Agent G Omnibus Review

When it comes to terms that end in “punk” I have never been a huge fan. I enjoy the aesthetic of Steampunk, but can never get into the stories, and that Cyberpunk 2077 video game came out and all I really cared about was how much the Keanu Reeves character actually looked like the talented actor.

That being said, I originally picked up the first Agent G book because of the author, C. T. Phipps, without any real idea that the story was “cyberpunk.” Instead, I dove into what I saw as a mix of James Bond’s serious take on the world and the level of body-mod technology akin to Austin Powers’ “machine gun jubblies.”

The world building of these stories is great. Not only is there the prebuilt world that is everything we know about it as normal people, but on top of that is a layer of black ops computer warfare that includes clones and augmented cybernetic enemies. There’s technologies that can hack anything and technologies that combat those hacks, with every new technology being countered by something even more fierce and incredibly imaginative, all while people fight with the moral dilemmas associated with the ethics of cloning, editing histories, manipulating the masses, government take-overs, and the exercising of free-will.

The first book introduces us to this amazing world, slamming us into the backseat as we follow Agent G, a nameless member of a combat elite with more secrets in his past than even he is aware of. He is led to believe that his organization is fighting on the side of right, but as Biggs Darklighter would soon discover, joining the Empire has it’s costs. Along the way, he meets assassins of equally morally dubious standing and discovers that everyone’s labels for good and bad don’t mean anything if everyone is out to kill you.

Another great comparison to this series is Pinocchio. Mostly because these books are the journey of a man who thinks he can be nothing more than a machine for the company discovering the things that make him human.I won’t go into the follow up works included in this omnibus because the only thing you need to know is that the battle rages on. Not just the battle between the company and Agent G, but the battle inside Agent G’s head.

I have said this in previous reviews of Phipps’s work, he soars when he’s working on character development and having a mindless automaton assassin discovering moral quandaries on the level of “do I have a soul” is the best playground possible for C. T.’s skillset. We start with someone who is happy with his place in the world and not really questioning anything. He has his home and his relationships as well as an understanding that his life is programmed to be short and is only as valuable as his next target’s status. Then we move onto him discovering that the world isn’t as it seems and maybe he isn’t either. It is the kind of wedge under a character that’s small, but can lever us into a huge character arc. And Phipps delivers.5 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait to see what more comes into the world of Agent G.

Review: Psycho Killers in Love by C.T. Phipps

Psycho Killers in Love by [C. T. Phipps]

Psycho Killers in Love by C.T. Phipps is the newest venture of Mr. Phipps, bringing him out of the realm of superheroes and apocalyptic fiction and straight into slasher horror. Of course, the illustrious Mr. Phipps can’t go dancing in the ballroom without bringing his own pizzazz and he most certainly does that.
Psycho Killers in Love takes the slasher genre as a whole, from Michael Myers to Freddy to whoever else you could possibly think of, and turns them into their own evil pantheon akin to the Gods on Olympus. Powers are bestowed to those of Slasher lineage that gives them their innate abilities that we all thought were plot holes when we watched the movies.
We follow William and his sister, Carrie, as they discover that a local group (local for now. The nature of their “business” means they travel a lot) of high society folks have been harnessing the power of the Slashers in their annual hunt. It helps that the otherwise sexually ambiguous William has found a romantic interest in the antithesis of Slashers. Together they have to work to save her friends and sister while also harnessing, and avoiding over-indulging, their inner natures.
It’s interesting, of course, seeing Phipps’ spin on the slasher genre with his antihero being morally questionable (much like his Lucifer’s Star lead) in that he has hard lines that one should never cross, and to a point that includes killing, until the killing is what he needs to complete his goal. Phipps spins a great story torturing our protagonist’s soul through questionable deeds, abusive relationships, and overprotective sibling behavior. All while trying to figure out if he can trust his new girlfriend.
The best part of this story, and this is a rare thing for me to say about a Phipps book, wasn’t the characters. They were great, but I really enjoyed the world building around the mythos of slashers. You see it shine when William takes on his moniker, The Accountant, and he seamlessly ties the dream worlds of Krueger with the slasher powers of Jason and the torture porn of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All with a godly voice in the back of William’s head that makes you wonder how many other horror movie creatures were hearing a similar voice in theirs.
Especially because of the world and powers that Phipps invented, this gets a 5 out of 5 from me.

Under the Hood: Andrew Doran and the Crawling Caves

Between 2018 and 2019, I was part of a team of modern day Mythos writers striving to build something unique. We wanted to write an anthology, but we wanted it to be less an anthology and more a huge crossover event. The five of us tied together a narrative with individual stories each linked to each other either through the MacGuffin (the Al-Azif) or through actual story elements (Donny Bear and Vhourvath, among others).

Keeping each of those elements together was a collective effort with Hambling and Phipps doing work in Google Drive, and me dancing between that and my preferred use of Evernote. It was a huge effort and so much fun. The following are my notes for the first quarter of Andrew Doran and the Crawling Caves.

A fun thing to note, before we dive in, was my effort to follow some of Hambling’s advice. When I first met David, he had told me that he loved my stories, but that it might be easier to write about places I’ve been instead of spending so much time researching areas that I either haven’t gone or would never be able to go (anywhere in the past). That advice stuck with me, and is why Andrew Doran and the Crawling Caves is set in Harrisville, New York and the Adirondack Mountains. I grew up in that town and hunted, fished, climbed, and even bobsled in those mountains. I’m pointing this out so you can see how Tales of the Al-Azif was more than just a 1 year collaboration, but a collaboration that has spanned much of my relationship with these great writers. When we put pen to paper, we bring everything of ourselves with us, including what we’ve learned from each other.

Small disclaimer: Unlike the previous “Under the Hood” post, these images aren’t as well cropped. I was using a new notebook (R2D2, if you can’t tell by the stickers) and my Evernote app wasn’t having as easy a time taking the picture. For note purposes, it didn’t really matter, so they stayed the same.

Review: Brightblade by Phipps and Suttkus

Brightblade (The Morgan Detective Agency Book 1) by [Phipps, C. T., Suttkus, Michael]

Brightblade is the newest book in Phipps’s and Suttkus’s United States of Monsters world. This is the world of New Detroit, where supernatural beings decided to make themselves known to everyone a few years back and now the world has to deal with them on a daily (or nightly, in some instances) basis.

Brightblade sticks out because it’s both a new story as well as what I can only describe as the linchpin. This story helps to show you how every other story is connected, aside from that big reveal of monsters being actually under your bed. It does this really well, reminding the readers that outside of the obvious books in the United States of Monsters series, there’s also the Red Room series by these guys.

If there’s one thing that these guys know how to do, it’s building a huge universe to play in.

Brightblade is much more than the “missing link,” though. We have a strong tale of a woman trained to be this generation’s Buffy the Vampire slayer, but much like Buffy, she is quickly learning that everything she’s trained to kill is too intricately woven into her personal life. The MacGuffin for the story lends itself well to her turmoil, as it seems to be the only thing that can untie the complicated knot that is her family and friends and potentially save her from joining them, but she’s struck with the realization that no one wants their “problems” to be undone.

The struggle is real as Ashley (the main character) has to decide if she can love her friends and family with the stains on their souls or if she should go against their wishes and cure them. Which is the bigger evil? How can she learn to unhate everything they are?

This was just another great story in the Phipps and Suttkus catalog and I’m a huge fan. The little nods to characters I’ve learned to love from other books helped to propel me into this story and introduce these new characters in a manner that made them feel new but also as if they were old friends.

It’s a great book and I give it 5 out of 5.

Unfortunately, it’s also made me yearn for the next Weredeer book… Get on that guys!

Review: Lucifer’s Nebula by Phipps/Suttkus

Lucifer's Nebula (Lucifer's Star)Lucifer’s Nebula, by C. T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus is the second novel in the adventures of Cassius Mass, a devilishly handsome former prince of a cruel planet that no longer exists. This is like Star Wars if it were written in a darker and more cruel (and arguably fun) universe.
Lucifer’s Nebula is a sequel to the first book, Lucifer’s Star, in which we learned that the universe has experienced governmental turmoil, civilizations have been ravaged, and an ancient set of beings known as the Elder Races have left their mark on the current civilization. This book picks up where the first left off in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve missed a step between the books.
We find our reluctant hero, Cassius Mass, as the hesitant Captain of the Melampus, the ship that he had been flying on during the previous book. His crew is filled with variously colorful characters, including his two lovers, the aggressive First Mate, Clarice, and the ship’s medical officer, Isla. Isla is also a bioroid, which is like a fleshy C-3PO who’s artificial intelligence is so advanced that it’s considered (by some) to be a sentient being. Many of the bioroid’s of this universe are enslaved, as most people see them less like people and more like machines. Isla’s struggle, in this book and the last, reminds me of Pris from the original Blade Runner. She was made for one purpose (in Isla’s case, sex), but rebels against her users to follow her true calling. At this point, that mostly consists of being a medical officer and hanging out with Cassius’s pirate crew.
Most of the cast of Lucifer’s Nebula (and the whole series, really) is incredibly broken or has experienced some sort of trauma. One of my favorite characters, William, had to deal with his entire world being ravaged and destroyed by one of the warring governments. Major Terra (introduced in this book) is a brainwashed soldier from that same world as William. She was kidnapped by her conquerors and brainwashed to be their loyal assassin. Everyone’s broken. The Melampus wouldn’t be remiss in renaming itself “The Isle of Misfit Toys.”
This broken aesthetic doesn’t end with just the crew, as their Captain is the most broken of them all. Inside his head he relives and can never escape the memories of all of the people that he’s killed or led into a battle that’s gotten them killed. One of those ghosts is his dead wife, who seems to have lost much of her humanity in her transition from living flesh to digital ghost. He’s wracked with guilt and anger over who he was and what he’s lost and he desperately wishes to atone for the life he’s lived.
In book one, this led us into the great character arcs that Phipps and Suttkus are famous for. Phipps always manages to introduce you to an utterly broken person and show us their path toward healing. When book 1 ended, we had hope for Cassius.
Then book 2 started, and we were saddled with an uncomfortable reality. While a lot of what was broken in these characters was healed, life doesn’t let you forget about the parts that you haven’t fixed yet. Cassius is still addicted to his alcohol and self-destructive tendencies, and the character journeys in this book help us to see the more human side of addiction, abuse, and violence on both a global and a personal scale.
There’s politics, huge twists, and adventure galore, but the big win with any book that has Phipps’s name on it is the character development (and the action. Lots of great action.).

Review: The Tournament of Supervillainy by C.T. Phipps

All the way back to when the Jetsons met the Flintstones, and every dang Scooby Doo special, I’ve always loved a good Crossover. Most recently, the CW Superhero shows reminded me how much I love Crossovers. Crossovers are great because they mean that no longer are there no consequences in a story. The story is unequivocally effected by having the rules of each story’s world suddenly become part of their own. I find it exciting and fun to know that the sandbox the creators are playing in is so much bigger. A beach more than a sandbox.
This love of Crossovers was reignited with a fury when I heard that the new Supervillainy book by C.T. Phipps was going to include a huge Crossover of all of his written worlds.
Unlike all of those other Crossover stories, though. It doesn’t open with an even breakdown from every one of those separate worlds. We get a Phipps Crossover in the best way that we could: From Gary’s point of view.
The story’s plot is pretty straight forward. There’s an orb that will allow anyone who possesses it one wish with absolutely no limits. Since all realities could be effected by a wishing device with no rules, Death’s first champion, Entropicus put together a Tournament for champions from each reality to duel for the right to win the magical orb. Entropicus’s goal is to win the orb for himself so that he can end all things. Death doesn’t like that and sends her newest champion, Gary, to try and win the tournament.
Things go crazy from there as Gary starts to meet all of the other characters from other works of C.T. Phipps, including Jane Doe, Agent G, and Cassius Mass. While I would have liked to see John Booth from the Cthulhu Armageddon series, John has already shown a propensity for being woven into the very fabric of the multiverse, and I understand leaving him out to preserve the integrity of his potential universe hopping.
But dang, it’d be neat for Gary to learn Cthulhu was real…
I digress. The plot surrounding Gary and his crew of misfits isn’t derailed by the Crossover event so much as enhanced by it. Gary’s wife Mandy is acting really off and it’s got Gary a little concerned, but he’s too busy to deal with it as his other wife Cindy and his new/old girlfriend, Gabriel, also known as Ultragoddess, are also in the tournament and everything seems to be going to hell. People are getting killed, their new friends want to steal the orb, and everyone is terrified about what will happen should Entropocis get the orb.
All of this is happening while Gary debates whether or not he has the right to bring people back from the dead who have already died. In the world of comic books, returning from death is a common occurrence, but just because someone can do it, doesn’t mean they should. It’s a question that has both philosophical and real world consequences depending on how he, the chosen champion of Death, chooses to answer.
And of course, the best part of any Crossover, the interactions between characters from other worlds were spot on. Agent G’s realization that his cyberpunk world isn’t the greatest while Jane Doe’s deer puns contagiously cross universes. Then there was all of the drama around Cassius Mass and … wait … how does he know Mandy?
This story had everything in it that first drew me to the Rules of Supervillainy series. From the pop-culture references to the kickass action scenes to the emotional moments that make you empathize with someone who continually fails at being a supervillain, but is a damned awesome anti-hero. Add in all of my favorite characters from other Phipps books and you have the perfect story. The perfect Crossover.
This was a 5 out of 5 book. Definitely give it a read.

Review: Agent G-Saboteur by C.T. Phipps

Agent G, as described in the first book in C.T. Phipps’ cyberpunk novels, is an international assassin. Much like Liam Nissan, he has a very specific set of skills.
But that’s a very two-dimensional look at a very three-dimensional character. These novels, though fun, gritty, cyberpunk looks at spy adventure, and sold as cyberpunk, are actually the definitive example of perfect Science Fiction.
What do I mean by that? Science Fiction is meant to be a mirror that reflects back a very human idea but framed in an analogy that makes it clearer to understand. Historically, the best Science Fiction asks us to examine what it means to be alive, or the roles of gender, or in the case of the Agent G series, what it means to be human.
As an author, Phipps uses plot to flesh out and develop his characters. They are always relatable to the reader, but fundamentally broken, and Phipps uses his unique skill to take them on a journey that mends them through development and plot. Agent G, does this in a manner that is both the same, yet uniquely different. Through the quips and puns that are Phipps way, we meet G as a character that is entertaining to read along with, but is by definition “Perfect” and “Not Human.” G is a cyborg, a clone, a computer program, and an assassin. In the words of Tony Stark, everything that makes G special came out of a bottle.
What we get in Agent G: Saboteur is a desire by G to be less than he is. He doesn’t want to be the perfect killing machine that’s a copy of something or someone else. He doesn’t want to be owned or beholden to anyone. And he’d like to actually understand the pop cultural references that he makes because he partakes in pop culture, not because it was programmed into him. He doesn’t want to live longer, so much as have a life that’s entirely his own (and live longer, too, but that’s secondary). The journey of Agent G isn’t the mending of a broken man, it’s the humanizing of the perfect killing machine.
That brings me back to my calling this Cyberpunk Spy novel, Science Fiction. The mirror this story and character hold up to us is the question of humanity and what it means to be human. In this entire book there are very few people that fall under the definition of human, and those that do (James, Marissa, Douglas, and Daniel) are incredibly flawed to the point of being gross examples of the human race. G has no one to emulate, but a lot of artificial intelligence acquaintances who, without ever saying it, want the same thing. The Science Fiction question in all of this is “How human is human?” and “Is humanity the meat or the mind?” Those are just a few of the questions in this book that G demands get answered without ever verbalizing his need.
Another poignant question from this book: Have Humans lost their Humanity? This gets examined in the human characters of this series. Can humanity survive a surge in technology? Will the Singularity destroy them or will they adapt?
So many great questions come out of this series and specifically this book, and on top of that it’s a cyberpunk spy novel!
Simply put, Phipps wrote a fun spy novel that turned out to be a very deep Science Fiction piece of art.
Well done. 5 Stars.

Review: An American Weredeer in Michigan by Phipps & Suttkus

An American Weredeer in Michigan (The Bright Falls Mysteries Series Book 2) by [Phipps, C. T., Suttkus, Michael]An American Weredeer in Michigan is the newest urban fantasy novel from C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus. The book takes place a year after the events of the first book, I was a Teenage Weredeer, and follows the same protagonist, Jane Doe. The entire series takes place in a world that has gone through the “Reveal” a time in which supernatural elements of the world are known to everyone and the world is still reacting to that information. Michigan is, more or less, a safe place to be, but a lot of people didn’t react well to the revelation and a new type of racism bursts forth.
So, when the new Shaman of Bright Falls, Jane, discovers a mass grave of discarded babies she already had a lot on her plate. Someone has been discarding newborns for the last hundred or so years, and it’s an atrocity that can’t go unpunished. Teaming up with her crew from the last book, Jane is on a quest to stop the murder of innocent lives…
Until a few more things come up. First, there’s a cult leader/wizard who wants to find the person or being responsible for the massacre and harness them for his own purposes. Also, money is an issue for the young and inexperienced Jane, and she’s struggling to make ends meet when the current leader of the werewolves wants to buy out her family business. Jane is, of course, reluctant to sell.
Oh, and her boyfriend’s brother is super into her. Her day is going to be a busy one.
Jane is a snarky protagonist in the vein of Harry Dresden and I love her for it.
I like ( a lot) how Phipps makes you feel the tension between Alex, Jane, and Lucien. The relationship, or confusion considering it, between herself and Lucien, and herself and Alex, is something that Phipps and Suttkus build up really well. Robyn, a new character introduced in this story, I like specifically because of her “Watson-esque” role she’s taken over for Jane. She becomes our outsider that helps us understand things while playing a pivotal role to the story, and I love that. She also feels like she came from Straight out of Fangton (another book that takes place in this universe, but not in this series), in her personality, which really helps tie the two series together in a thematic way.
I can’t recommend the Weredeer series by Phipps and Suttkus more. We have books that we read for fun and enjoyment, and we have books that we read as guilty pleasures. This is one of my guilty pleasures, falling into the snarky hero/urban fantasy genre that I always go back to.
5 out of 5, will grab up the next one as soon as it is out.

Review: The Tower of Zhaal

Post-Apocalyptic fiction is fun, but Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraft fiction is even better.

That kind of fun led me to C.T. Phipps’ “The Tower of Zhaal.”

The Tower of Zhaal is the sequel to Phipps’ first successful foray into Lovecraftian fiction, Cthulhu Armageddon. In that first book, the world has been ravaged by the long ago (but still in our current future) rise of the Great Old Ones. The hero of the first book, John Henry Booth is back, and the taint of the world has eeked it’s way into his own flesh. With Nyarlahotep whispering in his ear, and the threat of the end of the human race on the brink of happening, John has to risk everything with a team that he can’t trust in order to save the few parts of the hellish world that mean something to him.

While traveling to and with some very Mythos specific names, as well as some that are a treat for readers of contemporary Mythos fiction (ie: the Ghoul priest being named Hoade as an obvious reference to fellow contemporary Mythos writer, Sean Hoade). The explanations of Magic, the Science of the Mind, and the different Alien races make it an epic adventure on par with Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but within the Mythos elements that bring us back.

The world has ended, Alien Gods are everywhere, and the question of humanities survival is a complex one. Can Humanity survive? Should Humanity survive? Would the Humanity that survives even be recognizable as Human?

Phipps weaves a great tale, that makes for an exciting read.

5 out of 5 Stars!

Minor Potential Spoiler: There’s a scene in this book that made me laugh out loud, but not because it was funny. The moment I read it, I wanted to shout, “Ah! He’s been Rick and Morty’d!!!”