Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Warning Labels of Declan Finn

There have been some poor little babies over on Amazon who have objected to things in my Saint Tommy NYPD series.

They object to things like 

... jokes about other Catholic orders. Jokes that my father, the 3rd order lay Dominican, have told since the day I was born. 

... their sins being written down and insulted.

... prayers. In something labeled CATHOLIC ACTION HORROR and a series called SAINT TOMMY. I mean, the poor little babies.

...action. In an action novel.

... "Waaahhhh! A Christian should be more forgiving and tolerant!!!" -- of rapists and murderers and people actively trying to kill our hero. How dare he defend himself.

So, we've got some warnings.

There are minor spoilers kicking around.

Click here for the entire series


Hell Spawn

Warning: This book contains Catholicism, God, Guns, miracles, America and the presumption that all life is sacred starting from conception. It will also accurately depict abortion, psychopathology, and other things that will be horrific. It's a horror novel, that should be expected. Also, it pokes fun at other Catholic orders and societies, because Catholics have a sense of humor. 


Death Cult

Warning: Catholicism and violence ahead. If your favorite sins are insulted, keep reading, there will be more. If you are offended, you were warned. Insulting politicians included. We would apologize for the depictions of ancient Carthage, but the Romans wiped them out, so good riddance. Also, there is some gore ahead. But this is horror, you were warned. 


Infernal Affairs

Warning, this novel will have accurate and harsh depictions of politicians and other monsters. Extreme Catholicism ahead. Also, extreme chemistry, prayer, and creatures from Hell. Enjoy. 


City of Shadows

Warning: the following book contains horrors of the real world, including current events in London (CA 2019), terrorism, atheists in positions of power, and rioting. There will be prayer, God and guns. Read at your own risk. Urban II did nothing wrong. 


Crusader

Warning: This book involves sex trafficking, nudity, demons from Hell, Guns, John Wick level violence, Jewish mysticism, extreme Catholicism, and excessive levels of Deus Vult.


Deus Vult

Warning, this is Catholic action horror. There is gore. There are prayers, demons, stupid bureaucrats in clerical garb, and a Lovecraftian Bond villain.


Coven

Warning: There are accurate portrayals of Catholicism, Asatru, and dealing with evil. If you have problems with the concept of evil, you have purchased the wrong novel.


Hussar




WARNING: This novel involves human trafficking, child abuse, Big Tech, an accurate portrayal of Child Protection Services, Anti-Fa thugs and other Socialists.


Destiny

(No, this one isn't published yet. So, enjoy the sneak peak)

WARNING: This book may be offensive to people without a sense of humor, ancient Carthage, abortion fetishists, et al. There will be prayers, miracles, corrupt priests, and Italians.  If Italians offend you, I was there during COVID-19, how do you think I feel?


Lightbringer

(No, this one isn't published yet either.)

WARNING: This book portrays pedophilia as the crime is it, and the belief that perpetrators should have a millstone tied to their neck. Extreme Deus Vult level Catholicism ahead. Accurate portrayals of the history of Hollywood and corrupt politicians included.


.... And I should get to writing up warnings for Dark Web and Blue Saint. Because for those, I'm going to go out of my way to piss people off.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Christian Fiction Sucks

Yes, the title is clickbait.

Yes, I supposedly write "Christian Fiction."

So, what's the problem of "Christian Fiction"?

As with hanging or beheading, it's all in the execution.

I think my friend Adam Lane Smith spelled it out in a review of Hell Spawn.

As he put it:


To start with, most of the books using the label "Christian Fiction" usually mean their heroes are spineless doormats. Or that the premise is so saccharine, there is little to no conflict. 

It's basically a lesser Hallmark movie, only with more religious platitudes.

In fact, a lot of the "religion" elements are excuses. Excuses for the hero to not stand up for himself or his loved ones ("turn the other cheek" and "meek" don't mean that). Excuses for bad writing ("you didn't like my book? You're anti-Christian!"). Excuses for padding the book with empty platitudes instead of plot.

Worst of all, they all violate the rule: show, don't tell. The characters will not shut up about what they're doing, and all their "super duper hard choices" that ... aren't.

Maybe it's me, but I've always been struck by Jesus saying "If you want to pray, don't do it on the street corner. Go home and pray in a closet."

So many of these stories are praying on street corners. 

One of my favorite parts of writing Saint Tommy, NYPD, is that he's a hilariously good person. Yes, hilarious. Whenever someone hears that, yes, Tommy Nolan is a wonder worker with charisms from God, they think about it and go "That makes sense" -- and it drives Nolan nuts. Because Nolan thinks he's nothing special. Why SHOULDN'T he loan out a spare room to the homeless? Why SHOULDN'T he participate in his church functions? Finding jobs for people? The more prosperity there is, the easier his job is. Duh. It's all common sense to him. **Obviously** he can do more. He's just doing the bare minimum.

As opposed to some of these books that want a medal pinned on them for making common sense decisions in no-risk situations. In Christian Fiction, everyone is the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14). No one is the Tax collector.

A few go to the extreme where they're the tax collector 24/7, which is as unrealistic as the other end!

It drives me nuts.

Not to mention how little conflict or adversity takes place in most of these stories. The stakes are so low.

And yikes. I hate the plaster saints. They have no pet peeves. No complaints. They have NO personality aside from "Good pure and holy." They're martyrs for existing.

Real saints are all over the place. Saint Francis was a little on the manic side. Thomas Aquinas was your standard genius -- he probably needed a minder. Then there's Saint Jerome... who didn't like anybody except for his pet lion and Saint Ambrose.

There's a reason I have Tommy Nolan making jokes about various and sundry orders: because these are the jokes I grew up with. My father's a third order (lay) Dominican (from the Order of Preachers, not the DR). My Christians have a sense of humor. And will do the dozens on each other ... they're less "you're mama" jokes, and more inside baseball. (EG: Not even God knows how much money the Franciscans have, or how many orders of nuns there are.)

In "Christian Fiction," by and large, the plaster saints have no personality. They have no grudges. They have no anger. They have no life. For the love of God (literally) even Jesus braided a whip and used it on blasphemers! And He probably spent hours making it from scratch.

If you're a purely secular reader, you might have glommed onto the key to the problem within the genre. 

If not, let me ask: Because how much of this can be summed up as "message fiction"? 

Probably all of it. 

But instead of what we're usually exposed to, this message fiction isn't Leftist agit-prop. It's feel-good agit-prop. I wouldn't even call most of it Christian. Lines from the Bible are thrown out like Fortune Cookies. 

Is this an unfair generalization? Please note that I keep using qualifiers: By and large, usually, most of, some of. 

Then you look over at the "Christian Fiction" at Silver Empire. I have to put it in quotes because I normally wouldn't insult any of the books of Silver Empire with the label. When one considers that the "best" of the genre has been ... what? The Left Behind series? I feel like it's insulting Silver Empire.

Why? Because Silver Empire follows the first rule of writing.

WRITE.

GOOD.

STORIES.

Look at War Demons by Russell Newquist (My review / Publisher link / Amazon). Sure, if I wanted to, I could throw it into a Catholic literature course and prattle on about how the lead is an imperfect man who has to put himself against incredible odds to save those he loves, and finds redemption along the way.

Keep in mind, I could say the exact same thing about Die Hard. Because good character, good plotting, and character arcs SHOULD NOT be special. 

(Also, John McClane is a Catholic action hero. So there.)

There's John C. Wright's Somewhither (My review / Publisher link / Book 1 link). Where it looks like standard epic fantasy ... until you realize that the entire premise is that "The multiverse can only happen if the Source of Creation is involved" ... so alternate universes happen only because of miracles (X universe is where Y miracle didn't happen). Sure, our hero is relatively sinless, but wow is he not flawless. It's a coming of age story ... with monsters, swords, magic, armies of darkness, and an X-Men SWAT team. It's awesome. And it's John C Wright, so you can probably get college lectures off of his casual one-liners.

Keep in mind that the Silver Empire Christian fiction section includes L Jagi Lamplighter's Rachel Griffin Series (My review / Publisher link). The series only hints at Jesus and monotheism, but He is inescapable, even in a world where He's been erased from memory. It's about as Christian as Narnia, and about as much of a Rorschach test. Seriously, it has Aslan as a running character, only with some of the serial numbers filed off.

Ann Margaret Lewis' Nephilim: Corruption, is where the Nephilim were moved to another planet. And if they fall, they fall hard. (My review was the other day.)

There's also my stuff, which is in the "Christian Fiction" section. All of it.

The Pius Trilogy is one part shoot-em-up, one part historical research paper. Even when I wrote it, I didn't see it as explicitly "Christian," I mostly saw it as an action yarn and a chance to redeem the memory of a good and just man. And fight a small war.

Love at First Bite? I used metaphysics as a way to explain vampires. I have some themes of redemption in there. I was more interested in exploring different ways for a human being to outfight a vampire. I still send said human to the hospital at least once a book. Because I don't feel like the hero has made an effort unless he needs a good week-long liedown.

Saint Tommy, NYPD ... do I need to explain that one?

There are 38 books in the Christian Fiction section of Silver Empire, I've covered the bulk of them. (No, I didn't cover all of them. I have other things to read.)

Other people to read are Stephen R Lawhead. Or Tim Powers. Or Ralph McInerny. Or John Zmirak. Adam Lane Smith. Hell, I'd even throw some of John Ringo's books in.

You know what NONE of them have in the books? 

Preaching. 

Or long chapters of navel gazing. 

None of them try to pass simple black and white decisions as life or death stakes. 

In these books? Decisions are actual life and death stakes. None of them have "What if people don't like me?" -- it's "If we do this, we're going to be hunted down by people / demons who want us to die."

Because good writing is a priority.

As I said, there can be good "Christian Fiction," but it's all in the execution.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Review of Nephilim: Corruption, by Ann Margaret Lewis

If you've tuned into the live stream last week, you know everything about this book, and you have already bought it, I'm sure. 

For those of you who weren't kicking around then, let's have a review.

Ann Margaret Lewis is the author of two great Sherlock Holmes novels-- Murder in the Vatican and The Watson Chronicles. If you haven't read them, add them to your to be read pile. 

However, Ann has also written books on Star Wars. So of course she would get into space opera.

Nephilim: Corruption is book one of the Warrior of the Kizan series. If you're wondering what a Kizan is, it's a space highlander (the Scotsmen, not the immortals). The warrior in particular is Dahkar, and he's got the sword to prove it.

The premise is relatively simple: the Nephilim of the Bible were largely wiped out by the flood. Those who were Saved were taken to another planet for the safety of all concerned. The Saved were deemed Emunim. Fast forward a few thousand years, and they've grown into a flourishing society. The only real problem are the fallen among them--the Nephilim, whose whole goal is to make more Nephilim and spread their corruption. 

After a decade in military service, Dahkar's most recent mission with SpecOps has bagged the leader of the Nephilim. It's gained him a promotion to lead the palace guard.

But before Dahkar can even officially transfer to the palace, Princess Tasia is kidnapped and taken offworld. But she isn't taken to the Nephilim homeworld. She's taken to the origin point of their entire people.

The Princess has been taken to Earth.

This is the third time (and second title) I've read this book. Which makes it one of the few books I've read more than once--including Lord of the Rings, Heir to the Empire, Princess of Wands, and Proven Guilty. This isn't the best version, but definitely the second best. When it was published the first time, the editing job makes me very grateful that publisher is now out of business, because it was well and truly butchered. The current publisher, Silver Empire, has repaired it enough to bring it up to par with their rest of their output.

So yes, it's good. I'll say it's five star good, adding for my bias. I know what's missing, and what was cut out between the previous draft and when it landed on Silver Empire's doorstep.

The nice thing about Nephilim: Corruption is that it's relatively straightforward. Once the reader gets into the world (and if you're not fully settled in by the end of chapter two, I'll be surprised) it's smooth sailing all the way. The characters are all easily and quickly set up, and the plot gets underway as soon as possible. Everyone has a character arc and character development. Even the very minor bit players among the supporting cast.

The world building is smart and easy, with echoes of CS Lewis' Science Fiction Trilogy (mostly Out of the Silent Planet). 


(Why is this not a Dragon award pick? Because I didn't like the previous edit, and the eligibility had expired.)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Emerging Dragons

Since November, I've had people asking me about what I want to nominate for the Dragon Awards...

Um, guys? Really?

And it's strange. Because the people asking me aren't writers. They're people who just care a lot about the Dragons.

So, I have a little list.

Right now, these are the people that I, personally, am voting for in the Dragons. Full stop. I've read them. I've enjoyed them. If you don't like it, then fine.

But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I'm not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I've done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don't even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list ... and they didn't realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said "We're not playing this game," and people made the same request-- proving that they didn't bother to read the post.

So, who's the best of the best this year?


Best Science Fiction

Karl Gallagher, Storm Between the Stars: Book 1 in the Fall of the Censor 

If you haven't read my review of this book, you really should. This book was quite amazing, and blew me away. Right now, the only contender at the moment is the sequel, which I have an advanced copy of. But let's stick with book one for the moment. Since Karl really is a rocket scientist, his physics are awesome. And his worldbuilding is, as always, amazing.

You might want to at least try out book one here.

(At the moment, there is a potential future contender: Richard Paolinelli is working on a MilSF -- and since Escaping Infinity and When the gods Fell were amazing, I'm not betting against him.)


Best Fantasy

I'm going to hold off on this one right now. Why? Because I don't think Jim Butcher wants a third Dragon Award, and I haven't read anything recent in fantasy.

I've also been told to look up Chris Nuttal, and his fantasy ... or military fantasy? Either way, I'll look at it. 


Best Alternate History

Educated Luck, by Mel Todd

I literally reviewed this one yesterday. While it takes place in a fantasy world, there's so much history there that I feel it could hold its own against most of the Alt-History crowd.

Damn sure better than yet another Turtledove. Yes, I am sick of his stuff. So shoot me.

Best Mil SFF

Kai Wai Cheah, Unmasked.  

"But Declan," I hear you say. "That's superhero. Not military!"

Well, if you've read the review, you'd note that there is so much strategy and tactics, the last half of the book, at least, is military. And the front half is building to urban warfare.

Best Horror

I'm going to shoot for it: Hussar, by Declan Finn.

.... why? Well, several reasons.

1) I've never fit well into other categories. And after the first hundred zombies, I think I fit.

2) I don't read horror. I don't read horror so much, I had to write my own. So there.


Now, you'll notice, I left out more than a few things.

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel (L. Jagi Lamplighter hasn't written anything in the eligibility window)

Best Media Tie-In Novel (I naturally assume Timothy Zahn is going to win this, since he's come out with a Thrawn novel. But I've been wrong before.)

Best Comic Book (Has anyone read a comic book lately?)

Best Graphic Novel (Ibid)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series (I have not seen Mandalorian Season 2. And right now, I don't see a lot on TV right now in SFF)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie (There were movies this year? That were good?)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game (I'm sure someone wants to give this to Cyberpunk 2077. Given what I've heard of the game's bugs, I'd bet against it. However, I don't know of any competitors. So it wins by default? Or is the Miles Morales game going to take it.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game (haven't played a mobile game in years.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game (Couldn't pick them out of a lineup.)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game (Someone else? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? )

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Review: Educated Luck, by Mel Todd

In the last book of Mel Todd's "My Luck" series, the heroine, Cori, was outed as a wizard. An insanely super powerful wizard who has managed to largely screw up her own life without even knowing how.

In this case, "Yer a Wizard, Cori" is not the end to her troubles. It only makes things worse.

Educated Luck is the logical follow-up. Because, as par for the course in this world, magic equals mandated education, paid for by the government, leading from there into the draft. Which is a dark rabbit hole that looks more like a Sarlaac pit.

But before she can dive into that problem, the problem comes to her. A plot thread from book one emerges to make her life a little more difficult: an inheritance from a mage researcher, who wants to gift Cori his notes. The catch? She must finish her degree in a year and a half. It's not impossible. She has a triple associates degree from the first book. How hard can it be?

Except that if she doesn't finish the degree by the deadline, the notes go to the government of Japan, and its Emperor. Who is still a little miffed that America nuked one of his cities by accident in World War II.

And Cori can't finish if she's dead.

Educated Luck might be the best book Mel Todd has written. There's no character clutter. This perfectly balances world building, plot, and character.

I had two big objections to Employed Luck. The first was that it was too cluttered and tried to do too much. This avoids that particular trap deftly. The other problem involved two "historical notes" that talked about how everyone was pagan, death to traditional religion. Blah blah blah. Aside from the fact that I didn't buy it, it felt callous--it was both irrelevant to the story, and insulting to my intelligence as a historian, among other things.

However...

Given how much behind the scenes government tyranny we see here, I'm almost glad of it. If it was a deliberate retcon, cool. If it was always in the plan, even better. Given how much is revealed about the magic, media and government here, even the historical notes from the book are suspect, as they are "official" documentation.

Yes, it's interesting. I thought most of Educated Luck would revolve around all the variations on academia. Not quite satire, but magic exaggerating tendencies that are already there. This one focused more on governments and alternate history than education. Though, frankly, I would have liked a little bit more of the background on the alternate history--any World War II that ends with defeating Japan, but leaving the Emperor in a position of authority just sounds like a recipe for a rematch only a few decades down the line, not merely the cold war we see here.

Given the end of the novel, I'm hoping that the next book picks up the next day. Or at least has a prologue that covers what happens in the immediate aftermath. There's a lot to clean up from that conclusion-- and it needs to be cleaned up in more ways than one. 

Though at the moment, they cover enough alternate history, etc, that I'd like to run this one up the flagpole for the Dragon Awards in alternate history. But more on that tomorrow.

Anyway, Educated Luck. This one I fully recommend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

And then, Hussar arrived


https://silverempire.org/product/hussar/ref/274


 
Lt. Tommy Nolan has enjoyed a relatively quiet life for the past three years. His promotion has taken him away from the streets and away from the line of fire.

But when a training camp for terrorists threatens his city, he’s dragged back into the sulfur. Creatures of the damned are rising, and he’s the only man who can stop them.

Because the heir of Tommy’s ultimate enemy has returned, and he’s bringing with him all the forces of Hell
 
If you've read Coven, you know part of what's coming. If you haven't ... you may want to get on that. Because that one was fun.
 
As for the book ... heh heh heh. It answers several questions from the end of Coven. Including Tommy's "new partner," the fate of his last partner, and what comes next. This one includes a lot of new developments, and mixing up the formula. 

Reading reviews of Coven showed me that people really like Tommy to stay close to home. But the plot required him abroad. So I split the difference, and then I set up a way to keep Tommy at home from now on. Confused? You'll figure it out when you read it.

One of the things about expanding the series beyond book #6 (which is where I originally planned to end it) is that it allowed me to show where everyone else was going to end up. 

Tommy's cast is a little expansive -- though still nowhere near as broad as my other novels-- and I wanted to find out where some of them ended up. It also gave me a chance to redeem some characters, and get some answers on whether or not others were redeemed in the end.

Also, it let me trash more property... especially Italy. Book #9 will be the last time I let Tommy leave New York City. Because I had revenge to attend to.

Anyway, it's live and for sale. Just click here.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Review: Unmasked, by Kai Wai Cheah

In the Heroes United world of Silver Empire Press, Kai Wai Cheah’s Adam Song has been described as the Punisher.

 

In Unmasked, that comparison becomes closer.


I described the first book in Kai Wai Cheah’s Song of Karma, Hollow City, as Larry Correia and Michael Connelly writing a superhero police procedural. Complete with gun porn and noir stylistic writing. This time, our hero, Adam Song is back. By the time we’re done with the first chapter, it feels very much like Richard Chandler, with knife porn instead of gun porn, and superhero action on par with a Hong Kong Wu Xia film.


It is not a spoiler that Unmasked begins with Adam Song outed as the SWAT superhero Amp. Due to Hollow City being a cross of the worst of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, he’s being prosecuted for murder of a gang-banger and his girlfriend, largely because of political hacks who are all too eager to throw him and the police under the bus. With the pressure building from anti-superhero group “Cape Watch,” and anti-law enforcement hate groups, their first instinct is to throw the book at Adam Song. It’s so bad, the restaurant owned by Adam’s family is under siege by Cape Watch and the gang bangers friends. 


Lest you think that this is being inspired by recent events, I read an ARC of this novel in January. Any and all inspirations from real life were at least five years old before everything old became new again this summer. If Kai Wai Cheah becomes any more predictive, he’s going to give me a run for my money.


The trial segment is as well written as any trial written by Michael Connelly, and he’s done more than a few. For anyone who has followed the series, the court sequences feels like Connelly’s Harry Bosch is on trial … again. And the trial sequences are all very well put together, and used to great effect. One of the opening trial bits was a great bit of recap. And the trial itself is fast paced and entertaining. Despite how much of the plot it is, the trial itself is only four chapters.


But while Adam is being prosecuted for murder, he has other old friends pulling at him. “Don Peterson” (assuming that’s his real name) is a part of Adam’s old life in wet work and black bag operations, offering Adam a Faustian bargain to make everything go away if Adam just came back to government service, taking down the supervillains who are too powerful to merely throw in jail. It’s a nice bit of spy thriller that reminds me as the classic Adam Hall Quiller novels, with the sort of deal that will remind the casual reader of Suicide Squad.


Meanwhile, Adam is keeping busy with a paying job. An old friend, a Bhuddist monk, is being pressured by the People’s Republic of China to come to China … and if he won’t accept the invitation gracefully, they intend to force the issue by any means necessary. It seems like an easy job for a SWAT superhero—until the Chinese reveal a superpowered minion of their own. (I await some people to cry racism against China… until someone realizes that Cheah is a Singapore native.) In short, the People’s Republic of China has not changed in the slightest. China is still China. 


Cheah does a great job of balancing the three plots—fighting China, the trial, and the espionage aspects brought in with the character of Don Peterson. And when they collide in the finale, it will blow you away. 


Or, as the book itself says, “Riots, gangesters, spies and supervillains. It’s going to be a perfect f***ing storm.”


And it is.


Over the course of the book, we see Adam balance being a law enforcement officer, versus facing overwhelming threats. Despite edging closer to becoming the Punisher, Adam is still a cop by training, and works hard to stay on the side of the law, even when the lines become just a wee bit blurry. And while the plot may feel like a closer start than the first book, that’s only because the last half as twice the action as the entire first novel.


And the writing is wonderful to read. The character development is great. All the little touches paint quick, complex characters with ease. I even think the primary Chinese villain here comes from Fist of the North Star, but my anime is rusty. Cheah brings in a large cast of characters, and more of them are original to this novel. It’s a superhero team up story without a large body of characters spread throughout the universe. The descriptions are… well, one villain is referred to as “The Shadowless Ghost,” with “low friends in high places.” Two cops are “a teddy bear paired with a wolf.”


One paragraph I feel compelled to quote is the opening of chapter one.


“Everybody wants to be a superhero. 

They want the fast life, filled with adrenaline and excitement and superpower showdowns. They want to haul in the bad guys, show off their scares, earn the adoration of the faceless masses on the Internet. They want the sponsorship deals, corporate paychecks, Gucchi gear, crowdfunded patronage. After that, it’s easy street all the way.

Funny thing is, it never works out that way.”


Tell me that isn’t a great opening. 


Cheah also has more humor in this one. The chapter headings are entertaining.


This corner of Silver Empire’s series has great world building from the aspect of law enforcement and espionage in a world of superpowers. It’s nice to see that the FBI… is still absolutely useless (while they have a Hostage Rescue Team for superpowers, it’s a superpower conflict. By the time they get to the scene of the incident, it’s all over but the screaming. And a lot of the screaming is over too). Cheah goes into the licensing and training for superheroes, and it is … very California. Even the elements with Don Peterson has a very rigorous logic of assassination. Worst of all, Cheah delves into how many superheroes, or “primes” go into public service, and it is so very human.


And of course, there is the end, which brings together two threads of this universe together with a bang. 


In short (I know, too late), five stars out of five. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fed up and Ante Up

You may have noticed that my sentiments are one part "fed up with stupidity" and a BS tolerance level that is only a few steps short of honey badger. After Italy, I was already on "Why, yes, I do want people to die, thank you," and in May, I was #NoLivesMatter.

Which explains my Saint Tommy NYPD series.

Those who've read it don't really need an explanation. I've taken my unfair share of sacred cows and threw them on the grill, still mooing.

And no, not the "sacred cows" that writers think are "edgy" as they pat themselves on the back for "bravely writing about." (Even though they're "bravely writing about" the same cardboard stereotypes for decades, no matter how false they've been proven.)

It helps that the sacred cows of New York City are the people with power. Since I like having my villains with all the advantages, I made them politically connected. considering where I live, that made the power politics leftist politics.

The funny thing is that, while every psycho negative review has labeled me right-wing propaganda, I probably would have done the same thing had I used a right-wing town/ city / state. I would have found ... something. Totally different things, but something. 

So the first monster was part of a protected political class, and had political support behind it. So was the Death Cult of #2 and the ultimate creature of Infernal Affairs.

Come to think of it, no matter what country or state I put Tommy in, I make sure that evil is tied closely with secular and political power...

Yes. This might -- just MIGHT, grant you-- have something to do with the fact that I think politics is borderline demonic. 

As Frank Herbert said, "Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”

I'm on board that train, and it will have to derail to get me off of it

It is in part BECAUSE these people are pathological that it makes it easy for me (and most of my readers) to believe that they will do anything to keep that power. Blackmail? Bribe? Steal? Sacrifice a marriage? Sacrifice a person? 

Sacrifice your soul? 

That's the easy part. Politicians don't have one.

And of course, it's not just politicians who are in politics. Politics is a path to power. Whether it's interpersonal, education, international, it's one sort of power or another.

And the end of the day, it all comes back to making the villains as powerful as I can make them. 

Here's a villain, he's got all of his personal and physical strengths, and ON TOP OF THAT, he's untouchable.

Stacked decks have got nothing on me.

It's why I'm amused when reviewers and fellow authors think that I can't top X scene for my Saint Tommy novels. 

How can the next villain be a threat?

The answer's easy, because it's always the same. Just keep changing the game. 

Here's a serial killer. 

Now here's an anonymous attempt at revenge. 

Now here's a bounty on our hero. 

Here are Jihadis. Now find the sex traffickers. Fight this dragon. 

Go to war with a Lovecraftian Bond villain. 

Here's a conspiracy from within. Here's a cult, but now everyone has a gun.

Eventually, as a last resort, there's the video game trope of "Yes, here are all of the major villains you've defeated ... but now they're just as difficult to defeat, they've had a learning curve, and they're just acting as minions to the main villain."

So yeah, I still have some tricks up my sleeve.

Sometimes, all you need is a hero who will be beaten half to Hell, look at what's coming at him next, and still says "Bring it."

Anyway, if this sounds like fun, check out St. Tommy NYPD, right here.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Overlooked Again, by Jon Mollison

 The old poem goes

There was a man upon the stair

A little man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

Oh how I wish that he would go away.

He's back and he's armed in Overlooked Again

Yes, this is the return of superhero Joe Smith, Jon Mollison's contribution to Silver Empire's Heroes Unleashed series. And dang is it fun. His Phoenix Ring series may be the best part of the universe in a neck and neck race with Kai Wai Cheah's Hollow City thread... though that may be unfair, since Mollison and Cheah are the ones who I have read two books of (No, Cheah's next book isn't released yet. But I had early access. Heh heh heh). And at this time, there are two other authors who I haven't read yet.

In Overlook, Joe Smith, a prime with the power to be ignored, encountered the Phoenix Ring, a grand conspiracy that looks like if Dean Koontz designed the Illuminati,** and bringing in an element of The Man who was Thursday. But Joe also found a counter conspiracy. After crushing the ring in Serenity City, now, Joe has been quietly keeping the ring in its place -- in the graveyard. 

But like any good villain, the Phoenix Ring has its own counter move. Because they found not only one, but two people who can pierce Joe's powers, and hunt him down. So it's a good idea for Joe to leave town for a little bit.

Joe's new mission: go to Halo City (last seen in Cheah's Hollow City) and make certain that the Phoenix Ring can't rig an election for alderman.

But the Phoenix Ring hasn't gotten to where they are by lying down. They have all the forces of governments behind them. And Joe Smith is their primary target.

Overlooked Again is fun as much for what it does as what happens in the plot. The book is well written, obviously. As I said, I think there are a few references to The Man who was Thursday, some bad puns (The Phoenix Ring runs Firebird Industries? Ugh. How did I forget that from the first book?). 

And the villains. How could anyone forgot how absolutely evil these bastards are? They lack the mustache twirling of the most recent Dean Koontz novels, but they are no less pure evil. Imagine if the Chicago Machine was the tool of Satan... No jokes, please. I'm saving that for another novel I'm writing.

But what happens when a former sniper becomes the man who wasn't there? He becomes a ninja. No, I'm not really joking. You'll see him in action in the first chapter. Which starts out as very by the book, and ends in a tense, and interesting chase.

In the middle of all of that, Jon Mollison pulls off an excellent data dump that both recaps the last book, tells the reader what's been happening since then, and does it all without reducing a bit of tension. It's information discussion on par with David Weber (Or, see: David Weber orders a pizza)

Along the way, Jon has two interesting people after our hero. The first is a French hunter, the Owl, a prime who can hunt Joe, and fight him to a standstill. The other is ... well, you'll have to read it to get it, but it's a lead in to what Jon does with this book.

While I am not able to track what phases the Heroes Unleashed universe is in with this book (probably phase two), we have now entered the phase where there is overlap between the main heroes we're working with. It really begins to show off the shared universe all these players live in. No, I don't mean simply that Joe goes to the city created and written by Kai Wai Cheah, but this is also a world where the Atlantean (and Lovecraftian) magic of Richard Watts is an active threat.

And of course, they're all out to get Joe. They lead to moments where my only note was just "Aw f***"

The writing is also enjoyable. Little comments and phrases, like how "he could have completed the ensemble, but he would have stuck out like a disco ball in Church." Though I hear some megachurches already have those...

I also liked the very casual "You can't just murder your way out of this problem."

And everyone here is well written. The villains are colorful and three dimensional. The supporting cast beautifully compliments our hero. And the upper villains are pure bastards.

Anyway, it's all very well executed, and I look forward to reading the next one.

5/5. Buy it here from the Publisher (Amazon link forthcoming)

**Yes, I have read the Jane Hawk series, where he had something like the Illuminati. But this goes back much farther.