One of the things I like about writers who set their works in the future is that they are essentially allowing the reader to be a time traveler. Shatter Point by Jeff Altabef does this. I’m not talking doom and gloom apocalypse or rocket ships and teleporting, but rather a glimpse of a possible future. All of this is done in a nicely packaged murder mystery that will leave you guessing as you work your way through it.
Shatter Point gives us several key players - Maggie the focus of a psychopath’s attention, her sons, Jack and Tom who are determined to save her, Darian, the brilliant doctor who is researching just how to help the human brain heal and, of course, Cooper, the psychopath.
Each of the key players begins on a path that is their own. Maggie’s and Cooper’s paths starts decades past. Jack and Tom’s is more real time as the book unfolds. The Doctor’s story goes back to shortly before the main timeline of the book, but ultimately the storylines collide into a big reveal.
It did take a bit for the book to get going. There are a lot of characters and it took some work to sort them out; however, once the timelines converge, things become easier to follow and the book moves along at a nice clip.
By setting the story in the future, Altabef has the ability to create a world, that while only bearing shades of ours, could easily be a possibility for us. This, in my opinion, is the book’s strongest attribute. For me it allowed me to ask the question, “What if?” and to ponder a reality that could be.
The world that is created is not quite dystopian, but there are clearly the haves and the have not’s. The classes are more divided and there is a greater cultural split in society. However, there was a point of confusion here for me. The author’s prior book, The Fourteenth Colony, is referenced in part in Shatter Point. Some of the references made me feel I was at a loss not having read the prior book, but in full disclosure what the author may have been doing was a little shameless self marketing as I do have to admit I’m intrigued about the prior book.
Overall Shatter Point has a good plot (though it does take a bit to get it up and running), interesting characters, nice suspense, action and a dabbling of pretty scare (perhaps freakish) suspense.
I would say fans of dystopian literature, thrillers, murder mysteries and suspense would find Shatter Point a good read.
About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shatter Point! Here's what you need to do...
The one thing that is the most enjoyable about the genre of science fiction is entering the realm of possibility – the land of that which could happen. Many people read the genre as an escape, others for the action, some, well, just because. And that's ok.
However, for many the reason they flock to the style is to take a figurative, if not literal, glimpse into the future. Think Brave New World, Stranger in a Strange Land, 1984 or, if you haven't read it, check out Stand on Zanzibar for a few frighteningly accurate visions of the future.
New Frontier here fits the bill by offering a picture of a possible future for humanity.
The time frame of the book isn't given. I don't know if it is necessary. Rather what is important is that it is the potential for what could happen.
If you’ve ever read a book and wished for more characters, New Frontier, is the book you’ve been looking for. There are a lot, and I mean a lot of characters. With a lot of characters, you also get a lot going on in the book. Part of the enjoyment of reading it is to unravel the tale. All of this is set against a delightful literary background. Fair warning, read it over a weekend or during a couple of days where you can forge through it as this will help with focus and reader continuity in staying with the story.
The book starts with an accident on a deep space ship called the Argos on a mission to the far reaches of the universe. The ship has the ability to do things that no other spacecraft in history has ever even dreamed of accomplishing. It is faster, technologically more capable, has a longer range and is, in many ways, the key to the future. However, with the accident, the ship is crippled and the aftermath becomes critical to our tale.
As in any good tale from the science fiction genre, you’ll find futuristic technology, but as interesting as the technology is, the glimpse into the future offered by New Frontier for the entirety of mankind is what makes the book intriguing.
New Frontier offers a look at a reality that is well beyond the limits of the earth as we know it. Mankind is no longer bound to the confines of our planet, rather the reaches of the solar system are within the grasp of humanity and as a result, this vast area has become much like the wild west. There are colonies, outposts, homesteaders, opportunists and with this comes the struggle and fight to control the new frontier. Like the wild west, you have the good, the bad and the ugly. New Frontier is a study in the good verses the evil and these themes are embodied through the characters as they are revealed and developed, but these themes really step to the forefront through what I was most intrigued with in the book.
Lee creates a world where governments are all for the most part figureheads. There for no other reason as people expect government. However, the world has developed to the point where the power rests with but a few rival corporations battling for universal domination.
There are several aspects of the book that I found took away from the whole. As I said above, there are an abundance of characters that can a struggle to follow. I didn’t find there to be one main character which out of the norm for me. I believe that fewer characters would have resulted in less for the reader to track and overall stronger characters.
Lee also uses a different approach as to the timeline of the book. The book opens with chapter entitled "Now" and there after jumps around into the past or future with no clear pattern. The jump may be months, it may be years, it may be to the past or the future. When you leave a character, you may next encounter a past or future version of them which makes for a disjointed approach to the timeline. In the balance against the story as a whole and the fashion in which it is presented, the story clearly wins given the strength of the story. I only wonder if it would not have been even stronger had it been told in a different fashion in relation to the timeline.
Overall, New Frontier is a solid book. It is an entertaining read that makes the reader think even after putting the book down. As I have always said, if you can keep the reader thinking even when they are done with the book, you as a writer have created something worthy of the reader's effort.
Fans of traditional science fiction, character driven fiction and tales of the future will enjoy New Frontier.
About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of New Frontier! Here's what you need to do...
Things have never really been black and white for me, until I looked at the shirt and stickers that I'm going to send to a couple of folks. Looks like the BFM and Chive gear is, at least at the moment, black and white.
Earlier in the year I found myself with some extra Chive gear on my hands and I gave it away. I'm doing it again. You know, it being the holiday season and such.
So pass this along. Tell people about it. Most importantly, leave a comment below. On December 31st before I go out in search of some Black Lager, I'll select two random comments and send the shirt to one and the stickers to the other. I'll even pay the postage.
Important safety tip, make sure you watch for emails with The Chive in the subject line. Last time I gave away Chive gear one of the folks who won a shirt never let me know what their address was. (Don't leave your address in the comment - I'll email the winner.) Point of this is make sure to respond to my email or I may be forced to give the shirt or stickers to the guy at the end of my driveway who always seems to be there in the morning when I leave for work….
Oh, if you are one of the folks who scores the shirt or stickers remember to Pay It Forward and if you send a pic of you with your gear it will go up on the site.
Chive On and Happy Holidays!
Everyone’s knows Peter Pan, or so they say. Most would likely tell you it’s a children’s tale about a boy who didn’t want to grow up.
They wouldn’t be wrong.
But they wouldn’t be right.
I believe the reality is that many have simply forgotten the real meaning behind J. M. Barrie’s classic.
In the past week I realized all that I had forgotten from Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy, as the Barrie novel from more than a century ago is known.
And for this realization, I have Mary Alice Monroe to thank.
I’ve read a number of Monroe’s books mainly because they are frequently set along the South Carolina coast so it was a bit surprising for me when I realized Second Star to the Right didn’t involve South Carolina and that I would also be reintroduced to one of the all time literary classics.
A quick overview of Second Star.
Faye, a just divorced, single mother of two young children, Maddie and Tom, has moved to London to start/resume a career she left some years previous. The family settles into a London flat, Number 14. The flat is also home to Jack, a research scientist, and Mrs. Forrester, an eccentric and reclusive elderly woman who lives on the top floor of the home.
It becomes apparent from the beginning that Faye had a very tumultuous marriage and that she is very protective of her children as a result. As the story progresses, Jack befriends Faye and the children. Soon, as everyone is under the same roof, Mrs. Forrester is brought into the proverbial fold and soon, it’s as if one large family is living at Number 14.
Of course, there’s tension and complications. It seems Mrs. Forrester’s daughter has other plans for the house and is none to happy with the communal turn of events at Number 14.
There is also mystery in the character of Mrs. Forrester. Who is she? Is she simply eccentric? Dangerous? Just plain crazy? Just what is happening on the third floor?
As the story progresses, we learn that Barrie, Wendy, Peter Pan and, in fact, all of Neverland are an important part of Second Star. (The title even comes from Peter Pan and the directions to Neverland.)
Perhaps the essence of the story can be summed up in one of the first meetings between Faye and Jack. It is clear that Jack believes a healthy imagination is a benefit for children. Faye feels otherwise. Neither budge from their position rather they make a wager where Jack vows to prove his point to Faye.
This discussion sets the theme for the book. Second Star is about a mother’s fight to make it on her own, it’s a tale of romance, it’s a story of family tension, it’s about learning about one’s past, and that regardless of your age, there is magic still to be found.
However, most of all, it is about realizing that it’s okay to dream. It’s okay (and encouraged) to hope. It’s okay to make believe. It’s okay to believe in fairy tales.
And not just for children, but for the child in all of us.
While I had forgotten about the Lost Boys, about Tinker Bell, about Wendy and Peter and most that was Neverland, thankfully, Monroe clearly hasn’t.
Without rehashing the tale of Peter and Wendy, Monroe reminds us all that’s been forgotten about Barrie’s classic tale. But not just the things that make up Neverland, but what it is felt like when you first learned of Peter and his delightful crew.
Monroe lets the reader understand that it is okay to believe. That just because you have grown up doesn’t mean that you can’t still hope for a little magic or for a dream to come true.
Monroe does an amazing job of taking that which is practical in life and tempering it with a dose of make believe in Second Star. Not to say that Second Star is a work of fantasy, quite the opposite. Second Star makes you want to believe that there is magic out there still.
Second Star lets you understand that it’s okay to dream, it’s okay to be an adult and remember those magical moments from you childhood (and even hope they happen again). Second Star lets know its okay to sleep with your window open. I’d bet that Mary Alice Monroe still does.
Fans of literary fiction, romance, and character driven fiction will enjoy Second Star to the Right.
So the saga begins.
Author Ken Floro III, from the heart of middle America, takes us on a trip to another world.
From the pages of The Rising Wind springs forth this new land, complete with damsels, myth, legend, knights, magic, mystery, intrigue, adventure, yes, all of this. And one Goblin. Neat chap, this Goblin.
The tale centers on a simple trip, or what should have been a simple trip. Our protagonist, Marcavius Maximus, known as Marc, recently having completed his training and becoming an Imperial Knight, is traveling to the city of Wyvernspur where he will begin his service. He is traveling with his cousin, Montefax Maximus, known as Monte, also a new knight.
The pair is making their trip on the ship known as The Rising Wind and, once the pair boards, their adventure quickly gets underway.
On the ship, the cast of characters is rounded out. The pair are joined by an archer of legend, a mystic priest, a mysterious navigator, a petty criminal, a comely damsel, the captain, crew and, oh yes, the goblin (sent by Marc’s father to accompany him on his journey.)
It should be but a quick sail for the knights. (Not much more than a three hour cruise.) One would think all they would have to do is relax and enjoy some rest and relaxation before they began their service.
But what fun would that be?
From the moment the knights set foot on the boat things start to get complicated. It seems there has been a theft and the authorities believe the culprit may be on The Rising Wind. The knights quickly address this situation.
With this the stage is set and what should have been a short trip ends up being an experience that none will soon forget.
Floro does a great job of developing an interesting cast of characters. He has a lot going on among and between the characters that would, in many cases, grind the story to a halt, but he avoids this, quite the contrary, he uses it to really set up the story.
Floro’s character development is also quite impressive. Rather than dumping everyone in your lab at once, he allows the reader to come to know the characters as they enter the story. Perhaps this is a result of the setting. Much of the book takes place in the isolation of The Rising Wind. Floro allows the reader the opportunity, as the pages turn, to meander the ship and essentially learn about the characters as they are discovered.
Another enjoyable part of the book is the completeness of the tale while at the same time engaging in a wonderful set up to the sequel. I’ll look forward to seeing what happens to the characters I’ve met in this book.
Readers who enjoy fantasy and tales that allow the reader to enter a brand new world will enjoy The Rising Wind.
Last year a friend reminded me about The Chive. I say reminded because I knew about the site but for whatever reason hadn’t visited for a while. I started stopping by again and decided I wanted a tee shirt.
Easier said than done.
It was at this point I was reminded of a lesson my mother passed along to me as a child – Just because you want something doesn’t mean you can have it.
I needed a plan – Keep Calm and Chive On – in two basic parts.
It seems to have worked so far.
Part 1 - Over the past few months I’ve been fortunate enough to have purchased some cool stuff from The Chive. Current count 2 KCCO tees, 2 Original Keep Calm and Chive On tees – 2 BFM stickers and 2 Keep Calm and Chive On decals. All of which seem to be a bit popular as they are all currently Out of Stock. (See photos of ½ of the purchases above.)
This leads me to the second part of my plan, and I will point out that it’s ongoing (hopefully). Part 2 is to embrace the Pay it Forward concept. While I plan on wearing my shirts and displaying my decals, I don’t need 2 of every thing and while capitalism and Ebay are fine, the shirts and other stuff, once sold out, are hard to find and near impossible to purchase without paying a HUGE mark up.
the Plan - I’ll give away the extra stuff I buy. (As new shirts are made available, if I can buy 1, I’ll buy 2. I’ll keep 1 and give 1 away. I can’t promise I’ll get 100% of what goes on sale. I missed out on the BFM’s.) So i get a good turnout and my giving away my extra items is successful, when I do end up with a purchase, I’ll put up a new post on the blog, tweet it with @thechive and #KCCO to let folks know.
The rest is up to you.
So what does it take to get your hands on one of the shirts or the decals pictured above?
If you’ve read this far you’re ahead of the game. Second, just leave a comment below and by the end of the month (or there abouts), I’ll randomly select 3 winners (1 for each shirt and one for the sticker and the decal) and reply to the comments with instructions on me getting the shirt or stickers to them. I’ll even pay the postage.
All I ask in return is that if you end up with a shirt or sticker - remember to Pay It Forward.
Simple as that.
As of late my focus, intended or not, has been about reading new writers. Well, new for me anyway.
I’m continuing this with the book Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I should stress the concept of new to me as Smith, now with three books, will be familiar to many.
And rightfully so.
First, Child 44 is a dark book. It begins in the final days Stalin’s Soviet Union. The main character, Leo Demidov, is a mid-level Soviet security agency officer. His career has been spent pursuing enemies of the state, often having to hunt them down. His targets are generally quickly executed or, perhaps worse, sent to the gulags. However in Stalin’s time the hunter can quickly become the hunted, frequently on nothing more than the word of a stranger.
After a distinguished career, Demidov finds himself the target of the Soviet security machine while he relentlessly pursues a serial killer. A serial killer of children.
In this aspect, as well as others, Child 44 is based upon actual historical events. A Ukrainian serial killer, one of the most notorious ever, was the model for the villain in the book. From my study of Soviet history, it appears the backdrop of Soviet Russia in the early 1950’s is based in actual fact.
The strengths of Child 44 stem from this tie into an authentic past. The book captures the essence of the country, the time and tension that filled them both. Smith conveys to the reader the desperation of life under Stalin and he does an amazing job of giving a feel as to how the Soviet machine operates. However, the strength’s are also a weakness of the book.
The characters are compelling, though I found myself looking for a bit more development. And while I found it fascinating reading about the stark reality of 1950’s Russia, at times I did feel like I was getting a hefty dose of Soviet history.
These two points aside, Child 44 is a masterful tale of suspense. Smith has as gift for building tension and drawing the reader into the tale. Child 44 is one of those books that you won’t want to put down. I was also pleased to see that Smith has two other books featuring Demidov, who really is an enjoyable character. I’ll be interested to see how he develops.
Child 44 would appeal to fans of mystery and suspense. It would also be particularly interesting to those who have an interest in getting a very authentic peek behind the curtain that was 1950’s Russia.
I'm late to the party.
After seeing The Last Bastion of Humanity (my review here) on a recommend read list, I decided to give it a try. It didn't take me long to finish my first book by Rhiannon Frater. It was my hope The Last Bastion wasn't a one trick pony, so I started with one of Frater's earlier works, The First Days, book one in the As the World Dies series.
Frater's the real deal when it comes to zombies.
As the title should lead you to believe, The First Days details the start of the zombie apocalypse. The main characters are two strong, yet troubled women who are thrown together through circumstances that no one could imagine. Despite having no idea want is happening or what to do, the women find themselves with a group of survivors in rural Texas. The First Days sets the stage for the follow up novels where I am hopeful (I've yet to read them, but soon will) Frater will expand upon the foundation she has built.
When I read works by writers with a catalog the size of Frater's, I jump on the site of one of the online corporate booksellers and read some reviews to get an idea of what people are saying. However, I don't bother with the 4 and 5 star reviews. I head straight for the 1 star reviews. I find that if there are problems with the book the 1 star reviewers will make them loud and clear.
From most of the reviews of The First Days, one of main points is that Frater doesn't tell the reader what caused the zombie plague. I’m here to report that this is accurate, she doesn't tell us a thing about what caused the plague. I'm also inclined to say, "So what?" I understand people want to know everything, but just because you want something doesn't mean you will get it or should.
Frater does credit to the story by not telling what caused the plague. One thing Frater does amazingly well is describe the speed with which the zombie plague spreads and the denial many people experience when confronted with their new reality. She also makes if very clear that the survivors are scrambling to salvage what they can of humanity, largely making it up as they go along. What caused it really doesn't matter, only the reality of the problem.
I've never been through a zombie apocalypse, but I have to think that survival would be on the top of my priority list. I'd be curious what caused it, but I would probably be more concerned about how I would survive.
One thing Frater does amazingly well is leave the reader with vivid images. Admittedly, I've never seen or witnessed a real zombie, but the images Frater has left with me makes me wonder if she may not have seen a zombie or two stashed in her basement. They are simply chilling. As a teaser (and as a bit of a fair warning) the opening scene is one of the most frighteningly vivid I have ever read, so enjoy.
Frater has as style of writing that does several things. She effortlessly breaths life into characters, her story comes to life on the page and put the reader right in the middle of the action and she makes you want to keep reading.
If you're a fan of zombie fiction and you haven't read Frater as of yet, change that soon. You will be glad you did.
It didn’t take me as long to get around to The Rook by Steven James. I let James’ first book, The Pawn, gather a little too much dust before I realized what I had been missing. (My review here).
Truth be told, I’ve been steaming through the books in The Bowers Files, so named for the main character, Patrick Bowers. With a little concern I will discuss below, I’ve enjoyed them all quite a great deal, enough to move James up to one of my preferred authors in his genre.
So all aside, The Rook is a very solid follow up to The Pawn.
In book two, Patrick Bowers, an FBI environmental profiler, is called to San Diego to assist in the investigation of a serial arsonist.
But of course it could not be as simple as just an arson investigation. As the fires continue to occur it’s obvious they are just a small part of something much larger that reaches into the military and the government as a whole. Bowers has to rely on all of his deductive reasoning and profiling ability to get to the bottom of things. You’ll even find some familiar faces in among the villains.
James does a wonderful job of building on The Pawn not only in the further development of his main characters, but also in introducing some new characters that only add to the enjoyment.
While it’s quite enjoyable to see how Bowers processes a mystery, never being quite willing to accept the norm and frequently pushing the envelope, one of the most interesting parts of the book is the development in his relationship with his stepdaughter.
Following The Pawn I was a bit concerned there may be tenuous or perhaps even clichéd aspects of the angst ridden teenager/step-parent relationship in books to com. Not to worry, James does a great job of blending this aspect of the plot into the book as a whole so the relationship not only compliments but also becomes an important part of the entire story.
In The Rook James has crafte
As I said above, since I finished The Pawn I’ve been working through James’ Bowers Files and there have been very few things that have not been pristine.
If you enjoy character driven mystery and suspense with crisp dialogue and a keen sense of criminal procedure, so long as you can invest a little into the suspension of disbelief, you will likely love this series.
I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment below.
I've been a fan of Ron Rash for a number of years. Could be because I grew up in the South, maybe it’s his stories, perhaps his characters, most likely it's simply because Ron Rash is an amazing writer.
I'm pretty sure it the latter.
Rash, a college professor at Western Carolina University, writes a great deal about Southern Appalachia. You won't find zombies or vampires, nuclear bombs or plots where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. What you will find is crisp, quality writing. And the most captivating stories. Rash is such a polished and focused storyteller that his work all but comes to life on the page.
In Serena, the backdrop is 1929 Asheville, North Carolina. George Pemberton, a timber baron, has brought his new bride, Serena, to live with him as he supervises his company's clear cutting in the North Carolina mountains.
George has been living in Asheville for sometime, even fathering a child with a local woman (much to the chagrin of her relatives). Then after a trip home to Boston he returns to the wilds of Asheville with a beautiful young wife.
Initially you wonder how a beauty from Boston will fare in the backwoods of North Carolina, but she proves more than capable of getting along.
George and Serena start their life together, but circumstances take an unexpected turn when Serena learns she cannot have children. After discovering this she focuses her rather polished and dangerous ire on Pemberton's son from prior to their marriage.
In Serena (the character) Rash has created one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in sometime. I won’t spoil the experience of learning about her, rather I’ll leave that to you to discover.
To bolster this primary story, Depression era North Carolina against where the tale is set comes off of the page more like a painting rather than the written word. It’s clear that Rash has not only a gift for the written word, but that he is a master of all that is Appalachia, embracing not only the history but customs, patterns and styles of those who have called this area of our country home for centuries.
As the story progresses Rash weaves a plot that flows seamlessly as each page builds upon itself to the next. The conflict within and between the characters is so subtly developed that while it may not seem at first as if the characters are changing, suddenly you will see a transformation that will astound you. And as much as the characters transform, I believe at the root of the tale, they are simply learning their true identity and acting as their fate has determined.
The ending of Serena is astounding.
I learned not to long ago that Serena is being made into a motion picture staring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Given this book as a vehicle, it’s my hope that the film will accurately capture the essence of the tale and, if it does, it will be a movie that you will not want to miss. I also hope it expands Rash’s literary reach. But don't wait for the movie, get the book. You'll be glad you did.
I'd love to hear your comments, so feel free to leave them below.
Sean Keefer is the author of The Trust, a tale of mystery/suspense set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
The Trust is the Debut Novel from Sean Keefer.
I'm happy to consider books for review. I'll review hard and paperbacks. I'll also be happy to review eBooks but can only do Nook or PDF format. Email me from the Contact page for more information. Thanks!