Friday, June 16, 2017

Review of Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm

 
Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm: A litRPG Adventure (The Viridian Gate Archives Book 1) by [Hunter, James]

















Author: J. A Hunter

Publisher: Shadow Alley Press

Release Date: Dec 23, 2016 (ebook)/ April 20, 2017 (audio)

Length: 306 Pages/ 8 hrs, 44 mins (audio)

Narrated by Armen Taylor


LitRPG has been a hit or miss genre to me since I discovered it a couple years ago. While there are some really good books in it, there are also some that just seem to be trying to cash in by writing a generic story which just adds stats/leveling up and dungeon crawls and loot drops to be called LitRPG and grab onto the popularity the genre is currently having. That being said, Viridian Gate Online: Cateclysm, is not one of those. It is, in fact, my favorite title in the Genre, surpassing the Way of the Shaman series. Thats a pretty good recommendation in my opinion.

Viridian Gate Online (VGO) has a fairly unique premise. The story starts off with Jack, an EMT, conflicted over whether he should get into the immersion pod for VGO provided to him by an old college friend that works for the company that developed VGO. The reason he is conflicted is that if he gets in and stays 72 hours, one of 2 things will happen. He could stay in, and his mind would be mapped and digitized and he would remain in the game as his character, Grim Jack, forever. However, his body would shut down and he would only survive ingame. however, there is a one in 6 chance he would die before that in the tank, his mind rejecting the transition, and he would just be dead instead.

However, this is all kind of a moot point, since in 9 days, almost everyone will be dead. Yes, you heard that right. There is a 9 mile wide asteroid, 213 Astraea, headed for Earth, projected to land just off the coast of Greenland. Well, that's an extinction level event, so, game over, so to speak. Except for the ridiculously wealthy and survival lottery winners, planning to live in deep earth bunkers, the only way to "survive" is to immerse in VGO, where your digitized mind will survive in the 7 great over mind servers buried deep underground. Well, since Jack is the main character of the story, you can guess which path he chose.

After immersing himself in the game, Jack goes into the character development screen. He goes through the character race types, and picks Murk Elf for himself (think dark elf) type, liking some of the character's natural bonuses. Being an experienced MMO gamer, Jack knows he has lots of choices in class for himself down the line, and the game doesn't force a class choice immediately. After he sets up the character, she starts the game play. He awakens in a cage in a dungeon lab, where someone has been vivisecting people. Not the most promising start to a game! There is another prisoner named Cutter, a thief, who offers to help him escape what apparently is some evil dark priest's torture dungeon. No place they want to hang out in.

They make their escape, although along the way they discover an old Murk Elf woman on the edge of death. She charges Jack to return her medallion to her tribe, to let them know how she dies. She also unlocks the shadow spark in Jack, allowing him some access to special abilities. This is now a quest for Jack, with the attendant quest requirements and rewards attached to it. After their escape, Cutter takes Jack to his city, where he introduces Jack to the local thieves union hall, since thieves don't have a guild.

What starts here is the adventures Jack expected, since after some training, he goes on a series of adventures, collecting loot, leveling up, basically doing what everyone does in an RPG. After being contacted by his old college friend Abbie, he takes a teleport scroll and goes to meet her with Cutter. This start some adventures and quests Jack must undertake to advance.


Later on Jack meets up with Abbie. She explains she discovered irregularities in the code of VGO, that rich people have paid to have restricted areas and quests set aside, so that they could easily level up and gain legendary level weapons and gear, basically cheating to create a paradise with themselves at the top of the food chain. Abbie wants to end around that and see if they can circumvent it. They then start the set of adventures and quests that will determine the fate of VGO. Will it just be a rich persons paradise with everyone else a serf, or will it be a chance to excel for all? What follows is a set of epic adventures and quests, which test the mettle, heart and skills of Grim Jack and Cutter, meeting a wide assortment of characters and completing more and more challenging quests, all while finding out even deeper truths about VGO, and about what the world truly faces in game. He will have to make some life and death choices that will affect many more people than himself.

This book is a must read for any fan of LitRPG, or fan of good writing, actually. The characters are phenomenal, with Jack and Cutter being the standouts, but even the secondary characters and even the monsters are well drawn out. The dialogue is tight, and there is real emotional punch to the story. The world building is epic in scale, but so well described you feel as though you are right there in the thick of things, which is all you can ask from a writer. You can tell there is a much larger world and story out there, and that we are just being introduced to something grand.

Narration wise, Armen Taylor does a great job bringing each character to life. They all have their own personalities, quirks and voices. He uses tone, inflection and accent to differentiate each character. Overall, a top notch performance.

I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed this book. I truly believe it is the best LitRPG on the market today, and I hope the author has huge success with it and keeps writing more! I for one, will be in line to get the next installment.




















Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review of Grey Panthers: Battle For Earth by David Guenther


Gray Panthers: Battle for Earth Audiobook



Author: David Guenther

Publisher: David Guenther

Release Date: Jabuary 7, 2016 (ebook)/ February 25, 2016 (audio)

Length: 226 pages/ 6 hrs, 16 mins.

Narrated by Liam Owen 

30 years after Iran nuked Washington DC and we basically wasted them in response, the surviving government suspended half the bill of rights, confiscated guns and had half the military desert or resign rather than attack US citizen. What followed was a huge growth in Homeland Security contractors to take their place, enforcing the draconian "security". 

This is the country Dan "D2" Daniels, a retired Army Sgt. Major, finds himself. When Dan goes down into an abandoned mine he hopes to find some gold in, he comes across a cavern with a spaceship that has been there for a hundred years. The ship is from a more advanced race that is peaceful, and it tells him that earth will be invaded in twenty years by a violent alien race. The ship, called Grub, agrees to help Dan prepare the Earth to repel the invaders, starting by making him young and healthy again, although his face is still that of a 70 year old man. 

So begins the adventure of a lifetime, as Dan starts recruiting old vets into his group to prepare to take the country back from the disease of corruption that has shredded the Constitution and prepare to defend the Earth from invasion.  They are going to save the Earth, no matter the cost or the obstacles thrown in their way. With a large diverse group of interesting characters, an all too believable setting in a totalitarian Socialist America, and interesting technology, along with pulse pounding battle scenes and close quarters fights, this will appeal to any fan of military science fiction. 

Liam Owen, who also narrated Steven Campbell's Hard Luck Hank series, does an excellent job of creating great voices for the various characters. He gives them a real world weary quality, and his narrative pace is excellent, with great tone and inflection. 

This is just a good old fashioned sci fi tale, not hard sci fi, but just a sci fi action story, and that's ok. Not everything needs to be a deep introspective look into hard science or social commentary. Sometimes, a story is just meant to entertain, which this one does. I can't wait to get into book 2. If it is as good as this one, this may easily become one of my favorite sci fi series.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review of King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven L. Shrewsbury

 King of the Bastards Audiobook



Authors: Brian Keene and Steven L. Shrewsbury

Publisher: Apex Book Company (paper and ebook)/ Beacon Audiobooks (audio)

Release Date: July 21st, 2015 (paper and ebook)/ May 12, 2017 (audio)

Length: 163 pages /5 hrs, 23 mins

Narrated by Doug Greene


I picked this up on a whim, liking the idea that someone wrote an unabashed old school pulp fantasy. I wasn't disappointed! This reads like an old RE Howard Conan book, only one where Conan had his kingdom, tired of the throne and passed his kingdom on to his heir to rule while he want back out and had more adventures. All this takes place in a pre Hyperborea Earth, so some of the countries and places will sound similar. If that sounds intriguing, this is the book for you. 

While on a fishing trip off one of his old ally states, in a bireme of all things, his ship is attacked by a tentacled horror, Pirates, and then zombies after the ship is destroyed. Before the ship sank, though, Rogan is told by the lead pirate he was sent by Logan's unknown bastard son, and he has conquered his kingdom and imprisoned the rightful king, and are raping and pillaging across his kingdom. They end up on a beach in unfamiliar territory and discover a tribe of natives. The native, and a group of Amazons who happen to be staying with the natives, agree to help them get home if they get rid of the evil necromancer and his demon on the top of the local mountain. Well, needs must, so if off to slay the wizard. 

What follows is a wild trip to the mountain, with the invertible co mingling with the Amazons, with hilarious results.The climb up the mountain is crazy, and the fight after involving magic, strange science and even a dash of time travel is just gonzo fun. This being pulp fiction, you can probably figure out how it ends. It is a lot of fun right through to the end.

The characters are all larger than life Conan archetypes. Rogan is big, powerful and an epic warrior, even pushing 60. His nephew and aide is also an epic warrior. The Amazons are all beautiful, even with the one breast missing (traditional Amazons) and great warriors, all while being wildcats in bed. This is certainly not a PC kind of title. Its much more old school, and I think it is an under served market in the current marketplace. While they may be over the top, they are entertaining. The settings are well thought out and described, and fit the story well. The plot is fast paced, and relies on a lot of action to keep things moving.You just don't see this kind of book written too much anymore, sadly.

Doug Greene's narration was solid, keeping the story moving and giving the characters their own voices. Very good effort on his part.

If you are into the kind of fantasy RE Howard was writing, this is something you may want to check out. I know I am looking forward to any sequels.

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Press release concerning Brian D. Anderson's new Audible deal


Brian D. Anderson Becomes the First Indie Author to Get A Six-Figure Audiobook-Only Contract

Brian D. Anderson
Brian D. Anderson
Spread the Word:

MANHATTAN, N.Y. - May 31, 2017 - PRLog -- BOOK EXPO NEWS -- Brian D. Anderson has a lot to celebrate as he is now the first self-published author to secure a six-figure advance for an audiobook-only deal. The indie bestselling fantasy author was offered six figures by Audible Inc. for the license to produce audiobooks for books seven and eight in his best-selling Godling Chronicles series.

"A deal of this magnitude proves once and for all that indie authors are on par with Big Five authors," Anderson said. "If anyone in publishing still has any doubts about the strength and quality of independently published books, this should go a long way to shatter that belief."

Anderson's literary agent, Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, described the deal for these books as a fierce battle among audiobook producers similar to the plots of her client's books.

"Audible was the hero of the day, swooping in and winning Brian's books over some major competition," McLean said, tongue in cheek. She added that the impressive sales numbers for the first six books of The Godling Chronicles series in both audiobook and ebook formats, and their sustained sales over the past four years, convinced Audible that even a six-figure advance was not much of a risk.

ABOUT THE GODLING CHRONICLES

The Godling Chronicles recounts the adventures of Gewey Stedding as he fights against the Dark Knight and his minions who have stolen The Sword of Truth from the gods, trapping them in heaven and bringing darkness to the world. With the Sword, the Reborn King can reshape the world and bring death to all who oppose him. It is epic fantasy at its best with elves, monsters, gods and a hero who must reach far beyond himself to save the world.

ABOUT BRIAN D. ANDERSON

Brian D. Anderson is the best-selling indie author of three fantasy series: The Godling Chronicles, Dragonvein, and Akiri (co-written with Steven Savile). His books have sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. Brian lives in Fairhope, Alabama with his wife and son. For more information about Brian, visit his author page at Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Brian-D.-Anderson/e/B00684NQ4E).

ABOUT FUSE LITERARY
Fuse Literary is a new type of hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional book publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, social media, and technology. The company has offices in California, New York, North Dakota, Vancouver, Dallas, and Chicago. Founding partners Laurie McLean and Gordon Warnock are joined by agents Connor Goldsmith, Emily Keyes, Michelle Richter, Jennifer Chen Tran, Tricia Skinner, Margaret Bail and Carlie Webber. For more, visit www.fuseliterary.com or follow us on Twitter @FuseLiterary.

For more information contact:
Brian D. Anderson, 347-768-1654, thegodlingchronicles@gmail.com

Laurie McLean, Fuse Literary, 650-922-0914, laurie@fuseliterary.com
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Monday, May 1, 2017

A review of Fade Rippers: Galefire by Kenny Soward


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Author: Kenny Soward

Publisher: Broken Dog Press 

Release Date: Jan 3rd, 2017 (ebook)/ April 11, 2018 (Audio)

Length: 127 pages / 4 hrs, 7 mins.

Narrator: Scott Aiello


Lonnie, runner for the Eighth Street gang, has a feeling something about his life isn't right. He is the lowest member of the gang, used for running deliveries of drugs and going to the store for supplies. He just keeps feeling something isn't right, and keeps having wild dreams of another world where he is flying on a dragons back fighting airships! When he gets a frantic call from a gang member to meet them out back of the clubhouse and be prepared for violence, he doesn't expect to see what he does, as the club members are being attacked by supernatural creatures! After watching his gang leader Selix use magic after getting high to defeat the invaders, Lonnie is thoroughly confused, and even more so after she uses her powers to wipe away the memory. The memories are starting to refuse to stay buried though, and after the club is attacked again, Lonnie learns he has been kept in a memory wiped daze to protect him, since the beings hunting him could sense him if he had his memories. Lonnie and the other gang members are refugees from a lost war in another dimension, which one I wont tell because that would be a huge spoiler. This new knowledge Leeds to a climactic confrontation with the forces hunting for Lonnie, and his life will never be the same again, as he finally gets his memories back and realizes just who he really is, and what that means. Nothing will be the same again and he needs to decide what actions to take from that point on.

This is not the typical urban fantasy, with the usual wizard detective or some such. The Eighth Streeters are a violent drug gang, due to their upbringing. They have a much more varied past than you'd expect, hinted at through conversations. It is an interesting mix of characters, and they bicker and fight as any group in close quarters would be expected to. The hidden secret the gang hides does explain quite a lot of their actions, and when it finally explodes in violence, it is much larger than you'd expect. Even though the characters are more anti-hero than hero, you can still get to like them, and appreciate the lengths they go through to protect Lonnie.

The setting is grimy and well drawn out, and not some place you'd want to visit. It takes place in Cincinnati, not the normal Chicago or LA of UF novels, so that was interesting, and you can almost see the grime on the street and smell the reek of the sewers as explained in the book. Overall, a well drawn out world.

Scott Aiello, who also narrated the author's Gnome Saga books, did an excellent job bringing the various characters to life. Each character has his or her own unique voice, and he has a great touch with tone, pitch and cadence. His narration is always top notch, never lagging or monotonous. 5 star effort all the way around.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A review of Lucifer's Star by CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus



Lucifer's Star by [Phipps, C. T., Suttkus, Michael]

















Author: CT Phipps and Michael Suttkus

Publisher: Crossroads Press

Release Date: October 13, 2016 (ebook)/ May 17, 2017 (audio)

Length: 300 Pages/10 hours and 20 minutes

Narrated by Eric Burns


What would you do if you found out the cause you struggled and sacrificed so much for, the very nation you fought for, was actually the bad side, the greater of two evils? How would you reconcile that in your mind? That is the issue Cassius Mass, the Fire Count, ex-Crius Archduchy Fighter pilot and noble, as well as the clone of a noble, has to deal with five years after his side lost the last war against the Commonwealth. 

He has been on the run, hiding, and for a time, fighting against the people who brought down his country and killed all those he loved in a night of fire and death. Now he is navigator on a space freighter, just keeping a low profile hoping he will be forgotten. When his lover Isla tells him she knows who he is, and reveals her own secret, that she is a bioroid (a human body with a robotic brain), this touches off a series of events that will effect the power of the galaxy as its known. The ship's Captain Ida is secretly a commonwealth Watcher (Think secret police), and she too knows who Cassius is, and she will get him a pardon and get his fortune released if he agrees to perform a task for her. This task it to infiltrate a ship and get Ida's intel source out, with the vital information she has. The problem? After they get onto the ship, Cassius discovers the source is his dead sister Zoe, or at least her duplicate bioroid, and the secrets she carries could bring down the commonwealth or the Crius resistance and even draw in aliens into a conflict with humanity! The story continues on with a series of adventures, double and triple crosses, betrayals, tortures and revelations about the crew and about the nature of the ultimate enemy, leading to the climactic final scenes where Cassius must decide which side, if any, to ally himself with, all while staying true to his own beliefs. All in all, one incredibly complex and deep dark science fiction plot.

As with all CT Phipps books, this one is very character driven. As good as all the sci fi elements are, the complexity of the plot is, it is the characters that drive everything. From Cassius, the war hero pilot who was cloned by a powerful noble to displace his two natural born children, and has struggled to follow his own path, to Isla, the beautiful burned bioroid who was a pleasure slave and is now struggling to be free against her programming, to Clarice, Isla's other lover and a woman with a past as deep as Cassius, the cast of characters all have many hidden layers. their motivations make sense in the context of their environments. They all have interesting back stories, which are slowly drawn out throughout the book. This group of characters is very much an example of reactions showcasing nature vs. nurture. Can a noble's clone from an amoral society built on slavery and privilege, a feudal society in all but name, safeguard the lives of those that in a previous life he wouldn't have given a whit about? Can a bioroid pleasure slave violate her programming and fight for what she believes in? These are the types of quandaries the characters have to deal with, and so many more. When these characters all find out what is behind all the plots, will they stay and fight, or cut and run? You'll have to read it to find out, but it is worth the time investment.

The plot is very complex, with many twists and turns, betrayals, double and even triple crosses. It seemed everyone in the book had at least one secret, and many of the characters had multiple secrets. As always, even when dealing with very dark subject matter, CT Phipps manages to inject some humor and snark into the proceedings, keeping this from turning into Grimdark Game of Thrones in space. The characters are all relatable on some level, which is not something every writer excels at creating, but which this author has always managed. As you read further in the book, new layers open up before you, sucking you deeper into the story. The sci fi elements are all really well executed, and there are even a few new touches for the genre that definitely have the WOW factor to them.
Definitely a treat for sci fi fans.

The narration work is handled by Eric Burns. I was surprised at how well a relative newcomer like Eric handled the various voices, from the crew of the Melampus to the various other worlders and the Chel. He does a great job creating various voices through tone and cadence for the various male and female characters. His narration was steady, varying pitch and speed to the action.All in all, an excellent job bringing the story and characters to life.


The author is working on the sequel, and I can't wait to get into it! You will find yourself getting invested in these various characters, and wanting to see where their next adventure takes them. The story theme, that struggles like this are more shades of grey, rather than black and white, are topical in any time. I cant recommend this book highly enough to any fans of sci fi or thrillers. It is in a class all its own!

 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A review of The Science of Supervillainy by CT Phipps.

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Author: C.T. Phipps

Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing

Release Date: April 1st, 2017 (Print)/ April 11th, 2017 (Audible)

Length: 202 pages/ 6 hrs and 5 min. Audible

Audio narrated by Jeffrey Kafer

In which Gary, aka Merciless, the Supervillain Without Mercy™ struggles to defeat his arch enemy, Other Gary, aka Merciful.Thats right, Other Gary is back, and more Bat*** crazy and powerful than ever. At the end of the last book, Gary had dealt President Omega and Other Gary a setback. As this book starts, Gary and his team, including his henchmen (Henchpeople?) Red Riding Hood and El Diablo, as well as his vampire wife Mandy and ex fiance Ultragirl are attacking the presidents forces to try and stop President Omegas planned apocalyptic destruction of a large chunk of the worlds population. Just when they think they've won, things go pear shaped in a hurry!

Captured, brainwashed and imprisoned in what basically boils down to Pleasantville by other Gary, Gary and Mandy finally escape after 5 years with the help of Night Girl, another Cloak of Death bearer. Things have gone decidedly bad in Falconcrest City, with all the clean air, water, high tech readily available and air of happiness now found there, all for the cheap cost of being ruled by a dictatorship of Merciful and the world's other superheroes. Its up to Gary and his allies, including some new ones like Mr. Inventor, a former love interest of both Red Riding Hood and Night Girl, to stop other Gary from destroying the world and replacing it with his warped version of the world. Oh, and did I mention that Gary finds out about his...well, nope, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Gary has a lot of surprises awaiting him in his quest to stop Other Gary. Lives will be lost, relationships altered forever, and Gary will have to determine what path he truly want to follow, leading up to the climactic final boss battle with Other Gary!

As always, CT Phipps, while writing a story about Supers, really writes about people, characters you can relate to, even if they have a warped perspective. They really ring true to the reader/listener, having understandable motivations, even if they are, as Death calls it, alternatively sane. You can really empathize with Gary, which is strange, since he IS a sociopath. The new characters are a blast, especially Gizmo. She brings real insight into the various characters. I thought it was also fun that Gary's niece basically becomes Jubilee from the X Men. Same powers, if that's what you can call them, although she is much better at it than Jubilee.

The level of snark and humor in this one, especially with the level of violence and mayhem, really helped lighten the mood. Constant pop culture references to various geek chic things including Star Wars and Trek, various anime, D&D, comics and a slew of others are a treat for geek in all of us. I will be upfront, I had to agree with Gary's opininon of Rogue One in this one, not Red Riding Hood's, the exact opposite of Secrets of Supervillainy, where I agreed with Red's opinion over Gary's about Star Wars episode Seven. This is the kind of existential dialogue you can expect from this book. It is a geeks dream come true with the references! I love that the author has the characters reference his other book series, such as gary reading Cthulhu Armageddon while imprisoned, or referencing Straight Outta Fangton as the newest Vampire Chic culture. Not many other authors have the huzzpah to go all self reference, especially in such a funny way! He even references some other author's work, in particular Jim Bernheimer's D-List Supervillain protagonist, an alternate version in their world called MechaniCarl, Carl Stringel. Funny stuff if your in on the joke.

What can I say about the narration? It is top notch as always, Jefferey Kafer really being on his game. His various voices, especially Red Riding Hood and Gizmo, are fantastic, and his narrative pacing is excellent. He really helps bring the story to life! He is now my most collected narrator, having 30 of his books in my collection! That should tell you how much I like his work.

All in all, this feels like the strongest effort in the series, and does a great job of tying off loose plot threads. The author could stop writing these if he wanted to, having tied everything up, but I've heard there are more to come! Authors should read this series to see how to complete a plot arc without leaving loose ends or rushing things. All in all, one of my favorite listens this year. 6 stars!!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A review of The Secret of Supervillainy by CT Phipps.

https://ctphipps.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/e77d3-tsos_color2btitles.jpg

Author: C.T. Phipps

Publisher: Amber Cove Publishing

Release Date: July 4th, 2016 (Print)/ July 19th, 2016 (Audible)

Length: 214 pages/ 6 hrs and 6 min. Audible

Audio narrated by Jeffrey Kafer

In which Gary Karkofsky, aka Merciless, The Supervillain without Mercy™, makes and executes plans to bring his wife back from undeath. That's right, undeath. After his battles with the undead and an old god in book 2, in which his wife was brought back from death after Gary makes a deal with Death, only she's brought back as a vampire. Gary is now desperate to save her, willing to make any deal to bring her back as herself. He does this while facing a whole new threat from one of the most powerful people in the world, with resources far beyond what Gary is prepared to handle. All while trying to deal with his increasing feelings for Cindy, his henchwoman Red Riding Hood. What do you do when your in love with two women, one a blood sucking fiend and the other an amoral henchwoman? Seems Merciless™ has a case of first world villain problems. This is a much twistier story than the first two, but in a good way. It ratchets up the intensity and keeps you coming back for more.
 

This is s very character driven story, as are the first two. Even though it is dealing with costumed heroes and villains, It is basically a story of characters and their relationships between each other and their environments.The characters are so well put together you can get in the head of each of them, and see their motivations and logic. This makes them very accessible. The dialogue is crisp and sharp, with snark and touching moments abounding. It actually had me choked up a couple of times, and then left me laughing hysterically in so many others. The argument that Gary and Cindy have over the need to have made Episode 7 of Star War, and whether it was just a gender swapped knockoff of Episode 4 with more lens flare (Cindy's opinion) is a great example of the humor level.  The world building is so good. You can see in your head the streets and buildings of the city and definitely don't want to go on vacation there!
 

As far as narration, Jeffrey Kafer does his usual outstanding job, bringing each character to life, and keeping the narration moving smoothly. He really adds a lot to the audiobook.

The final analysis is this is a really well written series, and this book in particular. It definitely doesn't take itself too seriously, and is a great addition to the Supervillain genre made popular by books like Confessions of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer and Blackjack:Villain by Ben Bequer. This is one of those series that you won't be able to wait for the next installment!

A review of Cthulhu Armageddon, written by CT Phipps.

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Author: C.T. Phipps

Publisher: Crossroad Press

Release Date: August 22nd, 2016 (Print)/ October 10th, 2016 (Audible)

Length: 267 pages/ 8 hrs and 30 min. Audible

Audio narrated by Jeffrey Kafer

Cthulhu Armageddon deals with the remnants of humanity struggling to survive in small walled enclaves 100 years or so after the rise of the Old Ones, the primordial gods of the universe. Being so vast they barely notice the life forms on earth except as nuisances under their tentacles. This coming has also created mutated humans and brought monstrous servants with it. Into the wasteland created by this invasion go the Rangers, the city's scavengers and warriors against the encroaching darkness.

John Henry Booth is just such a Ranger. When he and his team discover a tower deep in the Wasteland, they discover a man they thought dead is working with the power of the Old Ones to bring about the end of Humanity as it was, and shape it to his twisted desires. When his team is lost on the mission, Booth is found wandering near his city, and is brought in and tried as a traitor. With the help of his ex wife, he escapes with another prisoner, a woman who killed her husband, and they escape into the wasteland. Out there, they discover what the madman's real plan is, and gain allies and new enemies while trying to stay alive. Booth also discovers he is not what he seems, and has an even wider destiny than he could have imagined. The climactic ending is well suited to the book, and leaves you wanting more, especially as you discover just how Booth plays into the grand scheme of things.

Like all CT Phipps books, this is a very character driven story, even given the large and appalling setting of a world almost destroyed by the Old Ones. The relationships between Booth and his companions and enemies sets the tone for the whole book. Booth almost seems a man out of time, a warrior with honor in a time when that commodity is becoming increasingly scarce, even as his world slowly comes apart and his secret is revealed, even to himself. The world building (destroying?) is excellent, giving you a feeling of living in this desolate and dying world, where you live on the knifes edge of survival. This has to be one of the best realized dystopias I've ever heard of in books. Plot and pacing are also top notch, with a great story line and fast paced action keeping the listener engaged. Unlike most of the author's books, there is not a lot of snark in this one. An occasional funny line, sure. Outright snark, not as much, seeing as the giant tentacled horrors from the Outer Reaches have basically destroyed civilization.

Narration-wise, Jeffrey Kafer does an outstanding job, which is something I've come to expect from him. He brings each character to life, and keeps the narration flowing steadily, never letting his narration lag or become monotone. Just another excellent performance.

This book is a must listen to anyone into the Cthulhu mythos or dystopian worlds. It keeps the listener/reader engaged and wanting to see where the story will take them. In this case, it will be in directions you never expected. All told, a five star effort from the Author.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Wraith Knight: Three Worlds (Book 1) by CT Phipps

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Author: C.T. Phipps

Publisher: Ragnarok Publishing/ Audible Studios

Release Date: 11/1/2016 (Print)/ 1/18/2017 (Audible)

Length: 322 pages/ 12 hrs and 2 min. Audible

Audio narrated by Kevin T. Collins



Jacob Riverson is Knight Paramount of the Shadow Guard, The Southern Kingdoms guardians against The King Below and his forces of evil. After killing Kurzad, one of the four Dark Lords (think super powered Ring Wraiths) in combat, Jacob faces the King Below, the trixter God of Evil, in the final battle of the fourth age. The King below kills him by running him through. 250 years later, he becomes aware again, standing on a mountain top, facing the trixter god in his non battle guise. Jacob is told by the God that he is a wraith and that he replaced the last Kurzad as his Dark servant, and has been a dark force of evil fighting for the King Below against the forces of light. As they speak, two dragons come flying up, with knights riding them, fighting each other. As the smaller dragon is killed, it's rider, a female knight, calls on Jacob to help her, thinking he is a knight of the Shadow Guard. He decides to help her, and uses his powers to kill the other knights and their dragon. 

Thus starts his journey with Regina, a current Shadow guard, who have fallen greatly since Jacobs time in the guard. She tells him the King Below was killed by the nine heroes, and then they usurped the rule of the Southern kingdoms. So starts a huge series of adventures and tribulations, as Jacob has to deal with the evil did as the Dark Lord, and figure how he can use that power for good. Along the way, they travel the kingdoms, fight one of the usurpers, meet Sarah, a dark powers witch who isn't evil, and go to The King Below's Kingdom, Everfrost, which is situated over the entrance to the Underworld, where Jacob decides his final fate. The final battle of the book is epic, with huge revelations about the forces behind the events of the last 250 years, about Jacobs past, and about future directions of the series.
 

This book has everything fans of epic, dark fantasy clamor for. Flawed characters, deeply complicated politics, falls from grace, chances at redemption. The author also has complicated interpersonal relationships, including intimate ones, along the lines of A Crown for Cold Silver. They are as natural as breathing, not something added to create a "message". Watching Jacob's voyage through this book is great, since he is such a great flawed character, having done awful things, both for good and evil reasons, and seeing him strive for redemption really endears him to the reader. His companions are also fully realized, no just cutout props. There is great magic of various sorts throughout, and a surprising amount of snark for a dark epic like this. All in all, a definite 5 star listen.

 Kevin Collins narration was great, and I can't wait to check out his other work. If your looking for something to compare this to, the closest thing would be Alex Marshall's A Crown for Cold Silver. I can't recommend it highly enough.

A review of Star Dragon 13 by Michael Ender

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Author: Michael Ender
 
Publisher: Self Published, Available through Amazon
 

Release Date: January 15, 2017

Length : 33 pages  



In a future where humanity has reached the stars, but is ruled by a totalitarian government, The Legions have to fight the war with their alien neighbors, a helium breathing race who are interested in the same real estate. On an explration Mission, When Star Dragon 13 and her fellow fighter ships are deployed, an enemy battleship appears out of nowhere, and their mother ship leaves and the other 12 Star Dragons are destroyed. The captain of 13, a stealth Prototype, Commits suicide per SOP, anthough he doesnt destroy the ship as he should have with his suicide by explosive. This leaves 1st officer Adrianna Archa in charge of the 4 person crew. She tags the location of  the Battleship and they remain in stealth mode. What follows is a harrowing journey trying to determine what really happened, and what their mission really was. You find that Adrianna was sold to the Legion by her family, and that is not uncommon. They must make decisions that could lead to their death either way, either by enemy action or by Legion Command if they failed to understand their mission properly. The story ends with some wild action,  a battle for the battleship using the unique technology of their prototype Star Dragon and heading back to the Legion for either a medal or a firing squad. The story had lots of twists in its short length, and did a good job of fleshing out the various characters. The author did an admirable job of creating a fleshed out universe in this short a story, and I hope to see a full length novel based on these characters soon, since I think it is an engaging universe that has lots more stories left in it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A review of Wolf Killer (The Hammer Commission Book 2) by John Van Stry

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Author: John Van Stry

Publisher: Self Published, Available through Amazon

Release Date: August 9th, 2016

Length: 191 pages and 5 hrs, 39 mins on Audiobook, 

Narrated by Doug Tisdale Jr.


 I was already a big fan of John Van Stry's writing from His Portals of Infinity books. When I had the chance to review his latest release on Audible, The Wolf killer, from his Hammer Commission series, I jumped at the chance. While this is book two in the series, you can easily pick up the story from the start. With that, heres the review.


Imagine if the things that go bump in the night really existed. Who would take out the evil nasty Demons, Devils, Fae and monsters? Well, The Vatican has a secret team of monster hunters called the Hammmer Commission, chartered through Interpol, for just such a task. Mark is their leading agent and after a mission goes bad, he is lent to the FBI to help train their monster hunting teams. At the same time, a seriously twisted werewolf is torturing and killing women in Virginia, and the team is sent to investigate. What they find is horrific in the extreme, and only the help of the local Weres and Mark's wife, a WereCougar, do they manage to bring him down and stop the cause of his rampage. As Mark says, they may be monsters, but it doesnt mean they are evil. This is the second book in the series, but it is stand alone enough to follow along with no problems. With well rounded characters, a well developed world, villains that really have bite and some serious snark, this is a must read for any fans of Urban fantasy.

As far as narration, Doug Tisdale Jr. does a great job with the material, keeping the narration flowing and bringing the characters to life. He is quickly rising in my list of top narrators.