New Book Review 23: Cthulhu Armageddon

cthThe twenty-third book I’m reviewing on this blog is Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps. It’s billed as a post-apocalyptic western, but I’d say calling it a western is a stretch. It’s a fantasy action thriller set in a desert wasteland, conceptually closer to a story like Mad Max than a story like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

To really have context for this novel, you need at least a cursory knowledge of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, whose popular stories include The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, and my personal favorite The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft stories and mythos contain the idea that in the sea, underground, and in the far reaches of space are monstrous alien gods who will someday return to power and destroy humanity. Cthulhu Armageddon is a post-apocalyptic action novel based around the idea that in the future, Lovecraft’s gods and monsters (his specific gods and monsters, here with the same names and aspects that they have in Lovecraft’s works) have risen and wreaked havoc upon the earth. Their ravages have turned the world into a hellish place, where the surviving “civilized” humans fight for survival alongside rabid cultists, mutant monsters, and the terrible gods themselves.

Our protagonist, John Henry Booth, is one of the surviving humans in a group called the Remnant.  He is a trained and tenacious soldier who struggles through shaky alliances and bitter enmities with monsters and humans in his quest for revenge against the mad wizard Doctor Alan Ward, a former scientist who believes the only way to survive with the gods is to become as monstrous as them. By his side throughout the story is his mutant friend Richard, cultist and former lover Katryn, his teammate Jessica, a professional torturer named Mercury, and a wide-eyed little girl named Jackie who’s seen entirely too much brutality for her age.

This isn’t the first brutish post-apocalyptic novel I’ve reviewed on this blog, but within that genre I think this is the best one. The premise may sound schlocky, a little too close to fan-fic perhaps (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it does have a poor reputation), but the quality of the writing here is impressive. For the most part it’s smooth, well-paced, and strikingly professional. Especially excellent were the book’s action scenes, of which there were many. These were simply incredible. Some of the characters were a little clichéd, a little stereotyped post-apocalyptic warrior, but the central characters had a lot of depth and wisdom to them, much more than you would expect in an action adventure like this.

There are a few places in the book where a sentence was confusingly structured or where the wrong word was used (‘grizzly’ when the author meant ‘grisly’, for example), but these were rare and the book’s strength far outweigh this small weakness. It is also worth noting that while this book takes ideas and personages from Lovecraft, it is not meant to be modeled on Lovecraft’s work. In Lovecraft, the atmosphere is full of dread and existential horror, carried forward and permeating the narrative through the terror, disgust, or madness of the characters. The characters in Cthulhu Armageddon do have terror and disgust and madness, but they also have humor and love and jealousy and anger.  They crack wise while they crack skulls, and frequently they spit in the face of death as opposed to cowering like a Lovecraft character would. This isn’t a horror novel. It’s an action adventure fantasy novel, and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable one.

For potential readers, it is worth noting that the book has profanity and sex and (if this post hasn’t already made it clear) lots and lots of pulpy violence, so it’s not recommended to sensitive readers. I got a lot of fun out of it, and can definitely recommend it to fans of action, sci-fi, and especially the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft.

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 17New Book Review 18New Book Review 19New Book Review 20New Book Review 21-New Book Review 22

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.

This post was originally featured on cwbookclub.com.

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New Book Review 22: Stupid Humans

stupid-humans-coverThe next indie novel I’m reviewing here is Stupid Humans, by Vivian Cummings (using the pen name V.R. Craft). This is primarily a science fiction novel with strong overtones of satire and social critique.  The setting is sometime hundreds or thousands of years in the future, on a space station on the opposite side of a wormhole that has opened hear Earth. Despite the exotic location, the author carefully and cleverly included many familiar aspect of the real and present world, with a focus on the more obnoxious and, well, stupid aspects.

In this book’s backstory, the most intelligent humans on Earth fled the planet millennia ago in an event the rest of the world knew as the sinking of Atlantis. They established a spacefaring civilization and named themselves the People, in contrast to the stupid Humans who they left behind on Earth. The passage of time led to somewhat divergent evolution between the People and the Humans (for example, the People developed tails), and the People saw themselves as in every way superior to the Humans they’d left behind. The novel kicks off some years after a wormhole opens between Earth and the space station Five Alpha, where several thousand People live. The unexpected first contact leads to distrust, fear, political wrangling, business opportunities, and a war which the People’s public relations officials struggle to avoid calling a war. In this conflict we have doctors and politicians and beer moguls and regular Joes of both the Humans and the People all trying to find an unlikely stability.

The writing is very good, the pacing was good, and I thought the story overall was very clever and original. It had many familiar elements to it (in some ways it seemed to take the concept behind the movie Idiocracy and invert the premise) but was very fresh as an independent sci-fi work. There were some small typos throughout the story, but they weren’t concentrated anywhere and they weren’t enough to be distracting. The characters were complex, the dialogue and interactions were quite believable, and there were several legitimately funny bits of comedy throughout the novel.

There was one area where the book had some weakness though. It had quite a lot of characters who were difficult to keep track of, and the character who fell into the protagonist’s role is deliberately mysterious about her motives and backstory. I’m referring to Samantha, a Human bartender and reporter who ends up on Five Alpha and is subject to scrutiny by People who are suspicious of her desire to stay on the station. The question of her motive isn’t answered until the very end of the book, and this crucial aspect of Samantha’s personality prevents the reader from developing a very strong connection with the character.

That being said, Stupid Humans  is an intelligent and high-quality work of science fiction, a caliber above many other sci-fi novels that I’ve read. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the genre, and to fans of humor and satire.

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 17New Book Review 18New Book Review 19New Book Review 20New Book Review 21

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.

This post was originally featured on cwbookclub.com.