Tag Archives: new bizarro author series

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: 8-Bit Apocalypse

8-Bit Apocalypse8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Jimmy is a loser. Stuck in a dead-end job at Chuck E. Cheese, he constantly listens to whisper videos on his phone to soothe his crippling social anxiety while he cleans vomit out of the play tubes. Then the apocalypse happens. A giant mutated Atari cartridge begins attacking Denver by bringing classic games to life, such as Centipede, Frogger, and Space Invaders (although “E.T.” is absent because that game was so horrible that the cartridge would likely self-destruct; seriously, it’s a cancer!). Now it’s up to Jimmy, who is the only one who has figured out what’s going on and knows how to play the games in order to stop the apocalypse.

This is the story behind 8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings, part of this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series. This is always a fun series and I look forward to it every year because it brings us new and experimental voices in fiction, and it’s always interesting to see what stories new authors can come up with and how they choose to tell those stories.

In 8-Bit Apocalypse, Jimmy is a very flawed but identifiable character. The reader can easily feel sorry for him and can root for him, although at times one might feel like they want to reach into the page and slap some sense into him. In that case, the novella length of this book is probably a good thing, as a character like Jimmy would have a very difficult time carrying a full-length novel. Most of the other characters are fairly two-dimensional and tend to simply stand there taking video of the events with their phones, but they don’t need more characterization for the purposes of the story. This is Jimmy’s story, and the other characters are there merely to give something for Jimmy to play off of.

The story is decent, if a a bit inconsistent. The action tends to get a little jerky and doesn’t have the smoothest of flows, but then again most of the action takes place within living Atari games, so this smoothness is relative. The ending seems very anticlimactic at first glance. But when one thinks about it (and it’s also explained within the text), it’s actually the most appropriate ending one can be given with this kind of a story and its theme.

I know that 8-bit anything is trendy right now, but it has a soft spot in my heart because I grew up in the age of Atari. Those games were simple yet had a certain elegance that stuck with the players and are remembered fondly to this day. 8-Bit Apocalypse is similar. The characters aren’t complicated, and neither is the plot (there’s not really any mystery or anything unanswered), and even seems a little by-the-book. At the same time, this gives the book a simple elegance that manages to stick with the reader for a while after they finish. Whether this will still be remembered fondly 30 years from now like the Atari games referenced within remains to be seen. But the book is simple yet satisfying in its own way, providing a solid story and characters that provide a modern literary look down an electronic memory lane.

8-Bit Apocalypse earns 3.5 whisper videos out of 5.

Book Review: The Mondo Vixen Massacre

The Mondo Vixen MassacreThe Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Okay, I’m just going to say it: Jamie Grefe needs to lay off the caffeine, or cocaine, or whatever he’s on.

The Mondo Vixen Massacre is Jamie Grefe’s entry into this year’s New Bizarro Authors Series, a series I look forward to every year as it brings new and experimental voices in fiction. Grefe’s entry is…unique, to say the least.

The book begins with Tom Clay being graphically tortured in every way you can possibly imagine and then some. Vixens of every type have broken into his house, murdered his son, kidnapped his wife, tortured Tom, and left him for dead. But he’s not dead. Thus begins a bloody tale of rescue and revenge as he attempts to recover his wife from the vixens’ clutches and maybe find out why they targeted him and his family to begin with.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the writing style. Aside from just being graphically violent (Grefe shies away from nothing), the book is told in a stream-of-consciousness with constant action. Actually, it’s more like reading the transcript for a high-energy pitch for an action movie, music cues and camera shots included. This is where things get interesting, both potentially good and bad, like a Schrödinger’s novel. Before I get into that, I need to explain about the plot and characters.

The characters are there. They’re well-drawn for their purpose, but not much beyond that and can be a bit shallow and two-dimensional. As for the plot, it’s there although without a whole lot of mystery that isn’t easy to solve. Now, I need to go back to my point in the last paragraph, because again this is not necessarily bad, depending on your point of view.

The way the plot and characters serve about as much purpose as in a porn movie. They’re there mostly because the audience expects them to be, and they provide a reason to drive the action. But it’s really the action that takes center stage. Grefe seems to have taken a similar approach in having the plot and characters there to drive the action, which is his main focus and clearly what he had enormous fun writing.

And there’s the rub: If you’re looking for non-stop action (the massacre really is nonstop from page one all the way to the end) and don’t mind the plot and characters being more like decoration, figuratively and literally, then you will have a lot of fun reading this book. But if you require an in-depth plot, you will probably be disappointed. That being said, if you’re looking for non-stop action, be careful what you wish for. You’re going to need a lot of energy to keep up with Grefe.

The Mondo Vixen Massacre by Jamie Grefe earns 3.5 robo-vixens out of 5.