The Grim Company by Luke Scull

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Elderly Stout wanting to sleep on this book.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from the library.

Narrator: Gerard Doyle

Publisher: Recorded Books (2013)

Length: 15 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Grim Company

Author’s Page

Set in a dystopianized fantasy world, a set of heroes comes forth to fight evil, or at least, to save their own skins. Young Davarus Cole boldly steps forward, believing with every molecule that he is a true hero. Meanwhile, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf, two highlanders on the run from a powerful sorcerer who took over their home village, are dragged into the mix. Plenty of powerful entities battle for total domination.

I heard a lot of good things about this book and went into it truly expecting to like it. Unfortunately, it fell way short. I almost gave up on it but because I had heard such great things about it, I didn’t want to give up on it. Sad to say, the ending did not justify my time spent on it.

The set up looked very promising. I liked that the main characters were pretty eclectic in age. That is good point in favor of this book –  no age discrimination here! Brodar and Jerek are past their prime yet still vital to the plot. They have their own histories and reasons for continuing on. The author doesn’t skimp in describing their aging bodies – they have trouble peeing and issues with hemorrhoids. But beyond that I never really bonded with them.

Then there is Davarus Cole, a young wanna be hero and member of the Shards, a secret organization that works to overthrow the evil Salazar. At first, I found him quite silly and full of himself. Yet, despite all the crap that gets thrown at him in this book, he perseveres in believing in himself. I grew a bit found of him by the end.

The ladies are few and far between in this book, unless you count all the nameless prostitutes and the few rape victims. Sasha, a member of the Shards, takes a long time to come into her abilities. We’re told early on that she can handle herself, but for most of the book she is a sex object that is carried by the men from one scene to the next. Eventually, she gets to use her crossbow and show us her skills and determination. There are some evil powerful ladies, most of whom remain vague for most of the book. There is a ton of jokes made by the male characters about violence towards women. If this was balanced out by more competent female characters, it would not have bothered me. However, this is not a balanced book in this regard.

The adventure plot is a bit predictable and I kept waiting for something more to be thrown in. I guess the most interesting bits were the characters’ pasts –  Brodar’s clash with the evil sorcerer from his village that sent him fleeing; Davarus’s upbringing that created his believe that he was indeed a true hero. While these things had influence on the plot, they were not the main gristle of the book. The world building wasn’t all that unique, though it has potential to be built upon. I found myself somewhat bored with this book and just waiting for one of two things to happen: The story to get super good and prove all my doubts wrong; or for it to end.

The Narration: Gerard Doyle did a really good job with this book. He had several accents and ages to portray, along with the few ladies who had more than one line. He made them all distinct and I never had to guess who was talking.

What I Liked: Lots of potential for this book; there is no age discrimination; interesting back stories; Cole proves a worthy character.

What I Disliked: This book fell way short of expectations; definitely not balanced where the genders are concerned; I didn’t become attached to most of the characters; the world building and plot were pretty predictable.

What Others Think:

Lynn’s Book Blog

On Starships and Dragonwings

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Book Review


The Wertzone

Bastard Books

The Ranting Dragon

Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews

Fantasy Review Barn

52 Book Reviews

Icebreaker by Lian Tanner

Chupa is a little startled by this book.

Chupa is a little startled by this book.

Where I Got It: Review Copy

Narrator: Anne Marie Gideon

Publisher: Recorded Books (2015)

Length: 6 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Hidden

Author’s Page

Petrel is an orphan that lives aboard the Oyster, an icebreaker that has been sailing the most southern reaches of the southern hemisphere for hundreds of years. Civilization as we know it would be quite the shock to any of the inhabitants of the Oyster. Society has fallen and new cultures have arisen. For Petrel, with there being little contact with anyone outside of their ship, the Oyster is her whole world. Then one day, the Oyster finds a nearly frozen boy, who Petrel calls Fin, and things begin to unravel for the crew.

I really loved how this story was so contained. Nearly all of it takes place on this one, large ship. And this ship has been on its own for perhaps 300 years. Generations of people have been born and then died aboard this ship, never knowing anything else. So, naturally, various classes or tribes have developed aboard this ship. There’s Grease Alley, where the engineers and like reside, then Braid for the officers and also Dufftown for the cooks. There isn’t much mingling except to trade items or services or if the ship is attacked by something. On this ship, Petrel has no place, belongs to no tribe, and is called the Nothing Girl. Who her parents were and what happened to them is somewhat of a mystery and I loved having bits and pieces of this mystery revealed throughout the book.

The boy Fin adds another layer of mystery. There are other societies out there, and at least one of them (Fin’s) is very anti-machine. They have a plan to take out the Oyster permanently because they believe the world must be cleansed of all machines. Fin has been taught most of his life that the ‘gods’ of the ship (the engines) are truly evil and will eat a human’s soul. He was hand-picked for this mission and he must not fail! It was very interesting to watch him struggle with what he had been taught from a very young age compared to what he experienced first hand on board the icebreaker.

Petrel has some very special friends, two rats that she talks to…. and they talk back. Mr. Smoke and Mrs. Slink are very knowledgeable and have the ability to fix things (like stitching up a cut human or twisting electrical wires together). Petrel is constantly shoved aside by the adults (except for a very few friendly ones) and openly tormented by the other kids (like Dolph with her tar bucket). As such, she has become really attached to these two talking rats.

Most of this book held my rapt attention. I loved this whole nearly isolated ship and it’s viable multi-generational population. We don’t know what happened to society as we know it nor why the Oyster went to the Antarctic and then decided to circle it for 300 years. So much knowledge has been lost over the years. The mystery of the past is ever present and teasing. The book did slow down at times with Petrel and her isolation aboard the ship. I felt like that was really hammered into the reader and I got a little bored with the repetition. I got it and I wanted the plot to move forward. I did, as a whole, like Petrel’s character. She doesn’t fit in anywhere because of the caste system the ship has in place and that has really molded her personality.

Fin was interesting too but I wanted more about him and the society he came from. We learn bits and pieces along the way but I look forward to Fin’s past being expanded upon in the second book. As the point of view switches between Fin and Petrel, we have just enough to intrigue us but not quite enough to satisfy. The Anti-Machinists are very different and have the means and drive to attack the Oyster, which has been minding it’s own business for hundreds of years. What could drive a society to such ends, expending such resources?

Then there is the mystery of the Sleeping Captain. That’s right. The Oyster has no living, awake, and active captain. The Sleeping Captain is a figure that is held in reverence by the ship’s population even though no one in living memory has seen or spoken with this captain. In fact, folks aren’t even sure where the Sleeping Captain resides. During the last 5th or 6th of the book, we get to learn more but there is still plenty of questions left by the end of the book. Again, I was definitely tantalized by what I did learn but not wholly satisfied. I NEED Book 2!

I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher (via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: Anne Marie Gideon did a pretty good job with this book. She had the perfect voice for Petrel – a determined young voice that could be compassionate or a little rough as needed. I also liked her voice for Mr. Smoke. Her young boy voices were believable and distinct. She also had a naughty girl voice for Dolph when she was misbehaving. However, when Dolph as nice a handful of times in the book, her voice sounded so much like Petrel’s I had to listen closely to the dialogue to keep the two straight. Other than that minor little quibble, it was a great performance.

What I Liked: The world of the Oyster; Petrel as the main character; the various mysteries; action mixed in with moments of reflection or conversation; Fin’s predicament; plenty left for Book 2 to follow up on.

What I Disliked: Occasionally, the story slowed down in a few parts; so many questions were left unanswered that I was a little less than satisfied – I need to jump in to Book 2 right away!

What Others Think:

Marianne de Pierres’ Escape Club

A Throne of Books

Kirkus Review

Fancy Goods

Book Giveaway & Interview: Geoff Camphire, Author of the Charlie Dead Series

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseEveryone, please welcome Geoff Camphire, author of the humorous zombie Charlie Dead series! We discourse on zombie movies, what a zombie obstacle course would entail, what zombies symbolize in modern society, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the paperback giveaway (US only please) – scroll to the end for details on that.

If you could be an extra on a zombie movie or TV series, what would it be?

Getting shot in the forehead with a crossbow on “The Walking Dead” would be pretty darn cool. I’d make a great zombie. I’m almost lifelike. Almost.

How does it feel, I wonder, to be a treated like a monster? In my CHARLIE DEAD trilogy (‪, teenager Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he’s about to find out. These young-adult sci-fi novels explore life among the undead in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian America. I hope people enjoy it as much as shows like “iZombie” and “The Walking Dead.”

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

If punctured, the human heart can squirt blood more than 30 feet. Which can make it hard to catch it in your mouth.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death, would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Definitely a supernatural creature. Specifically, a zombie. Even more specifically, it would be Wendell Reed, the main zombie character in my CHARLIE DEAD series.

Charlie is a teenager trying to avoid becoming a zombie, and Wendell, for a variety of reasons, tries to help him. In doing so, Wendell risks being utterly destroyed himself.

Of course, for a zombie, this is as close to “certain death” as one comes. After writing about Wendell for years, I’ve grown quite fond of the big, undead lug. So, would I save him if I had to choose someone to rescue? I suppose — but, fortunately, as an author, I can do whatever I want!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

One year, when I was a kid, “The Exorcist” aired on network TV for the first time on Halloween. It was an edited version, but still pretty scary. I remember coming home from trick-or-treating, planting myself on the carpet in front of the tube in our basement game room, and gobbling candy bars alone in the dark. It was like an out-of-body experience.

At one point, a commercial came on — and suddenly I became aware of myself. Bathed in the glow of the TV screen. Scared halfway out of my mind. And grinning like a madman. Looking back, I understand now what a pivotal moment that was.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSeedsOfZombieChaosHow does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

Well, I grew up in Pittsburgh, which really was ground zero for the explosion of zombie movies that’s given the world its modern vision of the living dead. I’ve never shaken the infection — or the hunger to spread the zombie virus.

Of course, as an adult now, I experience pop culture a little differently. After enjoying the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books along with my kids, I started wondering why young-adult zombie literature didn’t offer a series of comparable quality. So I wrote my own.

People today are fascinated with zombies — and for good reason. The planet is swarming with mortal dangers, existential threats and systemic efforts to take over our lives. We’re all afraid of being gobbled up, turned into zombies. Mindless zombies and the walking dead invite us to tackle the hard questions of free will and what it means to be really alive. The real stumper isn’t “How do we kill zombies?” but “How to do we live with the reality of zombies among us?”

And I want my post-apocalyptic world to be familiar, but not too much. Without dropping a lot of references to things like specific products or movies, I try to paint a picture of people as they live today, struggling and striving, often unsuccessfully, to make their world normal again. Turns out, that’s hard to do when there are zombies everywhere.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

How important is reality in my fiction? I’m not sure that reality is particularly important in my reality. I write about zombies, after all.

That said, I don’t feel like art is obligated to be absolutely faithful to all the mundane facets of real life. Sure, fiction is most entertaining when it feels somehow plausible — when characters’ motivations make sense, when the words coming out of their mouths sound like things they’d say, and when events unfold within the rules of a reality established by the story. So reality is important. But it’s the reality I create that matters. And that reality isn’t filled with paragraphs punctuated by trips to the toilet.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Our heroes have stayed mostly the same over time. They’ve always had to overcome obstacles, externally and internally. That’s what makes them heroes. And they’re important, sure. But if I’m being honest, I am much more interested in our villains — specifically, our monsters — and what they say about us.

Creepy as it might sound, I take inspiration from the simmering panic I hear in the voices of ordinary people. When you ask people about their fears, what do they talk about? Faceless enemies, terror groups, existential threats. A growing sense of freedom being taken away. Outsize control exerted by governmental, religious and economic forces. And the desperation to somehow escape becoming just another one of society’s dead-eyed drones.

That’s why we’re drawn to tales of zombies. Most zombie stories focus on the fight-or-flight response to attack by the unliving. But in real life, there’s no escape. You certainly can’t avoid death. Even before that, there are forms of “zombification” that find you, no matter what. You can never completely get away from the drudgery of work, the limits placed on your free choice by society, and — maybe most important — the tendency of people to treat each other as lesser-than, inhuman monsters.

We’re all running from the zombie plague, and we’re trying to figure out what it means to really be alive. So I wanted to write about the ways we learn to live, hopefully, in a reality that’s always is and always will be overrun with zombies.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSpoilesOfZombieCombatIf you were sent on a survival quest which other 4 zombie fiction authors would you take with you?

Richard Matheson, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and Seth Grahme-Smith. Why? Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’m going to last long on any “survival quest.” I’m going to be one of the first to go down. So, I figure, I might as well enjoy some scintillating conversation with innovative intellects before I become somebody’s lunch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

This question really is not fair, because I feel like I’m being set up to self-promote. But I’m taking the bait. Naturally I feel like my CHARLIE DEAD books would make the most amazing video game ever. Personally, I’d want to be Charlie. But others might choose to be characters like the undead Emma Fletcher, buddy Sam Curtis, or the zombified secret agent Wendell Reed.

Then the good guys face off against the bad guys. And not just rabid zombies. The villains are legion — including the loony zealots of Orthodox Life Church, the ruthless opportunists of Nolegys Corporation, and the jackbooted thugs of the Community Health Enforcement Watch, or CHEW. The “Zombie Combat” tournaments in the video game could be just as wild as those featured in the books, where normals and zombies go head to head. And heads do roll

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing zombie fiction, I’m a husband, a father, a freelance journalist, and a communications guru who runs a public awareness campaign reaching over 50 million people a year with information and resources about science education. Also I watch zombie movies. Lots and lots of zombie movies.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Aside from slender, Dr. Seuss-style children’s books, the first real book I remember reading by myself was “A Wrinkle in Time.” I was in elementary school, and I can remember being blown away by the bizarre combination of supernatural fantasy and science-fiction, the careening adventure and high drama, the wrenching emotion, and — maybe most — the characters I wanted to know better. What a storyteller L’Engle was! What a story!

You have to run a zombie obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Merlot. I think a simple red would pair best with my friend Gavin, who is catastrophically clumsy. Gavin would make excellent zombie bait, I think. Outrunning him would provide me with my escape. And since red wine goes with red meat, I might be tempted to share some with the zombies feasting on Gavin. Then again, I just might save the bottle for myself. I do like to have a drink while I’m enjoying a show. Buh-bye, Gavin!

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseBook Blurb for Charlie Dead & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse:

Zombies, zombies, zombies! How does it feel to be one of the walking dead? Hunted? Not free? Never allowed to live the life you choose? Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he is about to find out.

Charlie doesn’t want to become one of the mindless corpses at Norwood High School, where his few friends include the zombified Emma Fletcher. In this post-apocalyptic Armageddon, undead hordes are part of the horror of daily life.

Just as Charlie is losing hope, though, a mysterious government agent appears at the door, raising questions about the boy’s late mother. How was the vanished scientist connected to the origin of the virus? Why was this terrible plague unleashed on the world? And who is now targeting zombies for persecution?

Charlie, recruited to aid in the investigation, faces each new adventure with a dose of gallows humor and fading hope for a cure. But Charlie knows there’s more than his own fate on the line. At stake is the power to control the whole human race.

Will Charlie survive? Who can he trust? In a world at war with the living dead, it’s not always easy to tell who the real monsters are.

From author Geoff Camphire comes this high-flying, pulse-pounding zombie novel series, a new kind of dystopian science fiction. “CHARLIE DEAD and the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” is Book 1 of the acclaimed CHARLIE DEAD series.

Places to Find Geoff Camphire & his Charlie Dead series

The CHARLIE DEAD books are available as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon at Go online to check out the first installment — “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” — and click “Look Inside” in the upper left corner to read the first chapter. You can “like” the Charlie Dead Book Series on Facebook and follow @Geoff_Camphire on Twitter for news and updates. And learn about CHARLIE DEAD and more by author Geoff Camphire at Also, catch him on GoodReads.


Geoff Camphire is pleased to offer one free full set of CHARLIE DEAD paperbacks — Books 1, 2 & 3 — to the first U.S. resident who, after this Q&A appears online, emails him at with his or her favorite quotation from the first installment, “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse.” Join the zombie feast! Bon appetit! You can check out the first couple of chapters of Book 1 over on Amazon using their ‘Look Inside’ feature. Hint: This gives you plenty of awesome quotes from the book!

Robinson Crusoe 2244 by E. J. Robinson

RobinsonRobinsonCrusoe2244Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Malk Williams

Publisher: E. J. Robinson (2015)

Length: 8 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 Robinson Crusoe

Author’s Page

Set in a future dystopian world, the once UK civilization has risen once again. The government maintains a tight control on its citizens, many lines of study are forbidden, weapons are not allowed in civilian hands, and a class system is firmly in place. Teen Robinson is from a prominent family and is usually dodging trouble. Along with his best friend, Slink, he can be found occasionally scaling forbidden buildings by moonlight. Rebellion is stirring beneath the surface and Robinson is soon caught up in it. He is forced to flee the only life he has ever known, crash landing on unknown shores in a degraded land populated by mutated monsters.

Let’s start with my one little quibble: This story stands well on its own and it was not necessary for the author to draw some parallels with the classic Robinson Crusoe by Defoe. OK, now that that is out of the way, let me gush. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. The author shows us the messed up side of Crusoe’s society in many small ways that cumulatively lead up to the big punch-in-the-face reality that Crusoe has to live through. There’s betrayal and pity, friendship and familial bonds, hope and luck.

Then he crashes onto what was once the USA. There, all signs of civilization have long since degraded. The buildings are in ruins, food is scarce, & winter is coming on. To add to his quickly shortening odds of survival, there are the Renders (which are mutated monsters that might have once been humans a few generations back). The Renders can be quite large (think bull-sized) and sometimes go on all fours. They are always hungry and not above eating a human or two.

Crusoe must learn to survive. He has a few rations from his crashed ship to get him started but he has to find reliable shelter, clean water (or a safe place to boil it), and food. Oddly enough, it is the loneliness that starts to undo him. Lucky for him, he finds a series of companions in this diseased land. Without giving away plot points, these various companions teach him different things, both about himself and about survival. My favorite was Friday because she was so very practical and could take the hard road.

Added to all this is a mystery surrounding Crusoe’s mother, who supposedly died in a flyer accident a few years back. Crusoe has always had questions about that day and his sudden flight and subsequent findings add to his questions. I really liked how this turned out. On the other side of the coin, there are these savages that come in by boat every full moon with captives that they sacrifice. Absolutely chilling! These scenes were written very well and were disturbing. I really felt like I was in Crusoe’s shoes, watching from a somewhat safe distance, as these sacrifices were made.

Crusoe’s story arc was very interesting to watch progress. He always had some smarts, if not common sense. As circumstances, teachers, and companions beat their lessons into him, he changes under the harsh weight. He goes from a clever, well-bred young man who is pasty white and weak in muscle, to a survivor made of determination and sinew. Riding around in his head, we can clearly see why he makes certain hard choices and what drives him to continue on. As a note, there were more than one ethnicity in this book, an aspect I appreciated. The ending completes the story arc for this book and leaves it set up for Book 2, which I eagerly await coming out in audiobook.

I received this audiobook from the author (via the Audiobook Blast Newsletter) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Malk Williams was a great choice for young Robinson Crusoe. He was able to keep a clear voice for Crusoe even as he aged both physically and mentally. He had quite believable female voices and a range of voices for the rest of the men. There are a few sections where another language is spoken that doesn’t quite match any of our modern languages and Williams did a great job of making these sound fluid and natural. I especially liked his voice for Friday.

What I Liked: Had my attention the entire time; mutated human monsters; tough choices – not for wimps!; lovely cover art; engaging characters; multiple ethnicities; satisfying ending leaving room for Book 2.

What I Disliked: This is quite minor: the story stands quite well on its own and parallels to the classic Robinson Crusoe by Defoe are not necessary.

What Others Think:

Will Marck

Dan Ladle’s Random Writings

Interview: Lisa Cindrich & Jay Sparks of Glynn River Press

CindrichSparksExecutablesPlease welcome Lisa Cindrich and Jay Sparks from Glynn River Press. they’re here to chat about self-promotion, villains, retelling of classics, and more. Enjoy!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Jay: Secondary characters, especially those closest to the narrator and his/her chief antagonist, are very important and should be developed as much as possible within the confines of the story.

One of the best examples is William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies. The central conflict between Ralph and Jack is quite powerful in itself. But the secondary characters and what they represent elevate the novel from merely good to classic. Simon, Piggy and Roger each bring something different to the tale, and all elicit a strong emotional response from the reader. Simon and his confrontation with “The Lord of the Flies” is one of the most powerful scenes in the book. Piggy provides Ralph with his strongest support and the penultimate scene on the cliffs is truly heartrending. And Roger—ooo, that evil, malicious little monster! He’s a crucial element in the story. Worse than the biblical Cain (who was ashamed enough of his crime to at least hide his brother’s body), Roger shows how murder can be a “pleasurable” act, and a prelude to the sadism the boys’ civilization will devolve into.

We went a little overboard with the secondary characters in the early drafts of Executables, and it was painful to excise a few of them from the text. (Tommy Edgers comes immediately to mind.) Fortunately, we’ve been able to resuscitate a few of these in short stories we’re writing as promotional companion material for the novel.

So there is that danger: the story can get out of hand if you venture too far from the central conflict in following these secondary characters down each of their little paths. [Lisa: Haha! I remember reading once that Roald Dahl originally had nine other kids entering Wonka’s chocolate factory along with Charlie Bucket. All probably as vividly drawn as Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop…but talk about potential minor character chaos! So it happens to the best.] They are going to quite fascinating places, after all. But they help you create a richer world and deliver a better payoff to the reader.

Lisa: Not only a richer world, but secondary characters that we know well and come to care about can give us some surprising views on the main characters, can reflect different facets of the protagonists, for good or ill. Think of how differently you viewed Harry Potter’s father after witnessing the interaction between his teenaged self and Snape. I think I was as shocked as Harry!

And yes, there is a danger not only in minor characters taking the story off-course, but also upstaging the protagonist if they are too fascinating or funny. I’d rather read about Mrs. Havisham or Mr. Jaggers than about Pip, Mr. Grandcourt rather than Daniel Deronda.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Jay: Well, we’ve come a long way from Beowulf, that’s for sure.

Government and society are the villains in quite a bit of what I read these days, and I think that reflects the distrust we feel towards authority figures in general and with the way many political leaders are doing their jobs. [Lisa: What was Congress’s most recent approval rating, again?] Many of us are struggling to pay bills and take care of our families. It can feel like we are at the mercy of larger forces— whether those are governmental, technological, societal, even environmental—and that is reflected in much of our modern entertainment, particularly in dystopian literature.

There’s also a backlash against rampant consumerism which fuels today’s economic engines. Again, I think this reflects people’s struggles to maintain the status quo in their financial lives, and the worries they have about changes going on world-wide and how they and especially their children will fit into these future realities. [Lisa: I can’t help but think about the conversations I hear among parents, trying to figure out how to advise their kids about college and career choices. Which college majors or graduate studies justify x amount of debt, and how will that affect the ability to buy a house, have a family, retire, etc? Do you dare try to nudge your children toward anything but the STEM areas? And even if your kid becomes an engineer or computer expert, etc., will even those jobs be outsourced? Is anything a safe choice?]

The heroes/heroines in dystopian tales tend to be average folk who are thrust into a role where their actions can have an impact and a benefit to the suppressed populace. Or in their struggle to survive, they provide a basis for the rise of a new society. I think that is a reflection of a lot of our fantasies, knowing full well that there is truly little an individual can do to counter the waves of change that bombard us every day, in many aspects of our lives. [Lisa: Well, I’m not quite as pessimistic as that. Because there are individuals who arise who make a tremendous difference. Or, even if no one individual in a movement stands head and shoulders above the rest in influence, enough individuals wanting a particular change and willing to struggle for it can, as a group, be the impetus for enormous change. But the ‘forces that bombard us every day’ are certainly daunting and sometimes (often?) insurmountable. And in the face of that, who wouldn’t fantasize about being Katniss or Frodo?]

We live in extraordinary times. The discoveries in medicine, in technological innovation, in exploration of our world and beyond, provide an enormous palette from which to craft stories. There is a lot of fear of these changes, but also exhilaration about the potential. [Lisa: Absolutely! Anxiety, dread, excitement, the thrill of ever-increasing knowledge—it’s a great, boiling cauldron of emotion and possibility, both in reality and in fiction.]

CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesConventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Jay: I do enjoy the interactions with people, the one-on-one communication aspect of self-promotion. I like conversing with individual readers and hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like about the story I wrote. It helps me in gauging how far to take some stories, and where to draw the line. Plus, it’s just fun! I know as a reader I’d be thrilled to talk to Dan Chaon some time. I did get a chance to talk with one of my literary heroes, Daniel Woodrell, and he’s an amazing person.

We’ve just started to get into the blogging and the tweeting and the tumblring and facebooking, etc. Of course, I’ve had a personal page on Facebook for a while now, so that’s not new, but I never used it for self-promotion. The biggest hang-up I have to get over on the online promoting is the fear of sounding like a braggart. [Lisa: Yup. Or a nag. Or that annoying salesperson who just will not let you browse in peace.] I want to let people know I have a book out there, but it’s almost like I want them to come to it of their own choice, or offer them something for free as a promotion to a sale. But then how do they find the material? So you have to get the information to them some way. I’m getting over my discomfort on this, but it’s taken some time.

Lisa: Well, I’m an introvert and while I enjoy conversations one-on-one or in small groups, I don’t particularly enjoy big crowd scenes and really, really don’t enjoy public speaking or being the focus of attention. (Even at my own wedding, I was thrilled when our little ring bearer was such a totally adorable ham going down the aisle before me that he basically stole the show and it felt like all the pressure to be the star attraction was off! Please, people, can we all just now ignore the bride? Thank you.) I LOVE that I can now meet and mingle online with people who have similar interests and sensibilities. But as far as using those tools to sell? Eesh. I’m pretty terrible. It’s a struggle.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Jay: Technological innovation—what is possible and what is going to be possible in the near-future—these are things that I find most interesting and influential. The speed of change that has occurred in our lifetimes makes any other epoch in history pale by comparison, and so anything that touches on these breakthroughs and how we deal with them as human beings fascinates me. I like perusing Wired, Discover, Mental Floss, and other magazines, and listening to RadioLab. I like works by popular physicists like Michio Kaku and Brian Greene because they can break down complex topics and make them comprehensible for people like me, and they raise interesting questions that just get your brain working in overdrive.

On a personal level, my parents and family have had the most influence on my life and how I look at the world. Both of my parents encouraged my interest in science and asking questions about the whys and ways of everything. Sibling rivalry with my older sister and younger brother brought out a competitive nature in me that continues to this day. My children continue to amaze me with their enthusiasm, their energy, and sense of wonder about the world about them. I love their perspective.

I’ve also always had a thing for the underdogs of history and in sports, and for those whose dedication to a cause and to duty led them to undertake incredible and, at times, suicidal tasks. Think Gettysburg, Into Thin Air, Charge of the Light Brigade, Gallipoli, U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, Buster Douglas, etc.

Lisa: A couple of influences immediately come to mind. My upbringing as a Catholic and my much later explorations into that religion—once I could get past the unattractive 1970’s churches and bland 1970’s hymns of my youth and plunge more deeply into the cultural and historical richness—the mystery of what it is to be human and the sense of deep timelessness that drenches the art, architecture, legends, and literature from Dante all the way through Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor. I’d assume that a childhood involvement in any particular religion is going to shape who you become in many, many ways no matter what your conscious, mature view is of that religion, even if you completely reject every last tenet. Even if you reject the entire notion of religious faith itself as outdated.

Another thing that influences me strongly is travel. Not that I’ve been able to do nearly as much of it as I’d like and nowhere more exotic than Italy and England, but exposure to new places (even as close to home as, say Atchison, Kansas) always affects me powerfully and often brings out the writing juices.

Like Jay, I also like stories—true or fiction—about fighting impossible or nearly impossible odds. Survival stories—In the Heart of the Sea, The Last Place on Earth, Ice Blink, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat—are special favorites. If a group of people are facing the choice of cannibalism or starvation in a lifeboat or on an ice-trapped ship in the Arctic, I want to know about it!

With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Jay: I think those old genres made it easier for publishers to group their readers according to taste, and market books accordingly. Neat genre classifications may have made deciding what to publish and how to market a little more clear-cut, but with the self-publishing explosion, the old rules no longer need apply and the genre distinctions are a lot murkier, even for traditionally published books. I think it’s great that readers are branching out from what they are familiar with and taking chances, especially with material that might be considered “really out there” and mind expansive.

I do like being lured away from my comfort zones. The rewards are great. I’ve never regretted reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and I was put off from reading it for years because of what I “thought” it was about.

Lisa: I love genres getting all mixed up, mashed up, messed up. Fantastic! It’s right up my alley. I’ve always loved fiction that utilizes but at the same time pushes against the boundaries of its genre, that breaks rules and surprises me. For example, I’ve really enjoyed what Dan Simmons has been doing in his most recent works (The Terror, Drood, The Abominable), mixing historical-based fiction (well-researched as far as I can tell) with creepy paranormal or potentially paranormal elements. Right now I’m reading Robert McCammon’s The Five (fantastic so far, by the way) and it’s been interesting to read about his unfortunate experiences with his publishers back in the 90’s, how they wanted him to stick to the horror fiction he was known for and not stray too far from that. Nobody seemed to think that there would be any readership for the sort of historical/horror/mystery blends that he started writing with Speaks the Nightbird. (frantically waving hand) “Hey! Right here! Your ideal historical/horror/mystery combo novel reader! Ready and waiting!” I’m SO glad that he’s back to publishing regularly again.

One writer I discovered several years ago who might have seemed a bit out of my comfort zone is Sarah Waters. I’ve read the occasional well-known lesbian-themed novel over the years (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Rubyfruit Jungle, Annie on My Mind) but it wasn’t something I would typically read. If I’d happened on Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet first, I probably wouldn’t have been interested. But it so happened that the first book she wrote that I discovered was Affinity…and, oh, yeah, that might have been written just for me, all 19th century gloom and séances and prisons. The lesbianism aspect was just one other thread, all woven gorgeously together. Now I’ve read more of her books, some featuring more overt lesbian themes, others with none in particular, but all terrific.

CinrichSparksFirstKillWhat reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

Jay: I remember reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot right after Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. I liked King’s modern take on the old vampire myth. I also enjoyed the graphic novel The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and how they deconstruct the classic superhero story. Cormac McCarthy’s anti-western Blood Meridian blew away most of my previous favorites in that genre.

Lisa: I suppose I’d have to break this down into two groups—1.) reboots of specific stories and 2.) reworkings of more general mythic types (vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.) I’m probably more drawn to the second group with a few of my favorites being the reimagining of vampires in Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist, werewolves (obviously) in The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, the magician class in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, fairies in general in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and—well—tooth fairies in Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy. As far as more specific retellings, I’d always recommend The Lightning Thief series, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, and The Once and Future King by T.H. White. If we can venture away from books, I’m a sucker for the stage version of Wicked, Sondheim’s vision of the Sweeney Todd legend, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Was Homer’s Odysseus ever a fraction as attractive as George Clooney?)

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in dystopian literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Lisa: I’m afraid my class might not be the most balanced because I’d probably ignore seminal works that I haven’t read yet, while concentrating on my personal favorites. (Come to think of it, I’m sure I had some lit professors who operated by precisely that method when creating their syllabi so maybe this is a-ok.) I do think that I’d make sure to include dystopias that fall into different models of oppression: the obvious heavy-hand of physical violence or threat of same; oppression through restriction of free thought and free conscience; dystopia through chaos or anarchy; the we’ve-made-life-easy-and-fun-here-so-why-is-this-person-complaining model. So many avenues to dystopia; so little reading time.

That said, this is a combined Jay-and-Lisa list, no particular order, with our personal favorites starred:

First the required reading:
By the Waters of Babylon (Jay: Definitely. The first piece of dystopian lit I ever read.)
Brave New World*
The Time Machine
The Road*
Harrison Bergeron*
A Clockwork Orange*
A Handmaid’s Tale
Parable of the Sower*
I am Legend*
A Boy and His Dog
Fahrenheit 451
The Lord of the Flies*

And the extra credit:
The Trial
Alas, Babylon
The Stand
The Passage*
The Giver
House of the Scorpion
Cloud Atlas* (Ooh, soulless super-techno dystopia AND postapocalyptic barbarism in one book—so very awesome)
Super Sad True Love Story* (Very uncomfortable read; hits way too close to home)
The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier, not Hitchcock)
The Minority Report
On the Beach
White Noise
It’s a Good Life (by Jerome Bixby)
Never Let Me Go
The Hunger Games

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work….or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Lisa: Wow, I’ve gushed any number of times…at least when I could actually manage to form words of any sort. One of my most tongue-tied was with the poet Mark Strand. He gave a reading (packed) when I was at the University of Illinois. He was funny, sharp, gorgeous images falling from his mouth as he read. Plus he was (to be frank) hot, in a kind of rangy, silver-haired, Clint Eastwood way.

Jay and I were on a committee together a number of years ago that presented a literary award annually to an author from the general Kansas/Missouri area. One year the winner was Daniel Woodrell. This was before Winter’s Bone, but right around the time that the film Ride with the Devil (based on Woodrell’s Woe to Live On) was made. We were so blown away by his writing that everything to do with the event made us anxious even though Woodrell was never anything but gracious and pleasant and easy to deal with. For starters, it was fairly embarrassing that we had such limited funds we couldn’t offer to pay for things like hotel rooms, mileage, or—God forbid—airfare even though we required a trip to Kansas City to accept the award. Committee members tossed around various mortifying ideas for the post-ceremony committee-and-author dinner, assuming that because he was known for ‘country noir,’ he might enjoy eating off battered pie tins and drinking from mason jars while using a checkered Labrador-retriever-style bandanna to dab any excess chicken gravy from his lips. (Thank God, Woodrell said he couldn’t stay for dinner because he had to make the drive back home in time to feed his animals. We never knew if he really owned animals or not, but if he didn’t, Jay and I would like to thank him at this time for inventing a plausible excuse and sparing us all humiliation.) One committee member intended to get her book signed, but fled in panic at the thought of coming face-to-face with such a gifted writer. Another committee member videotaped the event but when Woodrell emailed Jay weeks later and said his publisher would love a copy of the video to use for PR, it turned out that our primary camera had malfunctioned. Someone’s spouse had carried on with one of those early, handheld camcorders—shaky picture, no sound. Jay sent it to Mr. Woodrell with extensive apologies but never heard anything from him again. Ever.

Which favorite utopian worlds (from books, movies, tv) would you like to visit?

Jay: I still remember how intrigued I was with Michael Crichton’s amusement-park-gone-berserk premise in both the movie Westworld and his novel Jurassic Park, so I guess I would vote for either of those. Delos seems like the perfect getaway—as long as the robots don’t contract any viruses that turn them into actual killers. Nobody wants to be on the run from Yul Brynner. And an island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Sign me up, please!

Lisa: An island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Book me a flight in the opposite direction, please!

This is a really tough question! How many utopias are there that don’t turn out to be dystopias at their core? How many authors could write about a true, successful utopia without the reader dozing off? Maybe Narnia (during the good times.) Or Hobbiton (also during the good times.) Or one of the Star Trek series? Yes, there is still intergalactic war and all that, but human society seems to have taken care of so many of the things that ail us today: disease, poverty, lack of education, etc.

The truest utopias in fiction may be the charming old-fashioned small towns and villages that populate picture books—if you ever happen to read picture books, visualize where Arthur (the aardvark) lives. Or Angelina Ballerina. Or the Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin the turtle. Or Fancy Nancy. Or Pinkalicious. Or Clifford. Pleasant downtowns with leafy parks and friendly shops—not a Walmart in sight. Sunny, spacious houses with porches and large yards and big treehouses. It’s safe for the young ones to walk or ride their bikes (unsupervised!) to the library or the ice cream shop or the firehouse. There’s snow for Christmas and one crooked, decayed Victorian mansion at the edge of town to provide a scare on Halloween.

Dang. Can I go there right now? Or, at least, to the Hundred Acre Wood?

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Jay: I used to work in the Technical Services department of a public library system, so I’ve been involved in my share of geeky discussions/debates. I remember how excited we’d get when the Library of Congress would mail us their newly-approved subject headings. We’d have arguments about how many access points were appropriate in a “good” MARC record (answer: you can never have enough), and how far to carry the decimal point in our Dewey classification system (we were limited to four places to the right of the decimal). I thought our bizarre preoccupations were limited to our own library, until I got approval to attend a meeting of a national organization for audio-visual catalogers in Chicago. People like me were everywhere! We’d spend entire dinner evenings discussing the nuances in the cataloging of recorded opera. Ah, those were the days.

We did debate pop culture as well. Such geeks we were! One particular discussion that prompted a heated exchange or two was over which actor portrayed the creepiest “Tooth Fairy” in the film adaptations of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon: Tom Noonan or Ralph Fiennes? My vote still goes for Noonan. His Francis Dolarhyde is the stuff of nightmares.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

If you happen to live in the KC area, we’ll be appearing at the Home Grown Authors’ Fair at the South branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library on October 25th. Executables will be available in print by the end of September 2014, and October 2014 will see the release of at least three free companion stories—“Avenge Me,” “First Kill,” and “Whatever It Takes”—set in that same dystopian world.

The novel we’re currently working on, Deflection, is straight-up sci fi; we expect to release it in March, 2015.

CindrichSparksExecutablesExecutables book blurb:

After ten years of brutal labor on a prison meat-packing line, Tori Jennings now confronts an even more unbearable prospect: freedom.

But just because she’s free doesn’t mean she has a future. As an Executable, she has no money, no rights, no citizenship. No laws protect her. And the second she steps off penitentiary grounds into the Pennsylvania countryside, Tori becomes prey. A corrupt court judged her a murderer, and now hit-men, legally hired by the victim’s family, intend to take revenge.

Tori’s only chance is to run—and keep running, struggling to hold onto both courage and compassion as she stumbles through the underbelly of a decayed society. Her mother is dead, her father’s fate unknown. No family or friends can help her. Her sole allies? A troubled ex-cop who’s determined to see her survive and a female killer suffering doubts about her own lethal career.

The execution company will hunt Tori without mercy unless the victim’s family calls off the hit. Tori needs convincing proof of her innocence, but even she doesn’t know the truth behind the death she supposedly engineered. She only know that, without it, she can never run far enough to escape.

Places to Find Lisa Cindrich

Glynn River Press



Places to Find Jay Sparks

Glynn River Press





CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesWhatever It Takes book blurb:

As president of Regency Executions, Merle Edgers chafes under the general disdain for his line of work: the legalized hunting down and killing of felons branded as Executables. He’s determined his new venture into prison manufacturing will bring him the respect he craves from the socially elite. He’s confident he can make the climb . . . until he pays a surprise visit to Regency’s San Diego office. Brendan Roth, Regency’s west coast manager, has the upbringing of an American aristocrat, a matching sense of entitlement, and a fondness for blackmail. But Roth doesn’t understand just who he’s taking for a chump. Edgers isn’t about to let some Dartmouth punk run roughshod over his ambitions, no matter what he has to do to stop it.

CinrichSparksFirstKillFirst Kill book blurb:

How hard can hunting a human be? Tommy Edgers’ uncle runs a legalized hit squad and all Tommy wants is a chance to prove he’s not the loser so many people seem to think he is. When Uncle Merle finally gives him an easy hit–a straight shot in barren desert–Tommy intends to prove he deserves to hang with the pros he idolizes. But the Russian sadist assigned as his partner has other ideas.

Enter the world of Executables in this short story companion to the novel.

Interview & Giveaway: Drew Avera, Author of 2103, Act I

AveraReichHello Dabbers, please welcome Drew Avera to the blog today. I have been enjoying his audiobooks and it is time that others have the opportunity to do so as well. Drew is offering a giveaway of his audiobooks 2103 Act I and Reich. Just scroll to the bottom for details on how to enter. Otherwise, please enjoy the interview where we chat about villains, Falling Skies, dragons versus snakes, comics, and more.

Have you utilized your Navy experience in building your characters and worlds? If so, in what ways?

It’s hard not to take from life experiences and put them into your writing. Typically I will see personality traits from people I’ve met and use some of them in the characters I write. Honestly, some of the biggest a-holes I’ve met have been in the Navy and it helps draw inspiration for antagonists.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

That’s a tough one because I don’t usually watch anything more than twice. I’m tempted to say Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, but now I’m second guessing myself. On TV Breaking Bad was awesome, but then again I really like shows like Continuum and Falling Skies. I’m also an avid comic book fan and shows like Arrow are fun. Maybe I should pick a book…sorry I can’t pick just one, but I will say that What Savage Beast written by Peter David was the first novel I read that made me love reading. It’s a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. Maybe reliving that experience would be nice.

Avera2103ActIGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The answer to both is a dragon. After seeing How to Train Your Dragon I would be tempted to try and ride one, but I’m also very afraid of snakes (we have a lot of poisonous snakes where I grew up in Mississippi) and a dragon is like a big snake.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

What I think would be cool is a mix between an audiobook and film. It would be hard to pull off for long novels, but I have some science fiction short stories that are being professionally narrated that I plan to create a video for. It would last about 20-30 minutes and have images of characters or maybe even video footage of the character. I could even score music for it and make it as close to a “movie” as possible. Unfortunately I haven’t found the time to put it all together yet to test my theory, but I think it would be fun to watch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I am horrible at video games and I’m not really into things like Magic: The Gathering so I’m not really sure. I would say live action role playing The Hunger Games would be kind of fun though…unless you’re the first one to die.

AveraDeadPlanetexodusIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Everything I write is founded on a fear. I don’t think it is paranoia, but that’s probably what every paranoid person would say. Anyways, if you look at the story Reich, it is about a German society that lives in a utopian state. They live under the pretense that Hitler won the war and he is now a god-like figure. That’s not reality, but what if people drank the Kool-Aid and believed in that Aryan superiority? I also have a non-existent relationship with my mother which finds its way into creating the character Jenna. I tried to justify her actions with my abandonment issues with my own mother. It wasn’t intentional, but I can see it now that the book is done.

Other books like Dead Planet: Exodus, 2103: The Fall of America, and a new one I’m working on called The Banished are all dystopian books about government corruption. Everyone is potentially a villain in most of my books. There’s that string of paranoia again, but I bet no one thought Rome would fall did they? Seriously though, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything like that. I just fall prey to answering the “what if” question. And like I said, the foundation is always based on fear.

In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I think a good villain has to believe they are the hero. They are fighting for something worthwhile, but maybe the other people are just too ignorant to see it his/her way. I use that method for development most of the time, but sometimes I write crazy serial killers with no legitimate rhyme or reason to their methods. Those people scare me J.

AveraMr.GrimmIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Batman, Wolverine,  Pope (from Falling Skies),  Captain Weaver (Falling Skies), and Jesse (from Breaking Bad) because everyone needs someone to poke fun at lol.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Jesse from Breaking Bad was great. He could lighten any serious moment with just one word…”B****!” hahaha.  As far as my characters go I use them just to support the main character in some way. Sometimes they are almost an extension of the main character’s development. It’s kind of hard to explain, but essentially I want all of my characters to grow and I want them to influence each other like real people influence each other. It’s not just experience, but also relationships that shape a personality. I try to keep that in mind when my characters react.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am always working on the next book. I’m moving into different genres now with a set of books that will be more crime thriller based. I’m working on the first Nathan Fox novel called Born to Die and I will follow it up with another called Dead Eye. All of my books are short, action packed, and fast paced. I jokingly say that my books are written for people with ADHD. You can finish my book before something shiny grabs your attention! Growing up with ADHD I struggled with sitting down to read. That’s why comic books were a big part of my life until I discovered books about the very things I was passionate about. Now as an adult I can focus more, but I understand not wanting to be tied down to a five hundred page book.

If anyone is interested in checking out my work you can find my books at  and on facebook at  I’m active on twitter at and I have a blog where I feature other authors at  I have many authors on there so there’s a little something for everyone.

Also I have a few free stories here: if anyone is interested.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I really appreciate it.


Drew is giving away 1 audiobook copy of Reich and 1 audiobook copy of 2103 Act I. You must be able to download via To enter the giveaway, comment below with 1) a way to contact you should you win (email, twitter handle, etc.), 2) Are you able to download audiobooks? Yes or no, and 3) Answer this question: What little facet from history would you like to see projected into a future utopian/dystopian story?

The giveaway will run through October 8th, 2014. Good luck everyone!

Places to Stalk Drew Avera







2103, Act I by Drew Avera

Avera2103ActIWhy I Read It: I enjoyed Avera’s Reich and decided to give this a listen.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy a cautionary note underlying their thriller/suspense stories.

Narrator: Al Kessel

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2014)

Length: 2 hours 31 minutes

Series: Act I of 2103

Author’s Page

As you can probably guess, the year is 2103 and it has been just over 50 years since the second American Civil War. However, this civil war left the USA in 3 separate pieces. This book, Act I, takes place in one of those three – the American Union. Martial law is the usual law with anyone who shares an opinion that is contrary to the government’s is labeled an Outlier. Death usually follows shortly after the label is affixed.

With plenty of suspense and no little amount of action, Avera leads us through this future America in grisly fashion. There’s sorrow, death, selfishness, madness, greed for power, and no little amount of anger. President Caleb Fulton rules everyone and everything with an iron fist, including his actor persona, a man names Stephen he hired to play himself for the public eye. Being wheelchair bound and suffering from a disfiguring illness, he knew the American people would never have elected him president; hence the subterfuge. Stephen and his family live under constant threat from the real Fulton and his shadow administration.

Throughout the book, we see many different viewpoints. As with Reich, everyone is a hero in their own head and this is an aspect I really enjoyed about the book. Some justify their actions more than others. Some simply assume they are a good person, hence all their actions must be the right actions. A few of the characters I thoroughly enjoyed hating on (the real Fulton and this other psycho who I won’t name so as to avoid spoilers) while other characters I could completely sympathize with even though I disagreed with some of their actions (such as the priest). It made for dynamic reading.

My one criticism concerns the female characters. They are love interests, wives, or sex objects. None of them stand alone as an individual character. Rather they are something the men must take care of, rescue, or use in some way. Needless to say, I found their characters to be the least interesting of the story.

This tale has an underlying cautionary note, as did Reich, concerning power unchecked and allowed to blossom (inevitably?) into a brutal tyranny draped in bureaucracy that punishes all but those at the pinnacle of power. Plenty of questions were left open ended for the reader to ponder, and also for a sequel. I hope there is a sequel. After all, not all the bad guys met their deserved end.

Narration: Over all, the narration was good. each character had a distinct voice, the female voices were believable, and the pacing was good. There was one psycho bad guy whose voice I thought was a little over the top, and little too sinister and creepy, so we always knew he was up to no good, but this quickly became apparent and then this creepy voice matched the character’s actions.

lavinia-portraitRIP9BannerWhat I Liked: A thought-provoking piece; each character believes they are a hero; the true baddies were delicious to hate on; plenty of room for a sequel.

What I Disliked: The women’s roles were minimal and predictable, and hence, boring.

I am participating in the yearly reading event R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings. I will count 2103 Act I as my thriller/suspense read for the R.I.P. challenge.

What Others Think:


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