Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: C. T. Phipps, Author of Cthulhu Armageddon

CTPhippsAuthorEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author C. T. Phipps. I really enjoyed his book, The Rules of Supervillainy and am very excited to see his latest, Cthulhu Armaggedon, out in audiobook. So don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post – an version of Cthulhu Armageddon, narrated by Jeffrey Kafer. 

If you could be an extra on a horror movie or TV show, what would it be and what role would you have?

I’d have to say I’d probably do best as an extra on SUPERNATURAL. I wouldn’t really fit in as the bearded pudgy Southern author unless it’s as a zombie on The Walking Dead. I also was a huge fan of the show for the first five seasons with my wife making a regular ritual of it. As for what role I’d have, I’d love to be the guy who gives them a vital clue before dying horribly. I’m realistic about my chances in such a situation.

I’d also love to have a guest starring role on an adaptation of one of my books but baby steps. Hehe.

PhippsCthulhuArmageddonWhat makes you cringe?

It’s funny but I’m not afraid of things like spiders, clowns, closed spaces, heights, or any of the usual things but am mortally terrified of embarrassing situations. I could probably deal with the Slenderman more easily than I could an awkward conversation about emotional stuff. It’s funny because my wife thinks I’m a big baby about that while we have our weekly horror movie-a-thons but flee at any romance films.

Ironically, I had a lot more trouble writing the emotional beats of THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY and its sequels than I ever did with the zombies or demons. It’s similar with CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON.

PhippsTheRulesOfSupervillainyWhat now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I’d like to say H.P. Lovecraft because while I’d love to interview J.R.R Tolkien, I probably wouldn’t be able to come up with any interesting questions for him. With H.P. Lovecraft, I would have a bunch of them ranging from talking about racial issues, the meaning of his monsters, and so on. It’d be a conversation he’d probably walk out on me during but it would certainly be enjoyable. Then again, we might just bond over our shared love of the weird. I did, after all, write the novel CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON to follow up on some of his ideas.

Personally, I’d like to know what he thought of the way his stories have spread out and become so influential.

PhippsEsoterrorismIf 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 call because I really do love to resist books I’ve read in the past and see if I can get anything new from a re-read. I’ve re-read A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE over and over again. I’ve also done the same with the LORD OF THE RINGS. So I’ll avoid the usual answers and go with THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher. Those books have been something I’ve enjoyed for almost seventeen years now and helped create my love of urban fantasy. I loved reading about Harry’s crazy adventures, his myriad femme fatales, and experiencing the crazy combination of humor with dramatic storytelling which is the heart of the series. Being able to enjoy that all for the first time again would be grand. It was a big influence on THE SUPERVILLAINY SAGA, ESOTERRORISM, and STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON.

PhippsStraightOuttaFangtonWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Writing is my most difficult job! Well, actually, no, it’s all the things around writing. The job of editing, advertising, and selling your book to your audience is a full-time job well after the “fun” part of making it work. Being an indie author definitely has its advantages over one of the big publishing houses but one of the reasons I could never be a self-published author is because I’m overwhelmed with the parts I do do. LOL.

Still, I would never do anything else.

PhippsTheGamesOfSupervillainyWhat 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’m a very video game-influenced author as I love the interactivity of being able to project a portion of yourself into the game world, particularly RPGs. So it’s actually a complicated question as the majority of books are more like movies in that you’re along for the ride but don’t really have a way of impacting the plot. The exception to this was the fabulous “Witcher” games which managed to preserve the feel of the classic fantasy series while also allowing you a lot of choice in the narrative. I also loved THE SHADOW OF MORDOR which isn’t about any of Tolkien’s characters but set in his world with someone not so morally pure.

If I were to see one of my books adapted to a video game, I’d definitely choose THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY, STRAIGHT OUTTA FANGTON, and CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON in no particular order. I think Rules would be particularly awesome as you’d have this big wide open sandbox full of colorful characters. You could also decide whether Gary goes the Anti-Villain route or becomes pure evil.

PhippsTheSecretsOfSupervillainyWho are some of your favorite book villains?

If I had to choose favorite villains from books other than my own, I would choose Grand Admiral Thrawn from THE THRAWN TRILOGY, Jaime Lannister from A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS’ Sauron. In the first case, Grand Admiral Thrawn is such an elegant and cultured character you actually want him to win despite being up against our heroes.

Jaimie is such a three-dimensional character that it’s hard to even say he’s a villain rather than a differently valued protagonist. Sauron? Sauron never even shows up in-person but casts such a shadow over everything that he manages to become a pervasive presence nevertheless. I also have a strong fondness for Gentleman Johnny Marcone and Lara Raith from THE DRESDEN FILES.

If I had to choose my favorite villain from my books, I’d probably choose Alan Ward from CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON. He’s a scientist and wizard with knowledge dating back to the Pre-Rising world which everyone has forgotten. Alan has the desire to save humanity from destruction and is willing to do anything, break any taboo, and do whatever horrible thing is necessary to figure out a way to preserve the human species.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Warning – Easily Distracted.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?


I always saw myself as a writer, too. Which is why becoming one is such a gleeful thing.

Thanks for the interview!

Book Blurb for Cthulhu Armageddon

PhippsCthulhuArmageddonCthulhu Armageddon is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters).

John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and the suspicion that he’s “tainted”. Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends. It’s the one thing he has left.

Places to Find C. T. Phipps









C. T. Phipps is generously offering up 5 copies of the audiobook of Cthulhu Armageddon. You can enter the Rafflecopter below or you can answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an account? 2) Who are your favorite book villains? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaways ends November 19, 2016, midnight.

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Interview: Bob Kat, Author of the YA Series Time Shifters

KatNotMyLifeEveryone, please give a warm welcome to authors Kathy Clark and her husband Bob Wernly to the blog today! Kathy and Bob Wernly write as a team under the pen name of Kathy Clark for their adult books and Bob Kat for their YA series, Time Shifters. Kathy has answered the questions, totally disregarding Bob’s input because he’s watching a football game!

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

There are so many books that I loved at different stages in my life. As a child, I devoured all the Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley books I could find. In junior high, I loved Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney. Then I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss. The Flame and the Flower was a delicious introduction to romance novels that changed my life because it made me want to write books like that. I also remember fondly Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught. And I loved the Twilight series. It’s magical when you find wonderful characters who touch your heart and stay with you forever.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

I think Karen Robards writes the best villains because she takes you inside their heads. They are vicious, cold, cruel, and totally insane.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Warning! Kathy and Bob will use anything you say or do in their next book if it’s entertaining!

As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

Just sit back and listen. Everyone has such a great story to tell about their life. That’s the theme of our latest YA romance/time travel/mystery, NOT MY LIFE. It’s about a homeless man who lives under the pier on Fort Myers Beach and is befriended by our teenage characters. When they have a chance to find out what brought him to such a drastic place, they discover that beneath his weathered exterior is an amazing person with a rich, full life.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

We are sort of unique in our writing style because we write as partners. First, we sit on our deck with some wine and Diet Coke and thoroughly plot our books. Then Bob writes the first draft, usually in the morning, sitting at our bar and using his laptop. I am strictly a night writer. I have zero creativity during the daylight hours. I can’t even make a complete sentence before noon. So, I sit on the couch and add flesh and color to the bones that Bob has given me, often working until two or three in the morning. Then, we both polish it before passing it on to our beta readers.

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

Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler would be first. Never have there been two characters that were so well-developed that you felt like you were in the room eavesdropping.

I’d also like to hang out with Kelly, Scott, Austin, and Zoey from our Time Shifters series because they are so much fun to write about, it’s as if they are real.

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?

We just finished an adult romantic suspense series called Austin Heroes. It was about three brothers, all in different branches of law enforcement. They were wonderful characters, and I fell in love with all of them. But their grandmother, Grammy, somehow became a bigger-than-life secondary character. We’ve gotten more fan mail about her than anyone else. In the last book, ANOTHER CHANCE, that will be out in November, she finally got to tell her own story.

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

NOT MY LIFE, book #5 of the Time Shifters YA romance/time travel/mystery series will be out on October 18th. ALMOST FOREVER, book #2 of the Austin Heroes series came out in July, and ANOTHER CHANCE, book #3 of the Austin Heroes series comes out on November 1st. All are available on Amazon and most other ebook sites. We are currently working on book #1 of our Breathless series, an adult romance set in Cripple Creek, Colorado. And in between, we’re dying to get our toes in sand somewhere tropical.


Visit us at our website or write us at We would love to hear where and when you think our teenagers should travel to in the next book. Reviews are always appreciated.

Kathy Clark and Bob Kat love to hear from our fans. Write us at and tell us where you’d like to have Kelly, Scott, Austin and Zoey travel to next.

Places to Find Kathy Clark and Bob Wernly


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Link to purchase NOT MY LIFE on Amazon
Link to purchase ANOTHER CHANCE on Amazon

KathyClarkBobWernlyBobKatAuthorAuthor Kathy Clark’s Bio: 

NOT MY LIFE is Kathy Clark’s 42nd novel.  She’s been a Vice-President of the Romance Writers of America, Co-Founded the Colorado Romance Writers and has been a member of the Mystery Writers of America Rocky Mountain Chapter for many years. She’s been a RITA Finalist, Romantic Times award winner, NY Times best seller, had several books named Best Indie Book and has won the Reader’s Choice competition in addition to several top film festival honors.  Her books have sold over 3 ½ million books globally.

Her website has all her books and links and information about her screenwriting career.  Find it at  Find her on Goodreads at .  The universal link to Amazon is .

KatNotMyLifeBook Blurb for Not My Life, Book 5 of Time Shifters: 

Right place wrong time…that’s never happened before and what they don’t know could kill them.

On their way home from a trip to the Stanley Hotel in 1911, an accidental detour drops Kelly, Austin, Scott, and Zoey in 1977.  They discover that their old friend, Dan Denucci has been arrested for murder.  They knew him as a homeless man living under the fishing pier and making jewelry.  How had this gentle old man become a killer?

He needs their help, but first they must convince him they have the power to travel through time.  But can they trust him?

Interview: Dylan S. Hearn, Author of Second Chance, Book 1 of The Transcendence Trilogy

HearnSecondChanceEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Dylan Hearn. Learn about Dylan’s fascination with The Lord of the Rings and also about his science fiction thriller, Second Chance.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I’d like to interview Iain Banks and ask about how he manages to slip so seamlessly between writing well-respected literary fiction and equally well-respected science fiction with his culture novels. I’d also like to know how he came up with his names for the ships. They’re genius!

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

This is a really difficult question. I’d love to relive the moment I experienced watching the Fellowship of the Rings on the big screen. The Lord of the Rings was the first book (or books) I fell in love with and led to a lifelong love of reading. I just remember sitting in the cinema, the curtain drawing back, and watching open-mouthed as the world I’d created in my head twenty years before appeared before my eyes. It was wonderful.

HearnAbsentSoulsWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

The worst job was while I was at school. I worked evenings at a supermarket and once I had to clean out the waste compacter. It was disgusting. Compared to that, writing is a doddle.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I find it really difficult to promote my own work which is strange as I’m a marketing professional by trade. If you gave me somebody else’s book to promote I’d be all over it but with my own, I suffer a little bit from the typically English view of not wanting to blow my own trumpet, as well as having the old author favourite, the imposter syndrome, lurking in the background telling me that I’m making a fool of myself. I do enjoy interviews, though, especially ones like this where I’m asked questions I’m not normally asked.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I was just a normal kid. I loved reading, music – I was in our local amateur dramatics group. I never thought about being a writer. I loved writing but growing up in the rural east of England, writing was something ‘other people’ did. Where I came from, people didn’t have a career in the arts. It took me a long time to get over this way of thinking.

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?

I’ve been lucky enough to have had some really wonderful comments about my books. I tend to become very self-effacing when this happens. Inside I’m thrilled when somebody’s enjoyed what I’ve written but I’m also conscious that not everybody shares the same opinion. That’s the beauty of art, it’s very subjective. You only have to read the one-star rating of To Kill a Mockingbird to realise that there’s no such thing as a universally loved book.

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

I learnt to read when I was three-years old so there isn’t one book that sticks in my mind. I do have very fond memories of going up to my room (in the middle of the day), pulling the curtains closed and studying the map at the front of a copy of The Lord of the Rings I had. The map was in red ink and my curtains were also red, so when closed the sunlight streamed through red and the map appeared to glow. It was magical!

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

I would invite Legolas and Gimli and enjoy their bickering the whole time.

Places to Find Dylan Hearn





HearnSecondChanceBook Blurb for Second Chance

One crime, four people and a secret that could shake the world to its foundations.

Four lives become linked by a student’s disappearance: a politician looking to put integrity back into politics, an investigator hoping to atone for past mistakes, a data cleanser searching for a better life while haunted by his past and a re-life technician creating new lives for old souls.

But it soon becomes clear this is no ordinary case, and in the pursuit of the truth, long-held secrets are at risk of being revealed.

Set in the near future where everybody is connected and death isn’t final, this is the story of how far those in power will go to retain control, and the true price to pay for a Second Chance.

Author Interview: Scott Warren, Author of Vick’s Vultures

WarrenVicksVulturesEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Scott Warren. We chat about space aliens, book cover art, Batman vs. Superman and plenty more!

If you could be an extra on a Scifi/Fantasy movie or TV show, what would it be and what would you be doing?

I’d love to be an OSHA inspector on the Enterprise. You just know that has to be a do-nothing gig, panels, conduits, and warp cores exploding left and right while the inspector is spending 6 hours out of every 8 hour shift on the holodeck.

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 space alien, it’s been too long since I’ve had a decent probing and I’ve always wanted to eat at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern scifi/fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

I think modern science fiction has really opened more people’s minds to the idea that life out in the stars could be very real, as opposed to popular fictions like the Andromeda Strain or Grays, or Marvin the Martian. It’s no longer considered crackpot theory to believe in some form of extra terrestrial life. Given the extent of the universe and the discovery of exoplanets it’s practically a certainty.

If you were sent on a quest, which 4 other scifi/fantasy authors would you take with you?

S.A. Hunt would be on the team for sure, he’s an Iraq War vet so he can handle desert terrain.

John Scalzi would bring humor and wit to the group, and could serve as an emergency food source.

Carl Sagan would bring his infinite wisdom to the party, providing guidance in times of doubt.

Robin Hobb, because her attention to the myriad details of everyday life in a fantasy world hints at a deep knowledge of the tools needed to survive without modern amenities.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

Probably what I’m already doing, being a helicopter pilot, UAV pilot, and freelance illustrator. I don’t have to wonder if the grass is greener.

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?

I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fanboy of anyone in particular (save for the great dark terror, Cthulhu). I’ve never found myself capable of obsessing or growing overly attached over an individual or their work. In a way, I envy the obsessed their passion even as I abhor the concept of fixation on the individual.

WarrenDevilboneCover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. How did your books end up with such excellent cover art?

For Devilbone I self-published, and so I had full creative control over the cover. I wanted something surreal and directly relevant to the content of the story while capturing the dark fantasy atmosphere. For Vick’s Vultures, Eric and Colin enlisted the services of Tom Edwards. As an illustrator I was reluctant to hand over control of the cover, but the timing was such that I couldn’t possibly design it myself. Upon looking at his gallery, I was absolutely certain that he could capture the feeling and atmosphere of Vick’s Vultures every bit as well as I could.

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

It may be a bit cliche, but I find myself drawn into the tired Batman vs Superman debate. Having not seen the recent movie, I’m of the opinion that the power scales are so vastly different that Batman (despite being my favorite of the two) could not hope to contend with the full might of Superman.

Places to Find Scott Warren





ScottWarrenAuthorAuthor Bio: 

Scott Warren got his start in writing while living in Washington during the summer of 2014 when he entered the world of speculative fiction by writing Sorcerous Crimes Division, followed shortly by Vick’s Vultures.

Mr. Warren blends aspects of classic military fantasy and science fiction with a modern, streamlined writing style to twist tired tropes into fresh ideas. He believes in injecting a healthy dose of adventure into the true-to-life grit and grime that marks the past decade of science fiction, while still embracing the ideas that made science fiction appeal to so many readers.

As a UAV Pilot, and former submariner, Scott draws on his military and aviation experiences to bring authenticity to his writing while keeping it accessible to all readers. Scott is also an artist, contributing his skills to board games, role playing games, and his own personal aerial photography galleries.

Mr. Warren currently resides in Huntsville, AL.

WarrenVicksVulturesBook Blurb for Vick’s Vultures

In the far future, alien technology captured by the Union Earth Privateers has fueled Earth’s tenuous expansion from a single planet to a handful of systems across the Orion Spur.

Victoria Marin, captain of the U.E. Condor, and her crew of Vultures have been running dry for months. In danger of losing her command and her credibility if she can’t locate fresh salvage, she locks onto the distress signal of an alien ship in hopes of valuable cargo. What she finds instead is First Prince Tavram, the heir apparent to one of the largest empires in known space. Tavram’s ship has been crippled after narrowly escaping an ambush and his would-be assassin is coming to finish the job.

The Vultures launch a high risk mission to rescue the prince and recover every last scrap of xenotech they can before the hunter catches up to his prey. But there are more dangers than notorious interstellar assassins when it comes to ferrying alien princes across the stars, and Victoria must contend with dangerous alliances, old grudges, and even her own government if she means to bring her crew home alive. Whether she succeeds or fails, the consequences of her choices will affect the path of all humanity.

About the Publisher:

Parvus Press was founded in January of 2016 and is dedicated to publishing top-tier fantasy and science fiction that hold their own against the biggest names in the industry. The company name, “Parvus” is latin for “small” and they are committed to quality over quantity.

Parvus believes that a small team of motivated, creative people can do great things. By bringing together the best emerging talents in art and design with the undiscovered voices of new authors, Parvus can play a role in helping bring exciting new approaches to the fantasy and science fiction genres to life.

The company was founded by life-long best friends Colin Coyle and Eric Ryles who bring passion for genre fiction along with successful backgrounds in marketing, business management, and partner development into this endeavor. They quickly brought industry veteran, editor, and writing coach John Adamus into the fold to help navigate the intricacies of the world of publishing and oversee the editorial process.

In June 2016, Parvus acquired the rights to their second novel. C ourt of Twilight is a contemporary fantasy novel by debut author Mareth E. Griffith and is slated for release in Winter 2017. They are currently open for submissions. Interested authors can find their submission guidelines at .

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Floating Ink by James Livingood


Scroll to the bottom to catch the Audiobook Giveaway!

Narrator: Rebekah Amber Clark

Publisher: Long Tail Writing (2016)

Length: 1 hour 13 minutes

Series: Book 1 Echo on the Water

Author’s Page

Ruth, once an orphan living on the streets, became employed by the aliens that invaded Earth. The Xenophen made her a Caretaker, giving her special abilities. Even as she appreciates her security as an adult, she still doesn’t trust the Xenophen. She stumbles upon an odd pattern in a series of numbers. Under threat from the Xenophen for her discovery, she flees!

Once again, James Livingood brings to us a new take on an old theme: alien invasion. Opening on an outdoor celebration, the story shows a young Ruth organizing and putting to use scraps of things. Then the unexpected aliens, which look something like giant floating ink blots, come and change everything. At this point I was intrigued but still expecting a pretty straight forward alien invasion story.

The story flashes forward a bit and now a young adult Ruth spends her days in service to the Xenophen. She’s not happy about it, but a chunk of humanity is in the same boat as her, like her human boss. When Ruth comes across the peculiar code and reports it, she is immediately visited by a Xenophen. It makes it’s threats clear – her Caretaker abilities will be taken away (which could be quite messy and potentially fatal) if she pursues this any further.

At this point I want to give a nod to the alien tech incorporated into this story. The Xenophen use some sort of ‘bubble’ tech that allows Ruth and other human workers to float info in front of them while they work, like we would have several computer screens up in a control room. Also, flattened bubbles act as platforms that carry the workers around, like very fancy elevators. This was all well done in such a short story, the author using imagery quite well to get it across quickly to the reader.

Yet one more thing goes awry and Ruth’s old street instincts kick in. She flees into the nearest woods. There she meets Henry, a well-meaning if a bit judgy sort. While he’s only in the story briefly, he serves as an example to Ruth of what it is to live away from the Xenophen influence.

From here on out, things get weird, in a good way. Ruth is on a strange and wondrous adventure, if at times a bit scary and confusing to her. Ruth meets more unusual people in her journey and by the end, things may not be as we think it is. Or perhaps that is just one more trap laid by the Xenophen? The story ends on an open note, leaving me ready for the next installment.

I received this book free of charge from the author.

The Narration: Rebekah Amber Clark’s narration is fantastic. She does this multi-voice thing for the Xenophen. Also, Ruth’s voice ages as her character does. Clark even went to the trouble to make a PA announcement sound like it was really coming over a PA system. I love it when narrators make these little extra efforts on short stories!

What I Liked: The book cover art; the Xenophen bubble technology; Ruth has been given these mysterious Caretaker abilities; Ruth’s strange adventure after she flees the Xenophen; excellent narration!

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this tale!


The author is graciously offering up 5 copies of this audiobook. That’s right! We’re going to have 5 winners! So, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments below: 1) Do you have an account? 2) What is one of your favorite alien invasion stories? 3) Please leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends Nov. 5th 2016, midnight.

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Serengeti by J. B. Rockwell

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Heldig and Chupa being anything but helpful.

Narrator: Elizabeth Wiley

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2016)

Length: 10 hours 15 minutes

Author’s Page

Serengeti, complete with AI brain and human crew, is a Valkyrie class warship with the Meridian Alliance fleet. Their task was to analyze the area surrounding the spot where the Meridian Alliance scout ships disappeared during their mission to search out the Dark Star Revolution fleet. However, they find almost nothing of the scout ships, which is disturbing. Then the Meridian Alliance fleet shows up under the command of the AI Brutus. The arrival of the Dark Star Revolution fleet completes the guest list and the party gets started. Things don’t go well for the Meridian Alliance in general and Serengeti in specific. Pretty soon, she is stranded in deep space with little power, heavy damages, and a reduced crewlist. Drastic measures must be taken to preserve what is left of the crew.

I really, really enjoyed this book. The initial scouting mission by Serengeti and then the near-epic space battle between the two fleets was totally gripping. The second half of the book is all about Serengeti the AI and her attempts to save her human crew. It’s a much different pace but I still quite enjoyed it. First, I really liked this symbiotic relationship between the AIs and their human crews. For Serengeti the AI, her captain, Hendrickson, was a jewel of a commander and somewhat of a friend. From the beginning, we see how Serengeti cares for her crew, tries to assist without embarrassing or overshadowing them (such as is the case with Finley). Later, once the crew has been placed in cryopods to conserve resources, we learn more about how Hendrickson became Serengeti’s captain. I was much amused by the friendships between the AIs and how some of them found the AI Brutus to be too set in his ways.

After the big space battle and Serengeti’s failed attempt to flee, the remaining crew are put in an escape vessel, but the locking clamps can’t be released. Serengeti has lost too much power and she herself must sleep in order to survive. She tasks a small worker robot, who she names Tig, to be in charge of the remaining bots. My one little quibble is that the bots from here on out become a bit anthropomorphized. I still liked the book, but now it was much more WALL-E  instead of Hal, not that Serengeti is homicidal. The book goes from this mostly serious, nearly epic to this tiny hope of survival in these cutsy-wutsy bots. It did take me a few minutes to switch gears. Both halves of the book are good, but they are totally different paces.

The story’s end does build the suspense. Serengeti and her remaining bots are doing their best to keep the crew alive and the ship on target for the nearest inhabitable scrap of dirt. The tension mounts as Serengeti looses more and more abilities, as resources dwindle. They are in space for decades. At the end, we aren’t sure if Serengeti the AI makes it, though there is hope. The author did a great job in wringing some emotions out of me with Serengeti the AI.

I won a copy of this book from the author via The Audio Book Reviewer with no strings attached.

The Narration: Elizabeth Wiley did a great job with the narration. I liked all the funny robot sounds. Her voice for Brutus and Hendricks were also very good and masculine. As the story required it, she did well with imbuing the characters with emotions.  

What I Liked: The book cover art; the initial mystery of what happened to he scout ships; the near-epic space battle; the relationship between the human crews and the ship AIs; the back and forth between the AIs; the drastic measures taken for survival after the battle; Tig and his bots; very good narration.

What I Disliked: Tig and his bots were a bit over-anthropomorphized.

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The Amber Project by J. N. Chaney

ChaneyTheAmberProjectWhere I Got It: Own it

Narrator: Alexander Edward Trefethen 

Publisher: JN Chaney (2015)

Length: 11 hours 41 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Variant Saga

Author’s Page

This dystopian young adult novel is set in 2157 somewhere near the Atlantic coast. Terry and his classmates are growing up in an underground city. The surface of the planet became contaminated years ago by a mysterious and deadly gas named Variant. The city is slowly falling apart; the surface must be reclaimed! As such, a clever scientist has come up with a way to create Variant-tolerant humans. Terry and his classmates are the first generation of these new humans.

Take Ender’s Game and mash it up with The Handmaid’s Tale and you get something good, disturbing, and thought-provoking. This underground society was founded by survivors of a world calamity. As such, they put in place some hard and fast rules in order to keep humanity alive. The military and the Matron have the most power. Human reproduction is closely managed. The Matron is the head of the organization that provides reproducing women (the mothers) status and perks in housing and food. All reproductive assignations must be approved by the Matron. Meanwhile, the military has made attempts over the years to reclaim the surface. The new Variant humans are their latest attempt.

The story opens with Terry Eckles on his seventh birthday. His mom, Mara, drops him off at the Academy. There he learns that he won’t be allowed to go home for 10 years, after he graduates the Academy. John, who will become his best friend, is his roommate. May is the brains of the little group. Alex has anger management issues. The story moves ahead in chunks of time, so we get to see the kids grow up in the Academy. While this was interesting, I didn’t become very attached to the kids until they become teens and they start doing interesting things.

I really got hooked on the story when we start seeing how the city reproduction is controlled. Mara Eckles became a mother at 15 and has produced several promising children for the city. All her daughters have proven to be fertile reproducers as well. The Matron, Eva Long, is a formidable woman. She has to walk a difficult line between the survival of humanity and protecting the mothers from certain aspects of the military branch of power.

Then we have colonel James Bishop. He’s been a stalwart pillar of the Academy for decades, leading the training of the city’s military. Now he’s taken a personal interest in the new Variant humans. The author could have easily made Bishop an outright villain. However, I found myself sympathizing with him sometimes. After all, humanity might well be facing extinction if they don’t do something drastic. I really enjoyed that he was a complicated character and that I couldn’t outright despise him.

Dr. Henry Newbur is the main scientist and head teacher at the Academy. I pictured him as a man who is more comfortable around test tubes and dusty books. He’s also missing an arm, making him a source of mild gossip among the students. Dr. Archer is a complete 180 from Dr. Newbur. He’s very much into the science unlocked by the latest Variant discovery. To him, Terry and his classmates are specimens.

Taken all together, the book has a solid set up and then the action starts once the teens are sent to the surface. I don’t want to spoil things too much, as the teens don’t head to the surface until the second half of the book, but I really had fun with them exploring the now defunct buildings. There’s also things up there on the surface that the underground city folk are barely aware of, things that can rip the face off a grown, armed man. It’s a great start for a dystopian series.

The Narration: Alexander Edward Trefethen did a good job with this book. His voice is pretty masculine, so I was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull off the female voices, but he did, though in a few instances the ladies would sound alike. I really liked his voice for Alex, who is always disgruntled about something. His old lady (and sometimes tipsy) voice for Matron Eva Long was also really good. 

What I Liked: Near-extinction event; underground city; the Matron and her mothers; James Bishop isn’t a simple bad guy; the mysteries surrounding Variant; all the questions brought about by adventuring on the surface; Alex may be evil but he’s not always wrong.

What I Disliked: It took me about half the book to get attached to the kids, who are the main characters of the book.

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