Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book Review: Inherit the Stars by Tony Peak

Inherit the Stars by Tony Peak
Paperback, 464 pages Published November 3rd 2015 by Roc

There is something about debut novels, the author is putting everything they got into it, often they have worked on it for longer and harder than most that will come later. No deadlines, just years of tweaking and perfecting. The raw talent before it is fully honed.

Tony Peak is a first time author who think will get better and better with each novel. That is not to say I didn't enjoy this one. There were some growing pains here. Nothing that kept me from enjoying this old school style space opera that used never skimped on world building despite spending most of it's page count off-worlds.

The story of Kivita Vondir, a orphan space salvager who inherits her father's ship and travels the stars alone when she is dragged into a intergalactic conflict. In her latest job she is hired by a religious order to find a gemstone that contains data stored that can only be reached by psychics called Savants. Things get more interesting when her ex- a man named Sar is hired to beat her to the gemstone. Once they get the stone Kiv is pulled into a wider universe she didn't know she was a part of. At this point it becomes clear that Peak has built a traditional Joseph Cambell style hero's journey.

This far future (I think it's our future?)space opera uses a well thought-out religious mythology that seemed influenced by both Phil K. Dick and Dune at the same time. I know that is a crazy combo but that is the crazy thing about the beliefs and skills of the Savants in the story.

The only thing that didn't work for me. Peak did a great job building this mythology that reflected the Cambellian post Star Wars space fantasy, and put his mythology through great fully realized space battles. At the same time he spent a great deal of time mixing those elements with the hard science of space travel. I felt like the book would have been better off to fully deal with the fantasy elements and less on the technical aspects that seemed to try and ground the story at times.That said Peak used the time dilation and the long space journeys for good emotional impact.

I have to admit here that while I have never met Peak in the real world, I enjoy following him on Facebook. I probably would not have picked up this book otherwise. I do want to see where this series goes but I think it has as much to do with wanting to see what Tony Peak does next or how he grows in the future. I think Peak is a more exciting author than this is an exciting book. I hope to see more creations inside and outside of this universe he has created.

Bottomline, it is a well done hero's journey space opera. If you are looking for more of this type of novel it is great place to start.

Interview with me in the new issue of Dark Discoveries (#33)

All new Fiction by: Cameron Price, John Palisano, Max Booth III, MP Johnson, Mary A. Turzillo and Shane McKenzie

Interviews with: Laird Barron, Hal Duncan and Thom Metzger

Articles on: “Bizarro Punk” by David Agranoff, “Bizarro World Got Me Dirty and Wet” by L. Andrew Cooper, “Coffee – Bootlegging – Labyrinths” by Aaron J. French and Bizarro Comic by Phil Differ and Gavin Boyle

Columns from Mike Davis, Laird Barron, Robert Morrish, Donald Tyson and Richard Dansky!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Hardcover, 384 pages

Published October 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books

He may not be a part of the bizarro movement but David Wong (a pen name for the editor of Cracked.com) is without a doubt a bizarro author. Known for his once serialized first novel John Dies At the End. Wong injected his dark bizarro horror tale with plenty of humor and ended up making a truly original novel. It was nice to see Wong break away from the series that made him popular. In this novel FVFS takes that same tongue and cheek approach to cyberpunk near future noir.

I had mixed feelings about the first David Wong Novel John Dies At the End. I loved lots of things about it when I read it but my writer's brain had a hard time dealing with the crazy all over the place structure and lack of editing. The version I read was compiled from a serialized blog, and it showed in lots of ways. For that reason I liked the movie a little better.

It was good enough with enough interesting ideas that a whim I checked out the new Wong novel at library. Futuristic violence and fancy suits is pretty gonzo but not nearly as Gonzo as his debut novel.

The story of Zoey Ashe and her cat Stink Machine, although Stink Machine is not in the novel as much I thought he should have been. Zoey is the daughter of a single mom and former stripper. She only met her father twice who is a wealthy mobster in the pop-up wanna-be vegas of the future called Tolba Ro$a. The story starts as Zoey suddenly has killers and hitmen chasing after her. Eventually she learns that her father left her his empire. This rags to riches techo thriller cyber-noir is not as funny as I expected after reading JDATE. From there we get super-humans, high tech battles and chases and much more.

Kinda bugged me Stink Machine didn't play a bigger role and kinda gets ignored in the second half. Don't get me wrong I laughed a few times and it was interesting enough to finish but I felt the first act was the strongest. That said the opening line of chapter 4 is one of the best laughs I got in the book. Also a speech given by the lead villain (p.264) at the end. Besides a few moments like that I was a little disappointed.

I have seen alot of comments online about the editing of this book. Perhaps this a sore subject for me as my novels have not received the most intense editing, and I for one don't have a great eye for grammar. I catch many of these typos when I read books, but that to me has nothing to do with a story. If the story is good I will over look nitpicks. Was I entertained? Sure I was and typos aside this was better edited to me in the sense that it felt more structured like a novel. To me the big issue with editors in relation to Wong's work is the structure. I felt John Dies at The End didn't flow as novel. It felt like the chapter were pulled out of different books, sometimes it felt like a different writer. It distracted me while reading. I felt that book needed another draft.

I think some will be disappointed by this book, I think it was a better novel than his debut, but I think it is not as fun a experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When Susurrus Stirs by Jeremy Robert Johnson read on This is Horror.

One of my favorite authors and former neighbor in Portland reading his short story that will soon be a short film! The story appeared in his amazing collection We Live Inside you. You should buy it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My video for San Diego Love Letter Challenge

This legacy is what we are fighting for:

KUSI News - San Diego, CA

So we are challenging all Chargers to write a love letter explaining how they fell in love with the Chargers. Here is mine:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Book Review: King Space Void by Anthony Trevino

King Space Void by Anthony Trevino

paperback, 104 pages

Published October 2015 by Eraserhead Press

New Bizarro Author Series

"When you love someone, sometimes they can mean the whole world to you. Or several worlds.

King Space Void is a planet-eating entity whose consciousness resides in the body of a gargantuan machine made to look like a man and powered by thousands of people. Dane Shipps is one of the best workers of in King Space Void, until the day he finds a mangled woman named Scarlet still alive and intertwined in the machine's ductwork who convinces him to step outside of his routine. Together they plan to take down King Space Void and everyone inside."

Starting in 2009 Eraserhead press has had a series of first time authors publish novellas in this series. The series has seen alot excellent writers get their start and move on to big things. Styles as different as the absurdist hyperbole of Vince Kramer's Gigantic Death Worm to more literary works like Muscle Memory by Steve Lowe. Authors have gone on to have bestsellers like Patrick Wensink, or respected horror novels like the work Nicole Cushing who seemed to never return to bizarro. In seven years I have had mixed feelings reading these books. My favorite before this year was Daniel Valasty's Church of TV as God.

I admit I am bias as this author Anthony Trevino is a friend. A San Diego author we hang out often, go to movies together and talk about the craft of writing all the time. That said I am not required to like his work, and believe me if he put out a turd I would tell him that it smells. So believe me when I say I happy and impressed by this book.

Thankfully the only thing I have to complain about is the short length of this book. I could have spent easily twice as many pages reading about this world. This surreal space opera reminds me of Snowpiecer at times. The contained world of Dane who lives and works inside the body of person shaped giant space vessel that eats worlds is vividly drawn.

In the short page count Trevino uses sharp prose to paint a surreal world and fills it with vivid characters. That balance is the key strength of King Space Void. The action is fun and you can see hints of the action and crime influences I know the author brings to the table.

Like many books in the NBAS the biggest reason to get the book outside of the entertainment you'll get from reading it is knowing that you were there at the start of a awesome career.