New Book Review 18: Cloud Country

cloud-country The eighteenth book I’ll review here is Cloud Country, the second part of the Special Sin series by Andy Futuro. I reviewed the first book, No Dogs in Philly, in a previous blog post that you can read here. The series is a mix of cyberpunk, noir, dark fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror and follows a detective named Saru, a woman who fights crime in a gritty alternative version of Philadelphia. Her world includes brain-implanted internet streams, feuding cults, stray zombie-like creatures called elzi, and most importantly the conflicts between rival alien gods who see humans in a way much like humans see microbial cells. The story starts with her in the center of the devastation wrought by the events of the previous book and takes her through a new series of dangers, exploits, and revelations.

The first book was really fast-paced, and in comparison this second one is pretty slow. It centers on Saru and a Gaesporan (a member of the hive-mind-ish social elite) named John, and a lot of pagetime is spent explaining mysteries that came up in the first book and explaining the rules of this world. In the first book the supernatural implications of the events were initially unknown and Saru uncovered them little by little. Here we receive long detailed explanations of how things are and why they are the way they are. It was a bit heavy on exposition because of this. John knows the answers to all of Saru’s questions, and he explains these answers in long stretches of dialogue. The moments of action were fewer and more spaced out than in the first, but this didn’t bother me. I expect that at least one more book in the series is forthcoming, and it will benefit from having the world laid out more clearly.

One of this work’s main strengths is Saru’s narrative voice. She’s an extreme character, but she is consistent in her extremeness and her voice and attitude fits her personality. Here we see her less as a fighter and detective and more as a lost and fugitive young woman, a facet of her personality which existed in the first book but took a backseat to her hard-boiled-detective shtick. We get to know her better here, we see more of her weaknesses and insecurities. This comes in a large part from her being removed from her comfort zone, that is to say the crime-ridden alt-reality Philadelphia. In this book she spends more time in differing places and trapped inside her own memories, which uproots her and sets her in a more abstract kind of world. Due to this, the crime aspect and the cyberpunk aspect of the first book are largely discarded.

At this time there isn’t a third book in the series, and I haven’t seen any announcements for one yet. Nonetheless, I expect that there will be a third, and I look forward to it. As I said before, I enjoy this series and I’d recommend it to others. Of course, it features mature themes and isn’t for children or especially sensitive readers. It’s horror, after all. If you pick up a book of horror fiction you know what you’re getting into.

Now as always, my bit of promo. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8New Book Review 9New Book Review 10New Book Review 11New Book Review 12New Book Review 13New Book Review 14New Book Review 15New Book Review 16New Book Review 17

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

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New Book Review 17: Demorn: City of Innocents

The seventeenth book I’m reviewing here is Demorn: City of Innocents, the second book of David Finn’s Asanti series. Back in June I read the first one, Demorn: Blade of Exile, and I reviewed it on the blog here. The first impressed me enough to continue to the second, and when the third in the series comes out later this year I intend to buy, read, and review it as well. The label I gave the first book seems true of the whole series, a cross-dimensional dark modern fantasy adventure. The first book was both manically entertaining and manically confusing, and this second book toned down the manic quality of the first to create a work that was a little slower-paced but much easier to follow.

To review, Demorn is a powerful fighter who’s been engaged in wild adventures across time and multiple versions of reality for several years. Her paths have crossed with various gods, monsters, aliens, cultists, historical figures (she was all buddy-buddy with Frank Sinatra for as long as that lasted), magical objects, and so forth. She’s seen the end of the universe and witnessed the destruction of her own homeworld, which makes her a bit of a nihilist. As a priestess of the Asanti religious order she is privy to a wide variety of spells and arcane information, and as the royal-blooded Princess of Swords she’s nearly impervious to physical harm. She’s also a huge fan of 1960s music, superhero comic books, and romantic trysts with other dimension-hopping women. Demorn spent a good chunk of the last book trapped in a dimension she calls The Graveyard, and in this book she is trying to put the pieces of her life together after escaping from The Graveyard. There are a wide variety of characters (though not nearly as many as in the first book), but most of the story centers on Demorn and a godlike man she calls the Tyrant, who is alternately her close confidant and her bitter enemy as she works to avert a semi-inevitable cross-dimensional cosmic apocalypse.

The vivid storytelling and highly texture detail of the first book, its strongest points, carried over into the second. Every punch and burn and shock is felt by the character and the reader. With the story slowed down and given a tighter focus, this book was much easier to understand than the first. The complexity of the universe Demorn inhabits was still a little over my head, but it felt less overwhelming than before. The important parts weren’t so hard to follow this time around. It also helped that Demorn didn’t spend nearly as much time jumping around between worlds in this book, so I had more time to get accustomed to her locations.

For its followability, I would say that I liked this one better than the first book and I have very little bad to say about it. There were a handful of typos in the last fifteen percent of the book, which was a little unusual considering that I didn’t spot any at all in the rest of the book, but that’s not so bad. As I said before, fans of fantasy, science fiction, sword-and-sorcery, and fast-paced action stories will most likely take pleasure from this book.

And now once again, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8New Book Review 9New Book Review 10New Book Review 11New Book Review 12New Book Review 13New Book Review 14New Book Review 15New Book Review 16

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

New Book Review 16: Atomic Underworld: Part One

The sixteenth book I’m reviewing is Atomic Underworld: Part One by Jack Conner, the first of the ‘Atomic Underworld’ duology, which itself is a prequel to Jack Conner’s ‘Atomic Sea’ series. The book is billed as Lovecraftian steampunk fantasy, which is to say that it takes inspiration from the otherworldly horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft and the speculative alternative history of steampunk sci-fi. In its execution I would also add ‘noir’ or ‘mystery’ to the genre. It’s a good mix, and the various pieces work well together.

The story’s protagonist is Tavlin ‘Two-Bit’ Metzler, a professional gambler and general rouge living in the subterranean city of Muscud, on the banks of the Atomic Sea. This city is one of several underground cities primarily inhabited by mutated humans, but also inhabited by ordinary uninfected humans, mutated animals, and members of various sentient pre-human species (some rather slug-like, some blob-like, and some arthropod-like). These cities are in the sewers of the larger metropolises above ground, and their primary authorities are multiple religious cults and various rival gangs. When Tavlin’s old friend and full-time mob boss Vassas has several members of his gang die under strange circumstances, Tavlin is asked to investigate. His investigations put him in the middle of a dangerous adventure centering on a strange weapon which the cults and sentient pre-humans are all desperate to get their hands (or tentacles) on.

The best thing about this book was its incredible level of description and texture. Muscud and the cities near it are disgusting places. They’re slimy, they stink, everything is damp and crawling and infected, and the descriptions are written with skin-crawling vividness. All of the mutant creatures, all of the alien-like underworld denizens, were described excellently. The quality of the writing was also very good, with few errors. I did feel like the characters drew heavily from crime-drama clichés, but that’s not so terrible. These kinds of characters are used because they’re effective. Maybe we’ve all seen movies with some fedora-wearing cigar-chomping pistol-waving mob boss shouting profanities before, but that doesn’t diminish the character’s entertainment value.

The book was heavy on action, with chases and gunfights familiar to anyone who’s read or watched any kind of mystery or crime dramas. The difference of course is that these fights are here taking place in a slimy underground city, which allows for some different approaches. The fights were well-written as well, however due to the way the story uses them, I would dispute the book’s Lovecraftian label. In a Lovecraft story, there is always a sort of creeping dread pervading the narrative. The characters in a Lovecraft story are victims of hellish otherworldly forces gradually driving them into unspeakable terror and insanity through the influence of eldritch alien gods. In Atomic Underworld, there are (or at least seem to be) eldritch alien gods , and there is dread, but the dread doesn’t pervade the narrative. The book doesn’t feel like a horror story. With a cocky rogue for a protagonist and with mobsters out of a 1940s noir film chasing each other through an urban jungle, the book feels more like action/adventure than it does horror. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is worth noting. It’s also worth noting that this book ends on a complete cliffhanger, which may annoy some readers.

On the whole, I enjoyed it. The detail was impressive and the story was engaging, and the odds are good that I’ll buy and read the second part of it.

And now once again, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8New Book Review 9New Book Review 10New Book Review 11New Book Review 12New Book Review 13New Book Review 14New Book Review 15

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.