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.


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.

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.,204,203,200_.jpg

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.