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The Steel Remains (GollanczF.)
The Steel Remains (GollanczF.)
by Richard K. Morgan
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.01

124 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, dystopian, delivers, November 21, 2008
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should start off this review by admitting that:

A.) I'm a big fan of Richard K. Morgan's work. I devoured the Takeshi Kovacs books. I really enjoyed Market Forces. Hell, I even liked Thirteen. As a friend of mine says, Mr. Morgan should be: "chained to his desk and forced to write novels for me." A sentiment I wholly agree with.

Which leads me to my second admission...

B.) I was so excited for this book, Mr. Morgan's fabled, long rumored departure from sci-fi and his first foray into noir-ish fantasy, that I ordered the book from England. It doesn't come out here in America until January or something like that and quite frankly, that was too long for me. I couldn't wait. So, I actually ordered a fantasy book "special" from overseas...

So bare those things in mind as you read on...

In a nutshell, my review of The Steel Remains goes like this: Fantastic. Great. Very, very good. I really enjoyed it and I excitedly await the second... which I will probably order from England.

So it goes like this:

Ringil Angeleyes is a once storied Hero-of-Legend living off his reputation at the edge of the World. Egar Dragonbane once rode a Dragon down to its fiery death and now wallows in a life of boredom amongst his goat herding, steppe wandering, superstitious hick kin. Archeth Indamaninarmal is the last of her kind, a half breed left behind by her Father's people and now serving an Empire she no longer believes in and an Emperor barely worth his crown. These three former friends and companions, heroes and veterans of the war with the Scaled folk that nearly destroyed humanity, now find themselves on a path towards a new war, a war against a darker evil, a more powerful and more dangerous foe than the Lizards, and all with a World that none of them is even sure is worth saving anymore hanging in the balance.

So the main complaint I've seen, is the one from people who happily land with both feet on the "seen it before" rant, as if there is such a creature as a wholly original tale, ESPECIALLY where such a tired and played out genre as fantasy is concerned. First off, this book isn't a traditional fantasy story, so from the start, any comparisons are ridiculous. This is a far flung future world, a world so far ahead, that the moon is gone (having apparently been shattered at some point lost to history), technology and society has regressed (possibly due to the same cataclysm that befell the moon) and so much time has passed since that no one even remembers the world as it used to be. The setting alone precludes the inclusion of those tired and oh-so familiar fantasy tropes in the usual ways and their re-appliance in this new setting automatically makes them seem new again. Which is really the point, isn't it? To fall back on the old cliché: There's nothing new under the sun. The trick, then, becomes to redress the old as new.

And that's what Mr. Morgan does.

The classic fantasy bits here have been taken and twisted and painted with shadows. They are recognizable in order to allow the reader to slip into this new world somewhat easily and that very same familiarity makes the other odd occurrences, the incongruities included, seem to stand out and all the more strangely and noteworthy as a result.

So are there things you will recognize? Familiar Archetypes? Recognizable themes? Common twists and turns? Yes, at times. Guess what else? Morgan also uses gravity to keep his characters from flying off into space, someone call the literary police!

To be honest, part of this reaction is Morgan's fault. He has stated that it was his intention to do something new and different in the tired world of fantasy and to my mind, he has, but when you make that kind of statement, certain... people... quickly and firmly set their stance as biased and ready judge, carefully cataloging and comparing every nuance and bit against their pathetically encyclopedic knowledge of the poor limping parade of garbage that has come before just so they can rush out and highlight every last bit for the rest of us and then... I don't know, they get a badge or a plaque or something...

What you will find, should you buy this book (and you should) is a strange and dark and fantastic trip through a World that has just recently won their great climatic battle against a dangerous, otherworldly evil. They have saved their World. The War of their Age has been fought and won and Evil has been beaten and cast back into the seas from whence it came. Huzzah! ...And then everyone turned on each other. Alliances crumbled and petty squabbles over the lines on the maps soaked the ground with the blood of warriors who were, until just recently, friends and stalwart companions. It's a world were ignorance and religious driven hatred and paranoia rule the day and the moment where good stood together and the world could have almost been something great is now long gone. And no one knows this better than the War's heroes. They drink and wallow and wander and wonder if it was all worth it. Their golden moment of glory has given way to the long dark of smoky bars and regret tinged ghosts. But despite all this, our trio of heroes are just that, heroes and when the clarion call of trumpets sound them back to battle, they come, no matter how small and tinny those trumpets may be. In the end they stand together in the dark to fight the first skirmishes in a coming battle against an ancient evil newly awoken...

What more could you want then that?

The second complaint I've heard is over the "gayness" of two of the characters. Yawn. Whatever. Its there. So what? Morgan's books have always leaned graphically toward sex. If this puts you off, then know that this book is no different than the others.

The third complaint I've read is that "nothing happens". That's just... completely untrue, completely, but I can see where certain... people... might complain of that, being that they like things that `splode and only things that `splode, well, sorry, what can I tell? At times, in this book, Mr. Morgan does spend some time developing his characters, their situations and the world around them. There is some set up required. This is the first book in a trilogy and as any real fan familiar with sci-fi/fantasy will tell you, that means there's two more books coming and as such, one could expect that there is more story on the way and that perhaps... PERHAPS... Morgan is keeping the big, big battles for later... Maybe...

Anyway, to make a long story short. I loved this world and its melancholy gray characters moving through their shadowed landscape. I loved the "real" characters, the three dimensional characters and their normal speech patterns and thoughts thrown into the mix with the classic tropes and trappings of monsters and magics and myths. I loved the hints of mysterious and long forgotten high technology and the broken down remnants that remain. I loved the murk and the muck and the mud. I loved the hollowness of the Empire's rhetoric and the sadness and disappointment the heroes felt in its wake. And I loved them returning to battle again, because in the end, they can do no less.

My recommendation: Buy it.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2010 1:12 PM PDT

Thunder and Ashes (The Morningstar Strain) (Pt.2)
Thunder and Ashes (The Morningstar Strain) (Pt.2)
by Z. A. Recht
Edition: Paperback
77 used & new from $0.01

10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Permuted Press is to blame, August 15, 2008
I finished Thunder and Ashes a while back and I've struggled since then with just how exactly I felt about it. I won't dive too deeply into a synopsis because others have done so elsewhere and the story is a basically just the continuing struggles of the two different groups from the last book trying to survive in a zombie infested world.

So, was it well done?

eh...Not really, but at the same time, it wasn't terrible. So where did it fail? Where was the breakdown? Where does the fault lie?

The easy answer is the author, but I don't think that is entirely fair.

Because while yes, Thunder and Ashes is more than a bit amateurish, make no mistake on that and populated by characters that are mostly wooden and interchangeable (the pure transparency of the "red shirt" minor characters is dumbfounding, they almost cross the line into self-parody), none of it is bad... at its core.

Most of the characters are classical archetypes, just like the quest nature of the story itself is classic. Basically all of the elements involved within the story are correct and familiar, they all do what they're supposed to when they're supposed to. The right moments are all hit, plot wise. Sure, the book is predictable in that way, not to mention somewhat two dimensional and heavy handed, but my point is, the basic necessary elements are all present and accounted for. To me, the author shows that he is well versed both in the minutiae of this genre AND the tropes of classic story telling. Its all there...

Where he fails is in his window-dressing, his details, his finer points, his character moments. The dialogue is... ugh, for the most part. Often times characters stand around in a circle and talk amongst themselves, explaining whatever silly and somewhat obvious crap they're going to do, (while we, the readers, wait patiently for them to catch on so the story can move forward again) but since they all lack a distinct voice, it just seems like each one is only given a chance to speak merely to remind the reader of their presence. At other times, the dialogue is so stiff and unrealistic, its just painful. I mean really, who hasn't heard of an Ostrich before and the action that they are famous for? It doesn't need to be explained, man, we all get the metaphor. And to compound the amateurish nature of the story, when all these characters are chatting away, making their Casper-Van-Diem-ian level jokes, not once, NOT ONCE, is there a single character moment revealed about them. Who are they, where do they come from, what was their life like before this, what are their hopes and dreams, how do they feel about each other, are they worried about family and friends? Nothing. Nothing is revealed and as a result, the characters remain, for the book's entirety, as nothing more than simple 2-D archetypes, classic archetypes sure, but flat, spare and a complete enigma to the reader. I mean... I don't even know what any of these folks even look like. To be fair, the Author may have mentioned some details once a while back in the first book, but hey, how about a refresher detail or two every now and then? And the town defense, while fun, in its way, its basically nothing but a time waster, story wise, its nothing but padding and if you haven't read the first book... don't bother starting here.

As for the "tense" situations, they are anything but, most of them are so contrived as to be just stupid. Its all bad horror cheats of the worst stripe. "Oh no, my foot is caught! Ah! Zombies!" or even better: "Hey, there are zombies walking around, so I'll just TURN OFF my Walkie Talkie despite the fact that my buddies in the tower could be using it to guide me... AH! Zombies!" Come on, dude, you don't need to cheat for the tension, the situation will supply it naturally just be its very nature and setting.

Despite all of this, though, I still feel the book and the Author has potential. Every bit of this just reeks of earnest, honest effort but the simple fact is, this version isn't ready for publication yet. This book is a first draft, plain and simple.

And that's where I've decided the problem lies.

I've said it before and its plainly evident here yet again, Permuted Press's company line must be: Good ideas told poorly. My meaning being, so far, of all the mostly disappointing books I have faithfully supported from Permuted Press, (this, most likely being the last, as I'm only slightly masochistic...) the authors have all shone ability, if a somewhat rushed and pedestrian one, and each time this little glimmer has consistently been undermined by the fact that the editing on each book was completely and unequivocally lacking. Now, most of the time, its been as basic a thing as just a normal read and critical response in preparation for a second draft, but sometimes it's been a massive mishandle like missing the typo that stated Africa was to the East of the Suez Canal. (That still floors me... its for an entire chapter!) Now, while there's nothing quite so large in this book, this lack of support is pervasive and it is most definitely this utter dropping-of-the-ball that is what truly trips this book up and boy does it.

Bottom line: This book needs work, it needs honest critique and it needs a rewrite, maybe two. The Author needs a firm hand of unbiased help and he can only benefit from such attention as he is both disciplined and imaginative and requires only focus and help realizing what is needed and what should go. Permuted Press, on the other hand, needs to fire their editors because once again, due to their complete and total inability to do their job even marginally well, another otherwise decent book penned by a somewhat imaginative and talented author is instead sent out as a half done and amateurish effort.

All in all, this book was a disappointment. Sadly, save your money.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2010 8:18 PM PDT

Twilight of the Dead
Twilight of the Dead
by Travis Adkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.18
56 used & new from $0.01

19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not good, April 23, 2008
This review is from: Twilight of the Dead (Paperback)
In a nutshell my review of Twilight of the Dead by Travis Adkins goes like this: Twilight of the Dead by Travis Adkins is yet another book in the Permuted Press family that adheres faithfully to what has to be the company's mandate: good ideas told badly.

Because that is what Mr. Adkins does. And he does it very, very well.

The basic premise of this book is not all that unique. The Dead rise and Society crumbles before their relentless onslaught. The main character must somehow survive the horrifying horror of the End of the World and then, along with a disparate group of survivors, learn to their even greater horror that the true monster isn't just the rotting ghouls scratching away outside their walls, but the living, breathing people they're trapped inside with.

See? Nothing unusual or groundbreaking there, but then, it doesn't have to be, right? That description is exactly what gets us all excited, it's the story we want, the one we've been looking for and the reason we are all willing to slog through all of the sub-par "literature" found within this genre. And that nugget is what Mr. Adkins starts out with. Then he takes it up a notch and throws in one of the most loved protagonists in the sci-fi/comic-book/horror set: The snarky rocker chick. After that he adds in some ruin looting, a walled haven and a team of specially trained zombie fighters and what does that mean to you and me?

It means we got ourselves a possible slice of fried awesome, that's what.

But then Mr. Adkins fumbles, he stumbles, he trips and then he falls. In a word: he fails. In two words: He fails miserably.

To begin with, the time line makes no sense. 5 years ago the town filled up with all the supplies they were ever going to need so they just stopped going out? 5 years ago? So... they've just been hanging out then? Doing what? Partying? The noise from their many BBQs and Badminton matches didn't ever bring an army of the Dead down upon their heads? 5 years now, this magical cornucopia mall they have within this gated community has just been pumping out a never ending cascade of food and supplies while the people dance and sing and laugh, tra-la-la-la and go back to normal lives? 6 months, okay, maybe they might hunker down for six months, but 5 years? The World ends, Society is destroyed and then a bunch of spoiled First-World-living-the-leisurely-high-tech-lifestyle Americans build and are able to reasonably maintain the first ever completely contained and self-sustaining community WITH a coin based economy? Based on what? Gold? Air? What about medicine or chemicals for mixing gunpowder or more planting seeds or a million and a half other things? Five years? ugh... forget it... moving on...

Secondly, Courtney, the intended snarky, independently awesome and capable rocker chick, is instead consistently portrayed as naÔve, stupid and ridiculously stubborn. She's a complete cartoon, so much so, you wonder if Mr. Adkins has ever actually MET a girl like this before. Once again... for 5 years she's lived here, not having to work due to her service as a scavenger, 5 years she's been in this town and all she's done is watch movies and read books and sneer at anyone who tries to talk to her? For five years? Once again... maybe for a month or two, but after five years wouldn't she be forced to grow up or maybe mature a little bit, if not from simple aging then from the nature of the world itself? And if you're willing to buy that, the fact that she hasn't just makes her all the more unlikeable. Also, wouldn't the townspeople grow concerned over this highly trained killer hermit with a bad attitude holed up all by herself at the far end of their town?

And the Gossip Girl/One Tree Hill type high school drama is so pervasive, so false and so completely without any emotional motivation to back it up, that it just becomes tedious and way, way too quickly at that, especially when you consider just how short a novel this is. None of the human interaction rings true, with the possible exception of Courtney leaving her Father in the very beginning, but other than that...

I mean, I understand what he's trying to do, because, as we all know, the real meat of a zombie story is the survivors and the emotional yoke they toil under, but you have to be able to make your characters and their inner turmoils real or the story just sinks hard and fast and unfortunately, Mr. Adkins can not make them real.

And then there's the oh-so-transparent Jock hate, (nerd...) but wait... apparently the Jock is actually one of the rare, kind of alright rich kid jocks (Just like She's All That... but reversed! With zombies!) And the Black Berets themselves? Their outfits are ludicrous. They're laughable. Coupled with the ninja swords, they just reminded me of my friend's home made "Surf Ninja" Halloween costume. It was silly, people, silly. Lets not even get into the uncomfortable, overt naÔveté that rides shotgun with the mishandled and uneven sex scenes that go on between Courtney and her mentor, Sgt. Soontobedead.

Oh yeah, the zombies... forgot about those... How is that possible you ask? Oh, well, that's because they're kind of not really ever mentioned or that much of a threat to begin with, except of course when clichéd Mad-scientist-killer-type-guy inexplicably sends an army of them to attack the town. That's no big deal right? Eastpointe has high walls, right? Oh yeah? Well these zombies have on metal helmets (they're indestructible!) and knives tied to their hands (they're Wolverine!). Will Courtney and Leon (the Jock) stop the evil Lex Luthor's army of radio controlled zombies in time? Will the cure (cure for what? Being eaten?) miraculously save one of the main characters if they get bitten during the story's climax or is that too telegraphed and clichéd? And if so, why not just go all out and embrace the clichés and stage an end fight scene at that infamous Hollywood-action-movie-staple: the fire and steam factory?

I apologize, at this point I'm being too rough on Mr. Adkins, he does deserve kudos for even finishing a novel in the first place and then putting it out there to be snarked at by jerks like me. To be fair, I actually enjoyed the beginning of the story, especially the attack on the convoy and many other sporadic moments through out, which really only highlights the true problem with this book for me. Mr. Adkins has ability within him, he has ideas. He's not awful, he's not without hope. And while they may not be well executed, his stories are well grounded, thought out and, in the end, fun. He's got potential. Honestly, its not his story that fails here, its his details. So, yet again, the Permuted Press editorial staff, such as it is, has completely failed their authors and done them a huge disservice with their ridiculously poorly performed job. Right now Mr. Adkins is just another example of the only thing small internet presses have proven to me so far: Sometimes people don't get published for a reason.

Mr. Adkins' reason is because he is not yet ready. This story needs a lot of work, attention, critique and second and third drafts, TRUE second and third drafts.

My recommendation: Not yet. Almost, but not yet. Our quest for a great zombie book continues, dear readers, so slog on, because there's nothing to see here.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2011 3:31 AM PST

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
by Max Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.39
429 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for zombie lovers, April 22, 2008
Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide is a fantastic and fun read, a total blast from beginning to end, but its not for everyone. In fact, its important to understand what this book really is before you buy it. So, lets clear up a few misunderstandings.

1. It is not a laugh out loud comedy. In fact, placing this book under the "comedy" heading is some what of a misnomer. I don't know where else it could possibly go, but I think that categorization is what gives people the wrong impression most often. I mean, honestly, I don't know what some of the numb nuts out there were expecting or why ANYONE would want to buy a book of one note, stupid "zombie" jokes in the first place, but whatever... Bottom line: this isn't a joke book. There's no knock-knock zombie jokes, there's no lame zombies-slipping-on-a-banana-peel sight gags and there are no rehashings of those age old, tired clichés of the "zombies as consumers" type (oh no, I'm sorry, suburban rebel, you really are the first to use that metaphor, really, I mean it and its not obvious and worn out in any way, really, I promise, its very fresh.) The "joke" of the book, if there is one, is to skewer all those asinine home preparedness survival manuals that swept the market in the wake of 9-11. The idea of Joe Average Nobody buying a book that upon reading would fully ready him for a radiological/biological type terrorist attack is as laughably stupid as the average real world person buying a book to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Get it? Its not a laugh out loud joke, its not even a slight chuckle joke, it's a middle finger to a market built on instilling and perpetuating people's fear and exposes it all for the sham that it is. For some reason though, this confuses the hell out of certain slope fore-headed mouth breathers, like they expect the book to be Jim Carrey versus zombies or something and for some reason, seem to think that this would be a good idea. Let me assure you, this is NOT the case and if this is what you are looking for... GO AWAY!

2. Make no mistake, though, this is NOT a novel either. There is no story, with the possible exception of occasional linking threads running through the "History of Outbreaks" section towards the end. There are no characters, there is no climax or resolution. It is a survival guide. That is it and yes, the book does take itself seriously. No, it does not break character and wink at you knowingly, it plays it straight all the way through. The delivery is part of the joke, understand? Deal with it, okay? Now, get ready for the hard part. Okay ready? Here goes: The joke is not the main and only point. Do not expect it to sustain the book for its entirety, that duty belongs to the fact that...

3. Its made for fans of the genre. If you are not a fan of zombies, then don't bother, man. This book is NOT accessible to non-fans, that's just the way it goes and if you expect otherwise then you are a fool. Look, I don't watch Sex & the City and you know what else I also don't do? I don't buy crap related to the show and then go on-line and complain about how much I don't like it. If you don't like zombies and the stuff that goes with it, then this book isn't for you. If you don't have a favorite version of the original Dawn of the Dead, then this book isn't for you. If you have never made a mental plan in your head one long boring day at work as to what you would do if the Zombie Apocalypse caught you out at the job, then this book isn't for you. If you've never found yourself considering how to defend your regular person home from a horde of zombies and how to turn it into an impromptu fortress, then this book IS NOT for you. If you do NOT relate to those type of things, then do NOT buy this book. But on the other hand, if you do relate... well then, my friend, you MUST buy this book and you must do so right now.

The reason a fan needs to have this book is because it is made for you. It is a total analysis of our much loved culture based on our silly zombie apocalypse speculation. It is full of all the things you've thought of and some things that you have not. It is full of all the things you like and all the things you disagree with. It is endless fodder for excited discussion with your fellow zombie heads and it is a fertile field ripe with inspiration for your own projects.

My Recommendation: This is a complete and total good time and as necessary on your shelf as your Romero films. No zombie fan is complete without it.

The Oblivion Society
The Oblivion Society
by Marcus Alexander Hart
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.95
46 used & new from $3.52

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I almost gave it three stars, but I just couldn't do it..., March 25, 2008
This review is from: The Oblivion Society (Paperback)
The Oblivion Society, as a book, marginally succeeds where most of the offerings from Permuted Press fail miserably: Its actually pretty well written. Distinctive characters (although a bit cartoonish), novel ideas and a plethora of pop culture minutiae abound. It is at times both wickedly sharp and surprisingly observant, it is even occasionally laugh out funny. (occasionally...) These positive facets and more are what gives Mr. Hart and his work a three star rating from me.

Unfortunately though, none of these things can save the book from the looming shadow the massive elephant in the room casts over everything, the giant problem so unbelievably ridiculous, so asinine and hack-job that even as I write this review, I'm still torn as to whether or not I'm going to keep the rating at a rather generous three or just drop it down to a more deserved two.

And what is that problem you ask? Well, as Mr. Hart himself might say in his somewhat tedious sit-com-esqe style: There is No Plot! None, zero, zip, zilch, nada, uh-uh, no way, there is nothing goin' on here, folks, move along.

The problem is, that while the characters are somewhat entertaining and the various happenstances they experience are inventive with a few nice little twists, in the end, all they do is meander and wander and ramble on. That's it. Nothing happens. There's no drive. There's no point. He doesn't even attempt to see through even the bare semblance of a nod to a plot that he does insert. (Traveling to the TV station that is playing Zoobilee Zoo on a continuous loop or as Kermit the Frog would say: "Oh great... a running gag...") In fact, he ends the book suddenly, as if he had been interrupted while typing and had simply run up against his dead-line and had to finish, as the story hangs right on the cusp of finally giving us, the readers, a resolution. Why would you do this? Does this seem like a good idea to anyone out there? Why not show us the TV station or, at the very least, why not provide the characters with some closure after such an arduous journey?

The very obvious answer is that Mr. Hart is more concerned with his overly-telegraphed, half-baked jokes and lame sight gags than to be bothered with something as apparently trivial as a plot. And why should he, its not like it's the point of the story or anything...

I apologize for the sarcasm, but its only because a writer like Mr. Hart obviously has talent, but over and over he lets himself get too bogged down with the type of insipid jokes that even a blind man could see a mile away and as a result, the book just kind of goes on and then stops. At some points, while reading, you get the feeling that entire chapters exist merely for the point of a single, terrible one liner that then just ends up being mishandled and falling dead anyway. And the abundance of pop culture... ugg... Come on, we get it, man, you like Star Wars! Its been noted for the record, okay? Now let it go.

In a nutshell, Mr. Hart is indeed talented and if he could just resist inserting even a few of the myriad of pop culture references and Henny Youngman level one-liners that he is so obsessed with running repeatedly into the ground, then this book would vastly improve. And it'd be even better if he'd consider inserting a plot.

I think Mr. Hart could be really good author some day, that he has the chops if he'd just self edit better and that he's worth checking out periodically for that reason, but over all, The Oblivion Society is nothing but a waste of your time... well, maybe that's too harsh... buy it cheap, read it on a trip. Think of this book as lazy Sunday matinee movie fair and you'll be alright.

Also? Its not really about zombies at all, so if you're looking for that kind of thing...

My recommendation: If you can't stand the erroneously labeled "funny guy" at the party, then you won't like this book. Also, if you want plot in your stories.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2008 4:10 AM PDT

Plague of the Dead (The Morningstar Strain)
Plague of the Dead (The Morningstar Strain)
by Z. A. Recht
Edition: Paperback
87 used & new from $0.01

44 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An epic scope undermined by a lack of details, imagination or skill, March 25, 2008
To me, Z.A. Recht's Plague of the Dead has the distinction of being the most ambitious, epic and inventive of Permuted Press's somewhat lethargic and pedestrian line, however extremely poor characterization, a pervasive disregard for fact checking or character and world details and a rushed, surprisingly timid style completely buries any creative surprises that might be found within.

I won't deny Mr. Recht his props. In some ways, he really deserves them. Most of all because I think he might have done what many considered to be impossible, he came up with a new way to present the zombie plague and he did it by simply combining the age old with the new in a way that works really surprisingly well. Its so inventive and fun in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised to see the idea of sprinting, rage filled and infected living that when killed then rise again as the shambling, shuffling dead start to catch on and appear in the more "main stream" zombie stuff. It was a creative bend on existing ideas and it worked. Kudos, Mr. Recht, well done. He also has not only obviously put together some thoughts and a little bit of research on his plague, its biology and its origin, but also on his greater story itself, as this is just the first part of a proposed trilogy. I can respect the effort evidenced, at the very least, if not the execution.

Because, quite frankly, this is where Plague of the Dead stumbles, falters and then fails. The characters are so one dimensional that calling them paper thin would be a compliment. Their motives and speech patterns are completely and totally interchangeable. If you had a page of dialogue without qualifiers, you wouldn't be able to even guess gender, let alone the character identity. At their core all the characters can all be boiled down to simple, one word descriptions: General. Girl. Scientist. Loner. Black guy (admittedly that's two words... sue me.) but even then they get confusing: Soldier, soldier, soldier, young soldier? To top it all off, half the names are so similar that at a glance, many could be mistaken for each other.

And speaking of "at a glance", the worst mistake of the book is so huge, that it simply can NOT be ignored. CAN NOT! Now, lets ignore the fact that he obviously did not even look at a picture of the Suez Canal, lets ignore the fact that he obviously has no idea as to the Suez Canal's purpose, lets ignore the fact that there is no way in the world that if a dangerous plague was threatening to jump from Africa, from Egypt and over the canal, that the entire opposite bank wouldn't be lined with the entire Israeli armed forces, not to mention a huge chunk of America's, lets EVEN ignore the somewhat silly idea that we would even TRY to quarantine Africa, alright? Barring all those little flubs, which, come on now, when listed together suddenly don't seem so little (and this is by no means an even close to complete list of all the inaccuracies, mistakes and things that don't make sense) barring all those things, there is one mistake that towers over everything, that destroys, DESTROYS, any credibility the author or his book might have had, a mistake so god awful dumb that... I can't even quantify it, man...

You'll read some reviews that will refer to it as a "simple" geography mistake, but let me assure you, it is not. Look... Africa is to the WEST of the Suez Canal, THE WEST! You don't even need a detailed map in order to see this. A child's globe, even an inflatable globe beach ball where you'd find a big yellow blob labeled simply as: Africa, would tell you this at a glance! AT A GLANCE! Africa = west of the Suez! Africa only connects to Asia at one point! ONE POINT! COME ON, MAN! Who was the editor on this book? They should be fired, just fired out right. A typo, a mistake... that's one thing, but for an entire chapter he gets this wrong and that only makes it obvious that the Editor DID NOT do his/her job. Doesn't this upset Permuted Press? Is this what they want to present to the world? How very, very professional.

So what else? Really, at this point, after that, is it worth going into all the little aggravating mistakes, technical inaccuracies and poorly conceived and choreographed moments? I could go into the fact that a hundred or two more pages or so were needed and that the story was crippled by be confined to so few. I can go on about the lack of character development and the hesitancy displayed when faced with an emotional character moment but not when it came to gore, but what's the point? I mean, if you can get it wrong that Africa is to the west of the Suez canal, does anything else really need to be said?

Overall, this is a very poorly done book, but it is one that feels like a very early first draft, as Mr. Recht shows an inventiveness and a sense of action and story lay out that could be nurtured into something much better, if only given some time, even if the end result would most likely be somewhat clichéd and surface. And while, yes, the blame for this does lay firmly on Mr. Recht's shoulders, a healthy portion also falls on Permuted Press whose editorial staff did the man a massive disservice with their ludicrously poorly performed job.

This is a cheap, paper thin, clichéd, one dimensional child's adventure, but there is a sparkle of imagination contained within that might someday outshine the myriad of mistakes and mis-steps... maybe.

My recommendation: Anyone with even low-medium standards need not apply.
Comment Comments (19) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2013 1:49 PM PDT

Every Sigh, the End: A Novel About Zombies
Every Sigh, the End: A Novel About Zombies
by Jason S Hornsby
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.26
48 used & new from $0.74

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Delusions of grandeur and an inferiority complex to boot, March 18, 2008
I'll spare the rehash of the plot, as it is somewhat disappointing in its surfaced cliche-ness and its obvious lack of completion and besides you can find summaries elsewhere on this page.

In a nutshell: Every sigh, the end is a moderately well written book that suffers mainly from the authors inability to remove himself and his issues from the narrative. Now, its true that every piece of art stems from the artist and that the creation's existence demands a creator and blah, blah, blah, but at a certain point the co-mingling becomes tedious. Much like Wes Anderson can not resolve his looming daddy issues, Jason Hornsby can not shake his near paralyzing feelings of immense inadequacy and geek self loathing, as evidenced not just by this book, but by the author's puerile responses to some of his negative reviews on this very site. The result is a muddled blend of horror, pop culture and nihilism all covered by a raw and exposed desire to be oh-so-deep while ignoring the fact that he's merely waist deep in the shallow end. The characters are inconsistent and interchangeable, the plot a meaningless jumble of moments barely strung together by the reappearance of occasionally familiar names.

Its as if Mr. Hornsby has never gotten over the fact that he set out to write the great American novel and ended up with just a zombie book and the sad part of it is: you get the feeling that if he could just get over himself, that he could write something pretty damn good. If he'd just realize that there is nothing wrong with genre work, he might turn out some pretty seminal zombie tales. You can tell that he's familiar with horror and zombies. He can really write some good gore. He's got a good grasp of language with some excellent phrases and observations (if somewhat naively snarky) and shows a definite potential at good character work if he'd just focus on creating reality based people instead of using fetishized dreams of the cast of Friends if they had been angry and hip in their coffee shop, but he doesn't. He's just the red-headed stepchild of Tarantino and the story never dives any deeper than the surface, veering away into mumbled jibber-jabber and convoluted non-sequiters whenever an emotional or character moment threatens to rear its ugly head..

Overall, Jason Hornsby may be an author to watch for in the future, once he reconciles his own reality with his child hood day dreams of self-perception, but until then, his work, including Every Sigh, the end is one to pass. It is barely coherent, slow and without fun. My recommendation is to wait for him to get better.

Day by Day Armageddon (A Zombie Novel)
Day by Day Armageddon (A Zombie Novel)
by J. L. Bourne
Edition: Paperback
101 used & new from $0.01

23 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Choice of narrative style was disappointing, March 18, 2008
Day by Day Armageddon is not a very good book. The main character is a two dimensional non-entity and the secondary characters are at best semi-mobile cardboard cut-outs. The story plods along minus even a hint of direction for its entirety, despite its stunning lack of length (which could be considered a triumph, I suppose...) and then it just ends suddenly (run out of journal paper?...) with the somewhat threatening promise of more to come. Clichés, technical errors and continuity flubs abound and the home preparedness of the narrator walks that thin line between ridiculously overly coincidental and borderline psychotic or maybe I should say psychic since the man just happened to be so incredibly prepared for the onset of a zombie apocalypse... Screw tension, huh?

But all that is neither here nor there, because none of it should really be all that surprising. Why? Because at its core, Day by Day Armageddon is nothing but a silly little zombie adventure story, more lazy, adolescent power fantasy than tall tale and no one actively searching out a title like this should expect any better. You can't fault it for its lack of imagination, style or ability, this isn't supposed to be a Pulitzer winner here, folks, so a little leeway should be given going in. Unfortunately, though, the real problem can't be ignored and that is the book's asinine choice of narrative style.

To me, the "personal journal" approach is the "Blair witch" of literature. It is a style that never really works, mostly because it is fraught with a myriad of inherent problems. The main one being that no matter what, at some point, the audience can't help but ask: "Why the hell are they still filming?" or in this case: "Why the hell is he still keeping a journal?" It makes no sense after a certain point given the situation. It is destined to fail eventually because the reality of it is, that if the world fell before the crush of the Dead and the stuff in the book was really happening to the guy, then after awhile he'd be too busy surviving to write in some stupid little girl journal! I know, I know, its just a story, but that's my point, if it was told in a different style... poof! That problem vanishes. The narrative style is a detriment to the story's believability. Now, the apologists out there will tell you that this is because the main character wants the World to know his story or some stupid crap like that... fine, whatever, it's a dumb excuse, but its an excuse and in the end, to argue it is to fall into a quagmire of trivial quibbles.

Of course, the apologists will classify every complaint as an unimportant quibble. God forbid you mention the typos. "Oh, that's because its a journal," the apologist will say. Is that so? Well, if that's true, if the writing and the book itself is in fact a physical manifestation of the tale, then why is it typed? Why isn't it then presented in a scrawled hand written style? To that they will of course answer: "Because then it would be too hard to read! Duh!" Well, sorry, kids, but that's a no go. Its too bad, but you can't have it both ways. If you're going to commit to a style, then commit to it, there's no half efforts allowed... which is what this book is: A disappointing half-effort. The "journal style" is nothing more than a gimmick and it's a neutering one at that, its constraining rules ensure that the characters can never appear in the book as real people. As a result, it comes off like it was meant as nothing more than a convenient defensive shield should someone question the authors ability or the "somewhat" transparent plot line. And maybe that's actually why he choose this style, I don't know. I certainly can not think of a viable reason to use this otherwise terrible narrative point of view. It is nothing except limiting story-wise. I mean, come on, isn't the author, the audience and the story naturally better served when we get to spend some good old fashioned character building time with the characters? Or maybe an internal moment or two or just a few... I don't know... conversations, so we could feel like we're actually taking part in a story instead of the poorly written and fanciful blog of a lonely teenager? Did he ever even talk to one of the female characters or were those feeling a little too ooky for his little diary? I hate to burst your bubble, people, but the typos and mistakes are not there because the author was actually trying to write as if the character was writing a journal, no, they're just mistakes and annoying ones at that, much like the story itself...

My recommendation: Pass.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2011 12:03 PM PST

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