Peter Clines – “14”

Break-neck pace, witty, and intriguing — 5 stars


14 by Peter Clines is hard book to offer a summary description of that isn’t full of spoilers. And if there’s one book on my recently read list that I don’t want to spoil, it’s “14.”  I’ll let the Goodreads summary do the talking on that one for me:

Chosen by as the best sci-fi novel of 2012!

Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches. There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything…

Walking like a cat on a rail fence between Science Fiction and Horror, Clines does an outstanding job of marrying the two without diluting either. Using little mysteries and quirky questions to propel the story, “14” is an attention-grabber.  A hook here.  A hook there.  Another, and another.  Any of which an inhabitant of the story could pass off as peculiar on their own.  A misunderstanding. Your imagination maybe, getting the better of you.  But taken together, the pull is too strong to be ignored, for both characters and readers alike. The pages keep turning with impressive speed.  A hundred little hooks, all pulling you toward… Something sinister?  Something mysterious? Something otherwordly?  Something evil? Yes to all of the above.  Clines has an outstanding sense of pace and timing, knowing that a mystery kept mysterious for too long is boring and a premature reveal steals the impact.

There’s little more I can say about “14” without spoiling the fun, but I recommend it without reservation as one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

C.T. Phipps – “Cthulhu Armageddon”

Loaded with Cthulhu Horror, but otherwise, awkward — 3 Stars

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON by C.T. Phipps is a tale of post-apocalyptic survival, revenge, and sanity-wrecking eldritch horrors.  I was eagerly on-board for the things it promised.  I was less enthusiastic about what it delivered.

What it is: Clearly, it’s a labor of love, brimming to the top with wonderfully rendered Cthuloid horrors. It goes beyond embracing the mythos and wallows around in it without shame, showcasing fresh blasts of the weird and grotesque at every turn. I liked that.

What’s it not: It’s not a Post-Apocalyptic Western, no matter what the cover says.  Aside from the appearance of a cowboy hat and some western-wear costumes late in the book, there’s nothing vaguely western-themed about it.  It also comes across as far more “spoofy” and less “dark” than I think the author intended. I’ve seen the author routinely describe this book as “grimdark.”  But it’s more akin to “Army of Darkness.”

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Jeff Salyards – “Scourge of the Betrayer” – Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy, Book 1

A slow, but strong start — 4 stars

SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER by Jeff Salyards is the first installment in the Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy. It is a showcase of grim, gritty military fantasy following the adventures of an elite mercenary company as seen through the eyes the unfortunate scribe assigned to chronicle their exploits.

This book split me right down the middle. It hit many of my favorite markers for personal taste. Witty. Genuine. Dark and gritty. Sincere in its treatment of the subject matter and the consequences that come from a lifetime of living by the sword.  It captures the essence of life in this Syldoon mercenary band, their bond as brothers in arms, with style and great believability.  Salyards delivers a first-rate combat narrative.  And not as a one-off, a good fight scene here or there.  He does it consistently from start to finish. He leaves your imagination aching with the grinding of broken bone and the wash of hot blood, keeps you flinching with the push and shove of desperate survival.  He takes an iron hammer approach to combat and isn’t afraid to hit you in the teeth with it.

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