Book Review: Deep Blue

Deep BlueDeep Blue by Brian Auspice
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Tuesday has been postponed until next Tuesday, but Wednesday is still on for this Thursday.”

This, in a nutshell, is Deep Blue by Brian Auspice, a surrealist entry in the New Bizarro Authors Series, a special group of books that publishes untested authors to see how they do on the market. Deep Blue is one of those gems that, without the NBAS, may never have seen the light of day because it is so surreal that it may go over a lot of readers’ heads.

You have a devil that lives in the fridge, a machine that must be “fed” every night, characters that change dimensions to 2D, men-in-cans, and faceless taxi drivers just to name a few elements in this book, and, yes, it all does tie together. This book is like a fever dream after smoking an incredibly exotic herb, and I loved every page of it. Admittedly, this review may not be entirely objective because I’m a total sucker for surrealist works, but it really is that good.

It reminds me a great deal of a NBAS book from a couple years ago called Kitten by G. Arthur Brown, which actually makes sense because Kevin L. Donihe accepted both of them for the NBAS. I’m detecting a pattern here. It’s difficult to really say much about what the book is about without giving anything away because things are tied so closely together that to describe one element out of context would make no sense at all. There are even “puzzles” of sorts to solve, like the machine that speaks only in binary, and it is actually saying something if you take the time to translate it.

Suffice to say that the book does have a point. While very short, I recommend that the reader not rush through it. Deep Blue is a steak that must be eaten slowly to enjoy the intricate flavors of each bite, not a McDonald’s hamburger that must be wolfed down before you can taste anything for fear that if it touches your tongue it will trigger a gag reflex so powerful that it would make Linda Blair jealous.

I can’t find much fault with this book personally. Even from a technical perspective, it’s sublimely produced. So this book is highly recommended but with a warning: This book will challenge you. It is not a brain candy type book nor is it the easiest of reads, but it is rewarding for the time and effort that you put into it.

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Book Review: SuperGhost

SuperGhostSuperGhost by Scott Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever had the experience where you feel sensation or pain in a limb that you no longer have, a phenomenon known as phantom limb? Me neither, primarily because I’ve never lost a limb, but that’s beside the point.

SuperGhost by Scott Cole is based on this phenomenon, putting forth the idea that a phantom limb is really just that: A phantom. The ghost of a severed limb lives on connected to the rest of the body. But what if a mad scientist devised a way to remove the phantom limb? A spiritual amputation, as it were. Then, what if said mad scientist decided to use the phantom limbs to create a ghostly Frankenstein’s monster to destroy the world? MUAHAHAHA!… Oops, got a little carried away there. Sorry.

SuperGhost is part of the New Bizarro Authors Series, where new authors who haven’t had a book published get a chance to prove that they have the chops. And Cole has the chops. First, Cole takes a somewhat unusual approach to his bizarro book, setting it in the “real” world, or a close facsimile. The world is identifiable and entirely believable and could very well be our own world. That is, until a giant ghost made of severed phantom limbs goes rampaging through the city. The characters are well developed, especially give the small space Cole has to work with. It was surprising how the characters could feel so fleshed out in such a short book. And the characters are likable. Heck, even the mad scientist villain is likable. It would have been interesting to see how much more developed he could be in a longer book. As they say, audiences will hate a good villain but love a great one.

It’s both accurate and unfair to compare this book to “Ghostbusters.” The comparisons are obvious, especially given the overall humorous tone of the book. But Cole adds more to it than just a “Ghostbusters” vibe. Comparisons could be made to lots of other sources, such as “Frankenstein,” but they are mashed and stitched together in Cole’s own unique way, creating his own Frankenstein’s monster of literary tones. But it’s all fun. In fact, if I was to describe SuperGhost in one word, it would be “fun.”

Unfortunately, while Cole does an admirable job with the short space he has, I would have liked to have seen this story written in a longer form. It’s a story that feels like it was meant for something bigger, and that it had to be trimmed down to make it fit with the maximum word allowance for a NBAS book. Still, SuperGhost is definitely a lot of fun and worth the short time it takes to read.

SuperGhost by Scott Cole earns earns 4 severed limbs out of five.

Book Review: Pax Titanus

Pax TitanusPax Titanus by Tom Lucas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Titanus is a Veritassian, an alien that is ten feet tall, has four arms, can only speak the truth, and can grow and shrink any part of his body at will. ANY part (being that this is a bizarro book, I’ll leave that bit up to your imagination). When his son is “kidnapped,” the kidnappers force him to enter a galactic gladiatorial contest featuring lots of weird aliens that could only spring from the mind of a deranged lunatic.

Tom Lucas’ Pax Titanus tells this story and tells it well. Then again, this book isn’t for those looking for a terribly in-depth story. The real feature of this book is the increasing amounts of alien carnage and detailed fight scenes to sate the reader’s inner blood lust. The story is more there to move the action along.

The characters are quirky, from Titanus’ inability to tell a lie to his wife (who’s a squid) communicating by secreting emotional ooze based on what she’s feeling. Right? Right. The book is the usual short length for an entry in the New Bizarro Authors Series. In this case, that works well. Lucas is forced to economize and doesn’t waste any time on extraneous details. He focuses on what’s important and gets to the point, which prevents the reader from screaming, “Get to the point!”

Graphic, violent, and simple, Pax Titanus still holds charm and does have a surprise ending. While this type of book isn’t always my cup of tea, it was still a fun read that kept my attention and does make the inner child squeal with joy at the copious amounts of mindless violence. Or is that just me? My inner child might be a little disturbed.

If I have a main complaint, it’s that this book could have used another pass the editor. Basic mechanical mistakes bug me enormously and are a pet peeve, and I have to knock the book down a little for that.

An enjoyable and short read that reminds one of a summer action flick, Pax Titanus definitely scratches a certain itch, although admittedly it may not be an itch that everyone has. If you like excessive amounts of literary violence not counting those brutal writers’ conferences, then Pax Titanusis definitely worth your time.

Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas earns 4 out of 5 bludgeoned skulls.

Book Review: The End of Protest

The End of Protest: How Free-Market Capitalism Learned to Control DissentThe End of Protest: How Free-Market Capitalism Learned to Control Dissent by Alasdair Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In years past, severe economic downturns and unfair political practices led to protests and riots. In The End of Protest, author Alasdair Roberts asks why there aren’t more protests now, particularly after the economic crash of 2008. This is a question I have asked as well. Where was the outrage? Sure, we saw people talking on television, saw posts on the internet, but why hadn’t people taken to the streets with pitchforks and torches the way they had in the past? Roberts attempts to answer this question.

Now, full disclosure: I read this book a little a while ago with the intent to review it then, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it has taken me quite a while to get around to writing this review. It turns out that this time has changed my initial perspective on the book and has provided much more valuable insight into Roberts’ message, and ultimately I feel that I can provide a much better review now than I initially could have.

Roberts’ prose is a little confusing at first. While he seems very direct and straight to the point, there are times when it feels more like he’s stalking the point and takes forever to actually get there. Still, it is clean with few errors and easy to read, making it easy for the layman to pick up and understand.

In this book, Roberts details the rise of protests, particularly with the Industrial Revolution, saying that at that time, protests had practically become an expected part of life, but had become disruptive to the establishment. This led to the creation of a standing police force. That’s right. Roberts proposes that the original purpose of the police was not to serve and protect the people from crimes. The police were actually created to quell protests and keep the established order running without disruption and maintain free market principles. This was something that I met with skepticism. I did not consider it outside the realm of possibility, but also didn’t feel that Roberts really provided enough evidence for this claim.

That is, until the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri last year. Observing not only the initial attack by the police, but the police response to the growing protests, not only there but in other places as more and more police-involved shootings occurred, immediately made me think of this book. Indeed, the police seemed to primarily be acting as an anti-protest unit with little or no concern for public safety. Life actually added weight to Roberts’ argument.

Roberts continues, following other protests and responses to them, up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. He argues that Occupy Wall Street tried be different to avoid past protesting problems, and while it was the result of a seething and legitimate anger, failed primarily due to this lack of centralized leadership intended to combat the monitoring and intimidation tactics now used to quell protest and prevent organizing before they even get going. When no one could be on the same page, they couldn’t even agree on a date for when the protest should take place until the Canadian firm Adbusters finally stepped up and said it would start on September 17, 2011. After the media refused to cover it initially and only did after the voices grew too loud, then began to sweep it under the rug and add more distractions to take people’s attention away. Bread and circuses.

While a good study on the history protest and the responses to it, the book is ultimately lukewarm in its tone and rather myopic in the scope of protests it studies. Roberts focuses primarily on economic-based protests of the United States and Great Britain, and does not cover protests that started for other reasons or in other areas (like France; now the French are people that know how to riot!). In addition, this book is preaching to the choir. It’s likely going to be read by people that already agree with the premise, and will probably be avoided by those who don’t already agree with it.

It’s an okay study, and Roberts makes and backs up his point well, but is ultimately a letdown and won’t reach those that really should be reading it.

The End of Protest by Alasdair Roberts get 3 picket signs out of 5.

Note: A free copy of this book was provided to this reviewer by the publisher through NetGalley. This did not in any way affect the content of this review.

Book Review: I Am the New God

I Am the New GodI Am the New God by Nicole Cushing
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Gregory Bryce is a typical college student in the 1980s, dealing with school, his roommate, and his impending apotheosis. Wait, what? That’s right. Gregory has been receiving correspondence from someone known as the Hierophant claiming knowledge that Gregory’s destiny is to become the new God, rising up to usurp the old and weakened Christian God and take control of creation. You know: Typical college hijinks.

In Nicole Cushing’s I Am the New God this is exactly what we get. Slowly, things are revealed about Gregory’s background, such as his stint in a mental institution, that he’s been on medication, and that he’s recently stopped taking that medication. Gregory at first does not believe the Hierophant, but slowly begins to warm up to the idea as he begin to complete the seven tasks the Hierophant has laid out for him to complete his rise to become the new God. But the question becomes whether this is real or if this is all part of Gregory’s (and the Hierophant’s) madness.

That’s what was so fascinating about it. The reader is genuinely left in the dark through most of the book about whether this is real or if we are simply reading the mind of a certifiable madman. From the violent mutilation of his roommate to his creation of a new life form named Hop Frog (clearly a tribute to W.H. Pugmire), we don’t know what’s real and what’s not, especially given that it’s written mostly from a shifting first person perspective. It becomes both fascinating and disturbing to see into the mind of the potentially insane.

The book is still a horror novel and there are many incidents of violence and gore, so reader be warned. Admittedly, the gory violence is not as much as it could have been, and Cushing seems to have exercised some restraint in order to put a greater focus on the story. In fact, I can’t say that any of it is gratuitous. All the violence, while creepy and horrifying, actually serves a point and furthers the plot. Like a slaughtered buffalo, nothing is wasted. The text has a good flow and the story ramps up to the ending at a pretty smooth pace.

If I have a criticism, it would be the changing perspective. While it can be interesting switching first person narratives between Gregory and the Hierophant, as well as the third person perspective of police investigators, at the same time the effect is also jarring and can pull the reader out of the book with the sudden shift. I respect Cushing for this bold choice, but I don’t think that it quite had the effect she was looking for.

A sublime piece of horror fiction, I Am the New God is definitely worth a read. With only minor quibbles, I can heartily recommend this book, especially for horror fans for a unique take that leaves the reader guessing until the end, even if they think they’ve figured it out.

I Am the New God by Nicole Cushing earns 4.5 completed tasks out of 5 (because, really, who’s got the time for 7 tasks).

Note: This review is based on a review copy sent for free from the publisher through NetGalley. This did not affect the content of the review in any way.