brighton’s Facebook Page
Wolgast Castle Facebook Page
Wolgast Castle on Amazon

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Giveaway

Linda is giving away prizes, including an e-copy of her book at each blog stop on her tour AND three Grand Prize Giveaway of one Travel Mug, one T-Shirt and one Custom Jumbo Tote Bag with your choice of fan art, chosen from http://www.zazzle.com/sidonia_the_sorceres, shipped to anywhere in the world!

1) To win a book: Leave a comment on this blog post on what is your favorite mythical creature to be entered to win a book. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. This giveaway ends seven days after the post goes live.

2) To win the Travel Mug or the T-Shirt or the Custom Jumbo Tote Bag with Linda’s fan art of your choice: Click the link to go to Linda’s website (http://www.lindabellbrighton.com/) and enter the Rafflecopter at the bottom of the page, or use the form below. The three lucky winners will be selected by October 7, 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday - The Influence by Bentley Little

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Influence by Bentley Little
Cemetery Dance Publications (October 29, 2013)

Everything is about to change...

When Ross Lowry moves into his cousin's guest house in the small community of Magdalena, Arizona, he expects nothing more than breathing room and a brief respite from his economic woes.

But something is not right in the desert.

After a raucous party on New Year's Eve, the luck of the attendees undergoes an immediate U-turn. The rich and successful suddenly find themselves facing catastrophic failure while the less well-off are unexpectedly flush with good fortune.

This is only the beginning...

Soon the citizens of Magdalena are experiencing unnatural desires. Next their children begin to disappear and freakish creatures emerge from the surrounding wilderness. The community is unraveling at a frightening pace. But these are merely the early warning signs of a showdown with a powerful force of darkness that could obliterate the world forever, and only Ross Lowry sees the danger that lurks ahead...


A new Bentley Little book, just in time for Halloween - does it get any better than that? Little is one of those ever-reliable, go-to horror authors for me. Sharing shelf space with the likes of Richard Laymon, Edward Lee, and Brian Lumley, he's not necessarily a release day must-read, but someone whose work is always enjoyable when our paths happen to cross. This sounds like vintage Little, and may just creep into my October reading, if I can happen to get my hands on an advance copy.