About Me

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I write and live with my beautiful wife, Sandra, and sons (Solstice, Finnegan and Brahms) in a little-big house on a dirt road in a valley in the hills. My secret identity struggles through the grind of teaching high school English to the denizens of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review of The Last Guardian by David Gemmell

This is the second novel of David Gemmell's that I have read, and the second book in the Jon Shannow trilogy. I have to say, I am amazed that David Gemmell is not a more common name in the fantasy world. I also hope that some day his works get translated into different mediums. Comic books would be great, but so would films or TV shows.

The Last Guardian picks up immediately after Wolf in Shadow, where Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man is continuing his search for the holy city, and being tragically accosted by villains and surrounded by death. He is a noble madman, who goes through a very satisfying arc in this second installment. David Gemmell is good at introducing lost of disparate elements into his novels until you wonder what the heck he could be thinking. He weaves these together in a most satisfying manner. He melds mythology, religion, and good old post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure in a great story. I can't wait to read the final installment, but I am hesitant, because I have truly fallen in love with this story and don't want it to end.

The story has action, and lots of despicable characters, and noble ones, too. Even the despicable ones, however, manage to find redemption. There is also a lot of weird events and historical/biblical events that are explained in an amazing way in a novel just under 300 pages. The story can be read on many levels simultaneously. It is one part pulp action, one part mythical western, and one part philosophical fantasy. If you used to enjoy the brain candy of Thundarr the barbarian, you will love losing yourself in the world of Gemmell's creation while being pleasantly surprised as an adult reader at the same time.

Perhaps, this isn't for every one, but if you're anything like me, a thoughtful lover of fantasy who get fed up with cliche and political dramas, you will love Jon Shannow and The Last Guardian.

Also, if you can't get your hands on The Wolf in Shadow, you can read this story as a stand alone novel.

Rating: five stars out of five.

Still here, plugging along


I'm still here. I've even been writing when I can. I'm waiting on news of Test of a Prince. I am also writing my novel: The Hairy Monster Book. It is going well, and I'm having a great time. I hope to have this finished by the end of May. I am well over half way done the novel at this time. It isn't easy having to work, raise five children and the like and start a writing career, but I will do it. I'm having too much fun writing.

If you haven't seen the movie, Paul, go do so immediately. It is very funny, heart warming, and wonderful. It is irreverent without being cynical. I left the theater like a kid again. I can't recommend this movie too much. Even my mother left the theater laughing.

I've been reading some real good books lately. Next on the docket: Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars. Well, I wrote another 5,000 words today. Going to hit the hay. First, I'll post a review of my latest read.

Take care,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review of Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene

This is the first fiction I have read by Brian Keene, but I can say that Mr. Keene has a brand new fan. Darkness on the Edge of Town is a 264 page brutal study of a small American town in the the twenty-first century that becomes surrounded by a supernatural darkness and consumed by the darkness that already resided within.

Being told from the first person perspective allows the story to remain mysterious, immediate and brutal. I particularly liked the fact that the novel succeeds in creating a reality that speaks to the experience of people of Generation X and younger. We no longer know our neighbors, we no longer enjoy a sense of community, however claustrophobic an experience that was for the baby boom generation and those of earlier generations. In this way, Keene's story is a bit more persuasive in its horror than such works as Under the Dome, that are still inevitably told from the narrative perspective of those who experienced a different America.

I did not want to like this book, as it is visceral, haunting, and deeply explored the edge of madness we all skirt at times. I did like this book, however, and for anyone who is sick of torture porn or stories where evil is so easily categorized and made mundane by Vampire detectives and the like, you will here find a story that will not fail to tickle your terror bone.

The book, in its veiled references and the characters' mad hypothesizing, alludes to a lot of historical horror, it also hints at the terror of existing in the black prison of a gnostic universe. I will read more of Keene's work, intrigued to see if he explores this vision in the rest of his body of work.

I will rate this book five stars out of five. I do this because I kept reading, despite the despair and terror I experienced. It is an apocalyptic vision that I will not soon forget. Now, I will wait for the sun to come out of the late winter sky and savor every last bit of its light.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review of Suicide Kings, edited by George R. R. Martin

On the first Sunday of April vacation in 1987 I put down my comic book and went out for a bike ride. My mind on the four color adventures of my favorite heroes, I did not pay attention to where I was headed. I took my bike off a ten foot ledge and came centimeters away from dying or paralyzing myself. Stunned and with a broken collar bone, I was rushed to the hospital by my parents. Afterward, tired of sitting around in a sling, I followed my mother into the drug store where she was getting my much needed codeine. There my eyes fell on a new shared-world novel of superhero history, called Wild Cards. That week, recovering, I basked in narrative that explored a world of superheroics with much of the bombast and pathos of my comic books, but with so much more depth and intricacy. This was for what I had been craving. Each month running off the school bus, I had run to the mailbox to see if twenty-four pages of story had come. Here I had hundreds of pages of character development and intrigue. I knew that someday I would want to write fiction like this.

Finally, twenty four years later, I have had my first superhero story published (in Static Movement's Powers anthology) and a second accepted at Thousandfaces.com. I also just finished reading the latest installment in this series: Suicide Kings.

In the world of Wildcards, an alien virus was released over New York City in 1946. 90% of all those who contracted the virus died in horrible ways. of the survivors, 90% became hideously mutated due to a psychic reaction, their bodies twisted into parodies of the human shape. These were called Jokers. The lucky 1%, became aces, gifted with marvelous powers.

Suicide Kings is the third novel in a trilogy, that mostly details the aces (and some Jokers) who work for the UN sanctioned Committee. This novel can be read alone, of course, as each of the characters featured (each written by a different writer) follow complete character arcs, and the story, although following the events of the past two novels, is self-contained. If you are new to the WildCards universe, I would suggest going back and reading the first couple of volumes, recently reissued.

This book may be my favorite in the series so far. It may also feature my favorite character of the series so far: Rustbelt. Wally "Rusty" Gunderson is a Joker/Ace, who has indominatable strength, a skin of Iron, and the ability to rust any metal he touches. What makes him my favorite is his indomitable spirit and his heart of gold. He and the other main characters largely become involved with the People's Paradise of Africa, a burgeoning nation led by a sinister brother and sister, and supported by the insane and possibly most powerful Ace on the planet, The Radical. This story has so much intense drama, action, and suspense, I could not put it down. The bad guys are well developed and horrifically interesting. The good guys are fallible, often bumbling, and eminently admirable.

I won't give too much away, except to say that if you read the original novels back in the eighties and nineties, you won't be disappointed. Many of the old characters appear or are referred to by this next generation of heroes.

If you are new to the WildCards universe, I hope that you will pick this volume up and give it a try. The writer's have outdone themselves with creating a story that resonates with excitement and pathos.

Five Stars out of Five