More Things I’ve Read Lately

For another installment in things I read lately: Fierce as the Grave by John Hornor Jacobs. I was supposed to include the Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett in this, but I’ve been swamped at work and haven’t been able to listen to my audiobook as much as I’d like, so that one will be pushed to later.

Fierce as the Grave is a collection of four short stories, all dealing with death/undeath, which you may have gathered from the title.  They go quickly, but that’s sort of the point of short fiction. Entertaining, thought-provoking, and creepy; just the way good horror writing should be.

Verrata: Futuristic sci-fi horror short about a guy with a slug that connects him to the internet. His slug starts to go haywire and he starts seeing visual errata (verrata, if you will). It’s better than I make it sound. Neat premise, fast read, A little dark. Liked it a lot.

Heaven of Animals: In short: zombie wranglers. John takes the problem of a shit-ton of zombies and comes up with a solution. He then writes a short story about it. There’s a horse named Dharma.

Bone China: I’m not going to tell you exactly what this one is about because I think trying to figure out exactly who the old lady is is part of the fun. Basically, old woman in Arkansas has way the hell too much money and decides to throw a party with some interesting guests.

Sneaking In: This one might have been my favorite, simply for the ending. It’s the classic boy meets girl and they have sex in a graveyard type story. So overdone, if you ask me. In case you missed it and aren’t living inside my head, that was sarcasm.

So, there you go. 4 stories for a buck. A quarter each, and you have some entertaining dark stories to read on the shitter, or in bed. Hopefully those are two different places. I’m generally not a fan of short stories, preferring something meatier to really dive into and swim around in for a while, but I enjoyed these.

You can find Fierce as the Grave on Amazon here for $0.99 on your Kindle.

Things I Read Lately

I think I’m going to start a category of ‘things I read lately’ where I’ll talk about things I’ve read and what I liked about them. I’m not going to talk about stuff I didn’t like, because that sort of negativity doesn’t help anyone. Everyone likes different things, and if me saying I didn’t like something keeps you from checking it out, I may have helped you rob yourself of a great experience. These aren’t really reviews, because I’m not going to go into detail and rip them apart or talk about themes and such; I’m just going to summarize and say why I liked them. So, without further ado:

Promise of Blood, a Powder Mage novel by Brian McClellan. This sizable novel is an epic fantasy set in a flintlock fantasy world with Powder Mages who can do cool stuff with gun powder, Knacked who can do low-level magicky things like go without sleep forever, and Privileged who are straight up magic wielding bad-asses. It centers around a small cast who are well developed, follows some well though-out political intrigue, and throws in some deities stirring things up, to really create a mess. A fun read, that I recommend. The rest of the trilogy is forthcoming, and in the meantime Brian has some short-stories on his website you can buy for your e-reader. I reviewed one of them here.

The Darwin Elevator, first of the Dire Earth Cycle by Jason Hough. For one reason or another, I spent the whole time reading this thinking it was an Angry Robot book, which has nothing to do with how good or bad it was, I was just surprised when I looked on the spine and saw Del Rey/Spectra there. For clarity, I have nothing against either publisher, in fact, the folks at Angry Robot are extremely nice people, and their books are top-notch. Moving forward. Darwin Elevator follows Skyler Luiken (did I spell that right? I’m not sure), a smuggler of some renown, as he tried to save the remnants of humanity from a nasty disease called SUBS that has generally made the Earth a shithole. The only safe-haven for people is a space elevator that some aliens sent to Darwin Australia that keeps the disease from advancing while you’re near it. Jason does the infected zombie thing well, giving the disease enough of a uniqueness that I don’t just think ‘ugh, really, zombies?’ The characters, story, and conflict are well built, which helps, because he isn’t just relying on the existence of zombies to create the plot. They are A problem, not THE ONLY problem. As I said before, this is the first book in the Dire Earth Cycle. I think the last installment just dropped last week. We should look into these.

What I’m working on next: I’m currently in the middle of the audiobook version of The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett, and I have started on John Horner Jacobs’ short story collection Fierce as the Grave, which is also very good and currently on sale for 99 cents in the Kindle Store. I’m on a bit of a horror kick, I guess.

Happy Reading!

Hope’s End

And so begins my first ever review:

Hope’s End is a short story from Brian McClellan that takes place shortly before the opening of his novel Promise of Blood. It’s a nice introduction into the flintlock fantasy world of the Powder Mage Trilogy.

You can see a sample of the first scene on his Facebook page here. Just that first little bit does a good job laying out the conflict, introducing the protagonists, and setting the general mood. I suggest checking it out, it will give you a solid feel for the rest of the story.

Basic premise: Captain Verundish is given an ultimatum from her husband: kill yourself or your daughter is sold into slavery. At the same time, she finds out that the man she loves is tasked with heading up a suicide charge against a fortress – something known in the Adran Army as a Hope’s End.

What I really appreciated about this piece is that you don’t have to have read Promise of Blood to understand what’s going on. He does a solid job of introducing enough of the setting and magic to make sense, without overloading you with useless garbage; a hard line to toe in a second world fantasy short  story. As an immersion type reader, I would have liked to have felt a little more connection with the setting, and maybe even some more character building, but that’s hard to do in a couple dozen pages, so I’ll cut him some slack with that.

All in all, Hope’s End is a fun little read for when you’ve got a few extra minutes to kill and you want something with some action, some emotion, some things getting blown up, and some flintlocks.

The story can be purchased here, and Brian’s novel Promise of Blood is available here.

Did you find this review helpful? If so, or not so, let me know! Your feedback can make future reviews better!