Category Archives: books

typicalbook – Reverence by Joshua A. Landeros

For fans of bloody, all-out war fought with technology that we can only dream of today, “Reverence” by Joshua Landeros has it, in spades. Even the most casual action fan will be caught up in the pace, so it’s not one to skip even if you feel out of place on the battlefield. From literature, humanity, religion and love – this future-Earth is only a few decades removed from the planet we know now.

Will and Luis are our main soldiers in this raging campaign of a debut novel. Having human names helps, as they are more properly referred to as Unit 21 and Unit 18 respectively. Being early builds of the United Nations Republic elite Super Soldiers, these cyborgs blur the line between man and machine readily. They blur it with blood, whip-crack wit, volleys of machine gun fire, raw emotion, strength and most of all; a succinct and perhaps higher evolved sense of right and wrong. Now, that is not entirely programming. This is where the line blurs in the best of ways.

Having held off past attacks from rebel armies looking to infiltrate and decimate the UNR, the cyborgs rally alongside the vast human army and make gory shrapnel of anyone in their way. While Luis, his counterpart, may come across as the more psychopathic of the two, he shows much turmoil when his close female companion, Bia, comes under fire. He will risk directives and his own safety for her, making him a near liability. Not as much of a liability as Will, however, as the reader will readily learn. Here is where the true nut of the story lies, aside from Luis’ apparent weakness for his lover, Will has his own all too human weaknesses and what could be seen as a glitch. Under the watchful eyes of Doctor Krenzler and Chancellor Venloran, his programming and physical systems have been assessed and reset after hibernation between battles. One thing is overlooked: his memories. Not only does the nature of these memories pose a risk to Will, but they feed a fixation on a past he can’t recall and could very well be an artefact of his cyborg mind. With the threat of mass slaughter with the upheaval of government, and his temper tested by his own doubt, he is named second in command; taking the weight of the world on his metal and synthetic shoulders.

Many will revel in the military jargon within “Reverence” and Landeros deftly peppers in more weapons and machinery that you could shake an assault rifle at, but it never feels exclusionary. Without patronizing the readers who have no knowledge or interest in armaments the conversation and montage surrounding the tools of the trade come across quite naturally, and woven into the story well. As with the life of a career soldier – something few can truly understand from the outside – it too is woven in, making the stories of the men and women we meet here very relatable.

Crossing into horror, as civil war tends to do, there are many scenes with explicit gore. Violence is never outside of the task at hand, nor would it be seen as gratuitous. Much of the fighting follows a cinematic fluidity too, as well-written action does at it’s best. As with talk of human emotion coming from a cyborg, the blood and bone is used as a result of the situations. These machines are thrust into some very human realities. Be it grappling with deep feelings, controlling emotion or how to best incapacitate a room of trained fighters who want their head on a platter – Luis and Will dole out philosophy as readily as pain. That they are designed and programmed killing machines comes as no surprise, but how much of them that comes across as painfully human is refreshing. It could be seen as a shortcut in a way, to keep from having to write in a machine mind, and use literary and plot tactics that are far more relatable… and it works. But then, are the stories we tell of machines can be seen as reflections of ourselves caught in the chrome mirror that makes their flesh at the worst of times. At their best, our better, faster, stronger progeny may offer an unclouded view.

Much of this could grind, rusted, to a halt on the page if it were not for an easy yet never too casual writing style. A highly digestible read, there were no overstayed forays into romance or comedy as too many action packed science fiction stories meander there. Nor is it all dry bureaucracy or blood soaked carnage page after page. One of many things the novel offers is balance.

With the precision of style, compelling relationships and very well crafted roles – of both human and machine – I’d rate this a very high four and a half stars of five. The only shortcoming is not an illness of the story at all, but it could have been longer. The last few chapters wrap up deceptively neatly. Not so neat as to belie the sequels, but for all of the truly careful storytelling up until a series of face-offs and revelations, a few could have done with a little more conversation perhaps. Something more to gnaw on would be nice, even after a veritable buffet where room after room becomes a smorgasbord of mangled meat. “Reverence” is a very strong, and highly enjoyable dark adventure that serves as a bridge between carnage and technology:  Something that readers of horror, war, fantasy, science fiction or westerns could enjoy.

 

typicalbooks – The Only Child – Andrew Pyper

With a teetering to-read pile and a mobius strip of to-do lists, I gleefully took the offer to review the upcoming Andrew Pyper novel, ‘The Only Child’, when asked by Simon and Schuster Canada.

After enjoying Pyper’s previous work, ‘The Damned’ and ‘The Demonologist’, plus having a chance to sit down with him when the Dark Side Tour hit Ottawa in 2015, I dug into this new novel the same day it came. I tempered this knowing that even if he wrote about characters I didn’t connect with, the book would be well written and allow me to see what his latest work had to offer. That’s a very off chance considering I’d heard there were elements of my darlings like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker in the story.

My initial feelings were if Thomas Harris were charged with telling the tale of Anne Rice’ Taltos, we would be in the same woods Pyper leads us to. There is no denying the similarities to the familiar federal agent and her charge, the deranged doctor. Their demeanour and cold language, the quid pro quo nature of their interactions, the stark institutional setting, and the nature of the crimes our villain Client 46874-A commited to win an audience with our very deeply flawed hero, Dr. Lily Dominick.

Before too long we are enraptured with the small puzzle posed to Lily by her now escaped patient, and her being the titular ‘Only Child’ carries so much more resonance than the deceptively simple title suggests. As the story winds through the shattered psyche of the main characters, and the intercontinental pilgrimage the blending of their lives turns into for Lily, the reader is presented with some extraordinary implications. Not only are threads woven through the tapestry that is historical gothic horror literature here, but Pyper pulls them all slowly to bunch so much lore around one character the effect is stunning. When you step back, the tapestry has folded into itself only to become all at once flower and fruit. Whether or not his intention was a light hearted suggestion that there could indeed be a central fount to our classic horror writers inspirations, the effect of that suggestion is quite profound. You can’t leave this book without thinking about how wondrous this would be if true. A feeling so many have when pondering the tragic and powerful life of Count Dracula or Victor Frankenstein and trying as best we can with limited scope what it would be like to live a life even remotely similar.

Here we have the life story of such a creature. Without having to thrust this improbable person into a landscape we all know and trust, somehow Pyper takes that place we live and recognize and forces us to see his own creation hidden within all of it. A massive feat, when you think about it, and the exact reason I immediately wanted to read it again. Mobius strip style, to-read pile be damned.

Perhaps it is so hard hitting and engaging because it is written in the present tense. Expertly so, at that, since there is some storytelling of past events that I hesitate to term flashbacks even if that is what they are. They are memories, dreams, or stories within stories. These blend expertly into the timeline of the tale so that not once is this narrative tactic jarring. Another reason this story was so entrancing is the hints and breadcrumbs leading deeper into the forest of history, fiction and fear itself. Even those who only flirt with horror from time to time will delight in the glints of other mythologies here, and the serious student should be entirely dazzled. From body horror, psychological thriller, and pure terror, ‘The Only Child’ hits so many marks without being a messy crossfire that even when only grazing you, this book inflicts a raw flesh wound.

Visit Andrew Pyper online at his site, and do hunt down his other books!

You can pre-order this at Simon and Schuster, Amazon, and elsewhere.

 

Tips on posting HWA new releases

Those in the know, know that I moderate the new releases page on the Horror Writers Association site. If this is news to you, I hope you find that a fun fact! The following post appeared as and addendum to the May version of the newsletter, and I thought I’d post it here for future reference. Perhaps these tips will help you elsewhere, and improve future submission of new work if you are a HWA member!

Novels, collections, and even some how-to reference — from self-published, small press and well known publishers — the Horrific Minds really show the spread we have and the opportunities that writers, editors and authors have taken. On that note, I’d like to make sure everyone gets the same chance to put their best foot forward.

Some tips on posting your new release information

Make sure the links are viable. An author or publisher website is best. If your personal site or blog has a page devoted to your book, that’s great too. After that, an amazon link works great and may even be better than a purely informational link – after all, having a direct link where readers can buy your book is the point! The worst are links to facebook posts or tweets. They have a shelf-life, can be blocked due to privacy settings, or even simply turn off readers who dislike or don’t use social media.

Having a proper link to your cover image is very important. Not only to make my life easier and save us from having a back and forth over email trying to get an image in place on horror.org, but for potential future use! If your image exists online, you should be able to right-click on it and copy the image URL. This is what we need. Should you have trouble finding a good image there is help to be had from your publisher, other authors, and even the kindle community message boards. Should your image not appear online, you can upload it to image servers like photobucket, imgur, flickr, and even tumblr. The link to the page the image is on is not exactly the right thing – the link should end in .jpg or .png meaning it is the link to the image and not the html or php page.

Keep your blurb ‘blurby’. Long summaries are best saved for press releases and your book’s website or amazon listing. Here, what works best is something akin to back cover copy. In fact, that should really be exactly what you submit. The shorter version should be a couple sentences since it will be edited down if it is too long.

There may be some changes to the new release form in the future, but these tips should serve you well. If you have questions or input on the form, feel free to send an email to newreleases@horror.org anytime.

As ever, I thank you all for the time taken to submit, and to read these hints! It’s all about making your promotional posts the best they can be, especially when everyone gets to see them!

Thank you to all who listed, and please do share these free promotional listings provided to members each month. Make sure to fill out the New Release Form in the Members Only area of the HWA Web site by the 15th of each month to have your future releases posted in Recently Born Of Horrific Minds! I’d love to include every book, but some were released too long ago to count as ‘recent’, so they may not be listed here, but appear on the ‘Members Books’ section of horror.org/new-releases-2017/.