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Vortex: The Veins Cycle, Vol. 3 Paperback – November 4, 2014
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"Delightfully dissonant. Unbridled imagination meets impeccable storytelling. Connolly is amazing that way, like the bull and the matador rolled into one. His work is crazy imaginative and yet absolutely sane in its delivery, reminiscent of other masters of dissonance such as Clifford Simak and Philip K. Dick." --John Dixon, author of Phoenix Island
"Connolly delivers a fast-paced mystery with a heavy helping of magical realism that will lose readers in a mystical and frightening world that they won't want to slither out of." --Stephanie M. Wytovich, Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press and author of Hysteria
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Binge reading the entire Veins Cycle from beginning to end is highly recommended. Since the books are short novels, you actually feel like you have time to read them, and can make significant progress in one evening.
I’ve wanted to read these books for a long time, as I’m a big fan of the author’s short fiction, but the third and final novel, Vortex released in November 2014. Now I’m glad I waited. I was able to consume them all at once, with no break—except for a few hours of sleep when I dreamed about avenging angels, and a burning coal mine pit that if left unchecked could ignite the world in a Biblical apocalypse.
Veins, Vipers and Vortex are great books, and though hard to classify, I’ll call them modern fantasy set in the environs of a rural Pennsylvania coal mining town. Imagine the movie/graphic novel, Constantine, crossed with the movie/novel No Country For Old Men.
Yes, there are gangsters, angels, petty criminals, an Indian wise woman, a young man searching for path in life, and hit men—but most importantly in this case, a hit woman. There is a heist gone wrong, and supernatural factions that have been manipulating people for years as they advance their separate agendas to destroy the world. Are evil angels causing all this? Or are they not angels at all, but rather Native American spirits of the Okwe tribal mythology trying to protect the land? It all depends on which character’s point of view you’re in.
Who are the good guys? I don’t truly know. Who are the bad guys? Not sure. I certainly hated some of the characters, and enjoyed reading of their deaths, but nothing was black and white. The author wrote this next statement about the Veins Cycle and I love it: “The books are about the limits of human perceptions and the things we see when confronted with unknowable forces. That’s what fascinated me at the outset, and it’s was I endeavored to explore over the course of the three-book cycle.”
The books are deep, but are also so filled with awesome action and compelling characters. I think I read them so fast I didn’t ponder the big questions enough. That might be a reason to read these slowly, so you can savor the expert prose and the concepts. I still keep thinking about the whole Veins cycle in this order: end, middle, beginning.
Veins kicks off the cycle, and Vipers takes it to new heights, then Vortex explodes onto the page and proves the journey was utterly worth it. The books just get better and better. Vortex was an incredible book, especially the climax.
In the end, it was the writing—the brilliant characterization and original plot—that made Veins, and the subsequent novels work so well for me. I wanted to see what happened to Axle, Sam, and Bird. I have images of them burned into my imagination, and the original illustrations of the characters in Veins added to the “wow” factor for sure, making Veins even more cinematic in my mind’s eye.
Days later, I keep thinking about the story and the characters, where they began, and how their storylines came to an end. After writing this review, I want to read the books again. These are novels that can be read over and over.
Despite the fantastical components, a great deal of the conflict Connolly creates for his characters is rooted in realism, as they are quite authentically experiencing events relative to their own consciousness and projecting that onto the enigmatic, diabolical, and arcane designs his “spiritual” forces display. Some of these scenes were absolutely terrifying, by the way—Connolly does not hold back when it comes to wielding horror like a finely-tuned instrument.
It would be difficult not to read the other two books in the Veins Cycle now, and Connolly has certainly earned a new fan of his writing in me—it’s intelligent, hypnotic, lyrical, dreamlike, and slightly unpredictable. Wherever he’s taking us next, I’m in for the ride...but I’m definitely wearing a seat belt. Maybe two.
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Vortex is the third book of a cycle, not of a trilogy, which means the story is continual as opposed to a sequel later down the road.Read more