Spring Blitz 2017 – The End Is Nigh

May 2, 2017 at 9:40 pm (horror, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

My blitz is all over now but the waiting. I do already have a couple of acceptances (and multiple rejections).  I should have posted this wrap up on Sunday, but I beg off based on illness (I had a cold), taxes (I had to finish them up) and gardening (we planted this weekend.)

I had meant to write this following review up as soon as I finished the book, but all the things I mentioned above got in the way. Besides, I find writing a review is something better done once I’ve had a chance to mull things over.  And so, I’ve been mulling.

The first thing I want to say is that Zeroes, by Chuck Wendig, was a breath of fresh read.  After having read a handful of very formulaic Sandra Brown thrillers, which while entertaining on a basic level, had seriously flat and repetitive characterization and even reused the “father gave daughter up for adoption but regretted it later” plot line, I needed something with substance.  Zeroes had substance, and then some.

First of all, I always judge a book by its characterization, and the characterization in Zeroes offered novelty and depth.  The cast was diverse.  While one of the protagonists…perhaps you could call him the protagonist-in-chief, because there were technically five protagonists (six if you want to count Harris who perhaps is more of a strong secondary,) is very much a white male everyman, he certainly doesn’t “save the day”.  In fact, he is heavily reliant on the diverse other characters in his hacking group and would have gotten nowhere without them.  There’s a rocky romantic thread with the exceptionally competent Aleena and the “buddy” component with DeAndre, and even the aging mentor/father figure in Wade.  While in essence none of these plot elements are original, what makes them different are the strengths and weaknesses of the particular characters and the out of the ordinary dynamics involved.

And then there’s Reagan – the best part of the book for me.  She’s the character I both loved and hated the most.  She’s the one I could identify with even though in some ways I despised her…someone I could have been if my life had taken a different turn at some point.  She’s callous, brash and unapologetic.  She’s also clever, creative and conniving,  Plus she’s broken.  All the protagonists are in some way, but you can see it most in her because she’s brutally honest about it.  Her most notable shining moment is my favourite part of the book and without it, the story would have been lost.

I can forgive a book with a weak plot line as long as the characters are good, but I didn’t have to in this case.  The plot had oodles of dark intrigue and thrilling action with enough complexity to keep me interested.  And I have to say that I loved the little introductory chapters for each of the characters.  It gives you a chance to properly “meet” them before jumping into the story, so that you actually care what’s going on.

I picked up this book out of curiosity because I follow Chuck’s well-written blog.  Now I will probably go out of my way to read more of his books.  This one was a winner.

Here’s one of the recent release of one of my flash fiction stories from a prior out.  Check out “Pure Mime” at Body Parts Magazine.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Kevin Hopson

June 5, 2012 at 12:10 am (Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

Early Release for Bad Behavior – by Kevin Hopson

I was asked to read this digital short and if possible give it an honest review. I like stories of a horror or thriller genre, so I agreed. I don’t normally include spoilers, but I can’t comment on everything I feel I need to without them.

The story presents us with the main character, Jake Evans, a prisoner on death row, lamenting the conditions of his surroundings, and the restrictions imposed upon him. To his surprise, he gets transferred to a special compound at Lansing, in a very hush-hush, rough way, where he is subjected to an unusual medical procedure involving a machine like nothing he has seen before. The experiment is interrupted by a police raid and from there, the full truth of Evans’ tale is revealed.

Even though I did enjoy this story, to tell you the truth I noticed two issues right from the start. There were grammatical errors suggesting the story could have used a better edit, and there was a discord between the narrative and the storyline. Written in first person, I was expecting thoughts that reflected a less-educated criminal mind-set, and in places the narrative does capture this, but use of fanciful words like “differentiated” in the opening paragraph, “physical affliction” for pain and suffering, and terms like “piss off” followed a few sentences down by a word like “altercation”, and a later use of “propensity” sent conflicting messages about the narrator.

Why would an inmate be using words you would expect from a university professor? While it makes some sense later in the story, I felt it damaged some of the suspense. Did the writer intend this as a clue to the reader? Possibly, but it was pretty blatant and I thought it revealed too much about the narrator. To me, the story would have been more intriguing written in third person, or at least with the language toned down a little, so as not to give too much away.

The descriptions were good, and in some cases quite clever, and the writing flowed reasonably well. I was interested enough in the story to keep reading, despite the issues I mentioned. I was a little let down by the ending, mainly because I was “looking” for something to be different in the protagonist so it didn’t strike me as the “reveal” it should have been, but I can say that the ending was satisfying in that it brought closure to the tale and it didn’t leave you scratching your head.

While I can’t say I loved this story, I did find it entertaining. I would probably rate it a 3.5 if I could, leaning slightly more towards a 4. Better than average but not one of my top picks.

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