Review: Alien Stars, A Harry Stubbs Adventure, by David Hambling

Alien Stars: A Harry Stubbs Adventure by [Hambling, David]Our modest hero, Harry Stubbs, returns in another great adventure!

He’s still reading his science fiction novels, working the jobs only an ex-boxer can get, and working on a correspondence course in investigations that has me super excited for future installments.

In this book, he’s investigating a weird type of meteorite that might have abstract properties, making it dangerous for the owner.

My favorite parts of this book were the parts that define any Harry Stubbs adventure. Specifically, the investigation into the museum, the library research, and the very interesting characters, specifically, his employer in this book and the sultry American visitor.

Harry Stubbs is one of my favorite characters and always a great adventure. David fails to disappoint, bringing an intelligent and intrigue-driven story to a character that could so easily be written as a dumb stereotype. Instead, he’s a smart man, who I would describe as more wise than intelligent, in that he’s always seeking to learn and better himself.

Even if those efforts and his current line of work might drive him mad.
5 out of 5!

Alien Stars is absolutely wonderful. Get a copy here!

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Review: I Was a Teenage Weredeer, by CT Phipps

I was a Teenage Weredeer, by C.T. Phipps is, in my opinion, the best elements of The Dresden Files, True Blood, Mean Girls, and Supernatural all wrapped into one very well put-together package.
The heroine, a weredeer by the name of Jane Doe (get it?) gets wrapped up in a murder mystery a la the X-Files that shakes the very foundation of being a weer-anything. It’s a great book that focuses on a lot of issues, from parental abuse, to family tradition, to racism, to women’s rights, to being a weredeer in a state that’s famous for hunters. Hell, weredeer even get a chance to hunt back. This story hits you right in the feels, dealing with the guilt associated with loss, the emotional destruction left in the wake of rape, and the beautiful reality that is young lust.
Personally, I’m addicted to this book and look forward to the series that’s supposed to follow. It has a little something from every one of my fandoms, and uses them to create an entirely new fandom. Personally, as much as I loved Straight out of Fangton by the same author, I prefer the Jane Doe stories and the emotional rollercoaster that they take you on.

You can pick up a copy by going here: http://amzn.to/2wFtDQt

Review: IT (2017)

This is where I review “IT.”

IT was great. I loved IT. IT was also very scary. Nothing was scarier than IT. I couldn’t get enough of IT.

That being said, IT had strengths and weaknesses, as anything would. IT did more to explain what IT was than the original one, and that was great. I also loved how IT was scary without the overused convention of jump scares that we see a lot of.

As for weaknesses, I felt that some of the characters IT had weren’t as well developed as I would have liked. Specifically, we never meet the parents of Ben Hanscom, which might not seem that important, but everyone else gets a parental growth story of some kind. Either a freedom or a coming to terms in some way. Ben’s parents are completely absent, which is odd for someone who is one of the main characters of focus.

But I digress, as:

IT was magnificent, and I look forward to more of IT if IT becomes something that people want to make more of. Try not to hold my one negative against IT, as IT was 99% solid and only 1% of “Huh, why didn’t they cover that a little more?”

I can’t wait to rewatch IT, share IT, and tell people about IT.

What did you think of IT?

IT could be the new IT thing everyone wants to talk about…

That joke might have overdone IT…

Get IT?

–MD–

Review: Straight out of Fangton by C.T. Phipps

Straight Outta Fangton: A Comedic Vampire Story by [Phipps, C. T.]I’m a Phipps-Fan. It’s a fact, and anyone reading this blog on any sort of regular basis is well aware of that. With that being said, I was avoiding reading Straight out of Fangton because nothing about it sounded appealing to me. Mostly because it’s labeled as a parody vampire novel, and for some reason I tend to ignore parody books even though I only ever enjoy them. For example, I never crave to read anything by A. Lee Martinez, but then I do and I fall in love with it and don’t know why I didn’t pick it up sooner. To follow that example of my thinking, I’ll then forget how much I love A. Lee Martinez’s work and then do the same damn thing when his next book comes out. They’re great books that never disappoint, but I fall into the same, “But it’s funny, so I won’t like it” kind of thinking every time.
That’s what happened with Straight out of Fangton. I read and loved a bunch of Phipps’ books and then I heard about Fangton, and decided to avoid it. Lucky for me, I ran out of things to read and decided to give it a try.
First of all, allow me to clear something up: Straight out of Fangton is portrayed as a parody, but it’s anything but. When I hear parody, I think of Mel Brooks taking on genre films. This isn’t the case with Fangton. I wouldn’t even label it a comedy, although it has comedic moments. This is an original Vampire story in the vein of Blade or Interview with a Vampire. This is good vampire fiction that doesn’t have a problem questioning the things that are kind of silly in other vampire stories (ie: the phrase “You’ve been Twilighted” is used a few times, and it works wonderfully well).
This story follows Peter Stone in Detroit after Detroit has been converted to New Detroit, a new home for the publicly acknowledged undead. The world is essentially the same, except there are more undead folks everywhere. The story kicks off when a Vampire-Hunter turned vampire is found in a bathroom at the gas station that Peter works. He decides he can’t just leave her there and ends up on a journey to stop an Ancient self-hating vampire from eliminating the Vampire-Nation.
The comedy/parody is kept to minimal levels, nowhere near what’s implied if you read the other reviews. The best part about this entire story is the weight of the world on the characters. I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that most of Phipps’ main characters go through an intense amount of development, but in this story he did something different. Peter Stone’s character is well defined and likable at the beginning and throughout, instead, the Vampire Nation goes through development and growth as Peter stands outside of the nest coaxing them to join him in the open world. It’s very different from the usual Phipps-fare, but very well done.
I give this novel a 5 out of 5 and can’t believe it took me this long to get to it.

Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Hex

Writing horror isn’t easy. There are a lot of pitfalls that an author can fall into revolving around whether something turns too gory, too real, too fake, too hopeless, too unbelievable, or too disconnected from it’s audience. A lot of horror starts out well, but when it comes to the middle of the second act, it falls apart, a victim of it’s own narrative as the author tries and fails to ramp up the tension in new and exciting ways while still keeping our interest in these characters that we’re pretty sure are all going to die anyway.
It isn’t easy.
I point this out because I think that Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt is possibly one of the best examples that I have ever seen of how to take a few classic horror tropes and write them as new and exciting plot devices without being too heavy-handed.

Continue reading

Laptop Woes!

Recently, my laptop has been on the fritz.
When I first got it, it was a refurbished model off of Groupon. I was impressed (at the time) with the hard drive size (500 GB) and the RAM (4 GB), but I was less than impressed with the amount of heat pouring off of it every time I used it. I dealt with the heat issue by getting one of those lap fans everybody uses, but also by researching as much as I could about heat issues with computers.
I ended up installing different BIOS updates and all sorts of other things before finally surrendering to the fact that this computer was just going to run hot.
Since then, the heat (and a few bad USB ports) are the only things I’ve had to complain about. It’s been fine otherwise, and perfect for helping me progress through my writing career.
Unfortunately, after a fun trip this weekend, I might have shoved my laptop into a too-tight bag and subsequently made it annoyingly unuseful for a writer. After our trip, I had some server updates that I wanted to run (yeah, we have a home server. I’m that nerd) and went to my browser on my laptop to access the server via Chrome. For some reason, my laptop decided not to open any icon that I clicked on. After three restarts finally seemed to solve that problem, I began to the type the IP Address for the server and noticed a problem when I got about halfway through it. The 9 button just decided to start typing on it’s own.
I restarted, tested, restarted again, tested, restarted again, and it seemed to fix itself, but the desktop icons wouldn’t open again. I Did one final restart and everything finally seemed to be working.
Then I opened up a word document to start working on the end of Broken Nights: Strange Worlds, and wouldn’t you believe it, the 9 button decided it wanted to help me write the story again.
Very Loud Sigh…followed by cuss words.
That’s no good for an author, but lucky for me, I have solutions.
The real problem for my dilemma is that I don’t want to buy a new computer. This isn’t entirely true, of course. Anyone who knows me knows that I really enjoy buying new computers. The truth is, I don’t want to spend the money.
My wife offered to loan me hers, but my “Maker” ways make me tear apart and mod things that I use. Basically, if she loans me her computer, I’ll want to do things to it that make it very un-hers. My wife is awesome, even for thinking of such a wonderful suggestion, but she’s too awesome for me to abuse her wonderful gift.
I also repurpose laptops for friends when they need them. I swap out hard drives, add and remove RAM, and install different Linux environments so that my friends can have a running laptop. If this solution is good enough for my friends, why not me?
A few months ago, my mother sent me my dad’s dying computer. I installed the latest Ubuntu on it, and was using it as more of a prototyping experiment more than anything. In light of the system failures in my laptop, I started downloading my entire OneDrive (only a few GB) to the Ubuntu box.
My only reason for seeing the Ubuntu laptop as an inconvenience is that I have subscriptions on the Windows machine. Steam, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Office. All things that don’t translate well when switching over to Linux. To be fair, there is a Linux Steam client and GIMP is a great Photoshop alternative, but Microsoft Office is a disappointing service to lose full access to.
The great news is that there are tons of open source (free) alternatives to everything that I’m used to, and Microsoft has online tools that are just slimmed down versions of their downloaded suite of services.
So, my plan for now is to transfer anything important to the Linux laptop, install the programs I need to keep on keeping on, and to transfer the RAM cards from my laptop to the Linux laptop to improve the functionality of it.
What does this mean for my writing? Absolutely nothing. I was using OneDrive as a back up for my important things, including my writing. When I hit save on my story last time I was writing it, it uploaded any changes to OneDrive instantly. All I need to do is sign into Word Online and start typing, or open the downloaded OneDrive backup I did the other night and continue the document from there.
Frustrated at losing a computer’s functionality, but not as frustrated as I could have been! #creativelife!
–MD–

Review: X-Files: Cold Cases

Product DetailsBack in 2008, I moved to Iowa from upstate New York (read that as “Farther upstate than what you’re thinking”). I’m a social butterfly, and I made a ton of friends in my new home very quickly, but that didn’t stop me from having evenings alone. On one of those particular evenings, I made a serious decision to do something silly: I was going to rent all of the sci-fi shows that I had never gotten a chance to see before then and give them a watch (to be fair, I also included every b-rated sci-fi movie as well. For that reason, I’ve seen both Time Runner and The Guyver. For both of those, I thank you Mark Hamill).
This is how I became a fan of The X-Files, staring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (and a million other stars who would later go on to guest star or star in their own sci-fi shows). I went on every single mission with them and grew to love Mulder’s silly moments and Scully’s skepticism.
And, after binge-watching all nine seasons, keeping magnets at the ready, and learning to fear the year 2012, I faced the inevitable truth that so many others had already learned to cope with.
The X-files was over.
It sucked, and I tried finding more of the snarky Fox wit through the comic books, but it wasn’t the same. The movies came and went, trying to fill the gaps for some of us, but alas, they were a drop of water in a desert. There and gone far too quickly to quench any real thirst. I had to face a cold and hard fact: There were never going to be any more of The X-files.
Life happened and years went by and I was sitting at my computer and writing when my wife blurted out, “They’re bringing back X-files.”
Wait…what?
Not a reboot, and not another movie, but a new season picking up with most of the original cast and some great sounding new cast.
Then the season came, with mixed reviews, but I loved it. The mixed reviews had me worried, though. Would they keep it going?
Yes, it turns out. They are working on a 11th season as we speak.
Absolutely wonderful, but what about the time in between. Do I really have in the vast oceans of time between each of these seasons?
As it turns out, no, my friend, we no longer have to wait idly by. That’s where Audible’s new series, The X-files: Cold Cases, steps in.
Cold Cases is a full cast dramatization, bringing back all of your favorite characters and filling the gap between the end of the first nine seasons and the beginning of the 10th season. It’s cleverly done, and brings to life the characters that have earned so much of our respect. The only negative to any of this was that the writing of the show had to be changed to fit the new format. Instead of seeing something and then getting a snarky Mulder comment or a dry Scully remark, we instead get told that something is happening and then receive the comment.
For example (totally made up and not in the books, but illustrating my point): “Mulder, why are you holding that gun at an odd angle? And why is it covered in paint?” “Scully, lower your eyebrow before it floats away. I’m holding this gun because it’s evidence, and it’s painted this very interesting shade of blue because it’s covered in alien fecal matter.”
See, very descriptive, reminding you that it’s a radio show. I think I might have preferred narration instead, but I honestly don’t know because it’s not an option. This isn’t a complaint, so much as the only thing that made it different than the show we love.
Other than that, you get all of the great sci-fi tropes and monster of the week things that X-files is famous for, as well as some new sci-fi tropes that I don’t think X-files has ever dealt with in the past. You get Smoking Man, Skinner, Reyes, Doggit, and a few more surprises that I won’t spoil for you.
Oh boy, you’re in for a surprise.
I give this a 5 out of 5. I loved it, and I want more Audible Original full dramatizations. I’m moving on to the Alien ones next, and the sequel to Cold Cases will be out in October!
Can’t wait!
–MD–

Review: Lucifer’s Star

Lucifer's StarI was going to introduce this review with a comparison to all of the works that Lucifer’s Star reminded me of, but, while there are so many of them, not a single one can be used to give you a good sense of what this book is about.
Lucifer’s Star follows Cassius Mass, a former member of a royal house with huge political sway that they use to wage war. The world building in this book was amazing and we see a lot of detailed explanations in the interplanetary relationships as well as the individual cultures, all without taking away from the main story by being too filled with description. The descriptors come out naturally.
Cassius is a clone of the sovereign, with cybernetic implants to make him the perfect warrior, the perfect royal heir, and the perfect sexual partner. Each of these lending itself toward complicating his life more and more before finally, as a direct result of the Archduchy’s ongoing war. By the start of chapter 2, we find a down and out, drug and alcohol addled, his face and DNA changed to hide his identity, and living aboard a pirate spaceship with a questionable crew.
Then the crew finds out that he’s one of those rich nobles who somehow screwed each one of them over in some different way in the past.
From that point, his past begins to come back in a huge way and takes Cassius on a path that makes him question not only who he is, but also everything that he previously held as true. He’s forced to question everything from the difference (culturally) of right and wrong, the idea of identity, what defines a life, the galactic politics, and lots of questions of what love is versus like and versus lust.
Like most CT Phipps books, this book focuses a lot on Cassius discovering his identity once he’s been stripped of all the superfluous things that he thought was his identity. He goes through a huge transition from the beginning of the book all the way to the end.
When I said this book reminded me of a couple of other stories, it really did, but mostly in just elements. The entire pirate ship and such reminded me a lot of Talon Kardde from the Star Wars Expanded Universe/Legends books. The politics, and how they are so intricately defined, as well as the caste system that’s plainly obvious, reminded me a lot of the Red Rising books. There was even a moment that reminded me of the Borg from Star Trek. A lot of reminders, or ingredients, that made themselves into a great cake.
And I love cake!
5 out of 5. Epic Space Fantasy that leaves me begging to learn more about Cassius Mass!

Review: The Science of Supervillainy

The Supervillainy series by C.T. Phipps has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a few years now. Not only has Gary Karkofsky’s antics as an accidentally successful supervillain just been an absolute pleasure to read, but the world environment, the unexpected twists, and the tongue-in-cheek references to pop-culture makes for an exciting and entertaining read.
The newest arrival to that series, The Science of Supervillainy, hits all of those notes in spades.
This book picks up directly where the last book left off. The Other Gary and President Omega are about to pull off their plan, but Gary and crew take care of it pretty quickly, until they don’t. A time jump ahead and all of the old characters, a bunch of new characters, and a little girl with a super brain step up to help Gary save…err… I mean take over…err…well save first, and then take over? Whatever his plans, the world is in danger, and not his kind of danger. So it’s up to him and his rough and tumble crew to step up and stop Other Gary from erasing them all from existence.
The Science of Supervillainy is filled with both comedic and dramatic moments that blend well together. Using both the dramatic and comedic is how Phipps illustrates, surprisingly well, the conflicts of being a supervillain with morals. Wanting to own and rule the world doesn’t necessarily mean that you want the world to be a filled with shitty people, and Gary most certainly wants to rule the world, but why can’t he have his cake and eat it too?
Elements of this book I loved were the same as the previous titles. The cross-pollination from other worlds, time-travel, comedy, weirdly conceived relationships, and of course the pop-culture references help to make this a fun read. It works so well, and I look forward to the next installment.

5 out of 5 stars.