Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: Cadman's Gambit (Shader Book I) by D.P. Prior

Rating: 5 out of 5

Oh, how much I love the melding of genres. To mix and match different aspects of specific literary tropes and use them to tell a truly original and captivating tale can be a wonderful thing to experience, when executed correctly. It then becomes nothing but a story, allowing the reader to concentrate on the strength of the tale being told rather than if they followed all the requisite “rules” ascribed to said genre – ala, in the case of fantasy, the use of magic, mystical beasts, and world-building.

This all brings us to Cadman’s Gambit: Shader Book I by D.P. Prior, a novel that now holds a place in my heart as the most perfect introductory novel to a series I’ve ever read, surpassing the previous champion, The Gunslinger.

In truth, there are quite a few similarities between Prior’s book and the seminal work of King. We follow a gruff, old, and cranky warrior (Roland and Shader), travel along a path in search of an object of untold power (the Rose and the statue of Eingana), and there are remnants of an advanced, ancient civilization lurking beneath the surface of both worlds.

This is where the comparison ends, however. While The Dark Tower chronicles the journey of a single man and his quest for absolution, in Shader we’re presented with a much larger, more universal plight – the elevation of man into a place of honor within the universe. It’s a rather lofty goal that Prior has saddled himself with, and one he’s amazingly able to pull off.

In Cadman’s Gambit we’re introduced, in different flashbacks and wild, swashbuckling tales, to the main character, Deacon Shader. But in almost every way, Shader is overshadowed by the complexity, originality, and turmoil of the world he exists in. This is a version of Earth that has gone far beyond us – 900 years since the end of “civilization as we know it”, pretty much – and there are mystical, as well as scientific, wonders drifting about. There are individuals who have lived for centuries, galactic warlords on the quest for universal domination, and many questions pertaining to the nature of existence, including time, itself. Religion is widely discussed, and even ridiculed, in fact becoming the one uniting and divisive cog in the machine, echoing that fact that though society as we know it has moved on, humans remain humans, whether they ascribe to a Christian derivative, a pagan understanding, immerse themselves in Platonic doctrine, or a combination of all three.

But more than anything else, Cadman’s Gambit is the story of man’s quest for immortality. Every major character either desires it – in spirituality or actuality – or already has tasted a hint of it. It is one of the saddest theological plotlines I’ve come across, and each key player is, in their own way, selfish to a fault. In an existence where death is all around them, in the form of plague or warfare or strange, bio-engineered beasts, rather than trying to survive, they attempt to cheat death.

Which is why Deacon Shader, the warrior monk (and how great of a contradiction is that?), means so much to the story. He is flawed, cranky, violent, and stubborn, a man set in his ways who wants to change but can’t. Because of this, he reflects each and every person I’ve ever known…though he’s way cooler, and stronger, than the average man. Let’s just call him an “ideal human,” which is a fantastic description because of how imperfect he is. Prior has definitely created a conundrum of a story here, and he couldn’t have chosen a better figurehead to anchor it.

The mystery in the tale abounds. What’s up with the hidden, underground tunnels? What’s a “technocracy?” Why do so many people, when exposed to the deity-like entities (or are they?) that save the world from itself, end up living pretty much forever? He also has the courage to introduce magic, only to pull back and suggest, in a brilliant piece of storytelling, that there’s no such thing as magic at all. Just like the rest of the story, it’s a grand negation, and one that can make a reader’s head spin…in a good way, of course.

There is more than theory and world-building at work here. There is actual emotion and real, honest-to-goodness human relationships. Shader’s love for the girl he can’t have, his understudy’s obsession with the same, a dwarf named Shadrach’s fixation on the woman who would be his mother, the religious elite’s love of Ain, their godhead, or Dr. Cadman’s (the main antagonist) love of, well, himself. (I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say Cadman is a near-flawless villain. You’ll love him.)

The fight scenes in this book are extremely well executed, even if they may be few and far between. Just like everything else at work here, this is a contradiction, for the action acts as a break in the dialogue and philosophic musings instead of the other way around, which is usually the case. Also, there are little Easter eggs thrown in for those of us who still exist in the 21st century, as some of the “immortal” characters reflect upon events and locales from their past, letting we the readers know that, yes, this strange land was once not only very much like ours, but was ours.

Oh, and I’d be remiss to say that, for the first time ever, the map at the beginning of the book was not only well-made, but necessary to the plot! Go figure. I’ve always been one to never look at them, thinking them superfluous. Not here, my friends. No, if it weren’t for that map, I would’ve been lost.

In fact, I can say in all honesty that the only thing I think might hold this novel back is the fact it’s almost too smart for its own good. The language is dense, the plot sometimes convoluted. You really have to read each and every word, to take in each minute detail presented, to truly understand what you’re reading. I think there may be some folks who may not appreciate it, though there’s nothing wrong with that.

I, on the other hand, loved it. Cadman’s Gambit is a work of pure intellect, taking the best facets of fantasy, science fiction, and philosophy, and mixing it all together into a genus all its own. It's surprisingly humorous in parts, and the Kantian undertones of consciousness as it relates to time and space resounded with me greatly. I couldn’t put it down, though I took my time with it, wanting to bathe myself in every word, every turn of a phrase.

Yup, that’s right. My Year’s Best list just had a new book jump to the top. D.P. Prior’s book is that good. He has a lot to say, and one hell of a story to tell. In my opinion, you should take him up on that journey. Now.

Plot - 10

Characters - 10

Voice - 10

Execution - 10

Personal Enjoyment – 10

Overall – 50/50 (5.0/5)

Purchase Cadman's Gambit in Ebook format at:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


And we have a winner!

There were over 450 entrants into the contest, so there was some tough competition. So congratulations goes out to...


Thank you to all of the blogs who participated! It was a fantastic experience for myself, and with the fantastic reception this book has received, things are only looking up from here!

A huge thanks goes out to Kismet Book Touring for organizing this whole shebang. You do great work ladies!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ST Review: The Zombie Feed edited by Jason Sizemore

(Note from the Journal: This review initially appeared on - sans ratings)

4.1 out of 5

I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.

Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clich├ęd tropes and plot devices.

In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.

Not Dead by B.J. Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity. (5/5)

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste. (3/5)

Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies. (5/5)

The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer. (4/5)

Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting. (5/5)

The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author’s trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good. (2/5)

A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror. (5/5)

Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better. (3/5)

The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless. (4/5)

Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect. (3/5)

Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch. (5/5)

Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story. (5/5)

Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect. (4/5)

The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not. (5/5)

What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place. (2/5)

Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up. (5/5)

Hipsters in Love by Danger Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology. (5/5)

So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.

Overall – 70/85 (4.1/5)

Purchase The Zombie Feed in ebook format:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BOOK RELEASE: Suspense (The Spencer Nye Trilogy, Book 1) by Jason Letts


by Jason Letts

$2.99 at Amazon
$2.99 at Barnes & Noble



Spencer Nye can’t control the rage bubbling under her skin over the world around her. The trouble is, by the year 2102, the world has solved most of its great problems. Without hunger, war, greed, or even money, people obsess over the glamour of the Culture Industry and its mega-celebrity Idols, who vie for followers over the social networks of Connect.

But Spencer discovers there is plenty to fix within the Idols’ competition for more popularity. She becomes a diehard and promises to do anything to help her Idol, a dreamy movie star named Cleary Mintz, bring his vision of hope and purpose to the world. When she stumbles onto a threat against his life, she’ll have to fight harder than she ever thought possible or lose the man who means more to her than any other.

Suspense, the first book in a dystopian trilogy, contains 76,000 words and is recommended for ages 16 and up because of depictions of violence and some sexual themes.



From the author:

Suspense Book Release Giveaway!

Coming out with the first book in a new series is always exciting, but I doubt I've ever been as excited about a book release as I am for Suspense, book 1 of The Spencer Nye Trilogy. To see if I can get your enthusiasm up, I'm announcing some big prizes for its early and observant readers. All you have to do is read the book and send an email to me with the answers to four little questions to be entered. Then you'll be in the running for the following goodies.

Grand Prize: Your choice of either a Kindle Wifi with Special Offers + a custom Suspense Gelaskin OR a Nook Touch + a custom Suspense Gelaskin

First Prize: A custom Suspense Gelaskin + a signed paperback copy of Suspense

Second Prize: A signed paperback copy of Suspense

Rules and Deadline: To be entered in the grand prize drawings, participants must send me an email at infinitejuly (at) gmail (dot) com with the correct answers to four questions about the book. These questions will appear here on the day that Suspense is released around September 9th, and the contest will run for one month until October 9th (my birthday!) when winners will be drawn. Only U.S. residents can win the Grand Prize, but the First and Second prizes can be awarded internationally. I hope you enjoy the story, and thank you for reading!


(Visit the author's Facebook page, linked above, for questions and full details)


My own review of this book should appear before the last week of September, right here on the Journal. To say I'm excited to dive into this would be an understatement. I've been a fan of Jason's work from the beginning, and it will be great to see his writing continue to grow. Even without having read the book yet, I highly recommend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

SILAS Blog Tour!!!

Nope, no review today...but I do have an announcement that has to do with my own writing career!

I'm a little late to the game here - with the lack of power last week and all the overtime because of the hurricane, my internet usage was limited, at best - but I'm here to announce that the fine ladies of Kismet Book Touring kicked off the blog tour for Silas last week! Here is the list of hosts and links to the content they've provided so far:

Tour Dates:
Monday, August 29th - April, My Shelf Confessions
Tuesday, August 30th - Johnny, Pages of Forbidden Love
Wednesday, August 31st - Greta, Paranormal Wastelands
Thursday, September 1st - Lisa, A Casual Reader's Blog
Friday, September 2nd - Karen, The Slowest Bookworm
Monday, September 5th - Melissa, Books and Things
Tuesday, September 6th - Heather and Pushy, Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, September 7th - Cindy, Oodles of Books
Thursday, September 8th - Theresa, Just One More Paragraph
Friday, September 9th - Gef, Wagging The Fox
Monday, September 12th - Mandy, The Well-Read Wife
Tuesday, September 13th - aobibliophile├┤
Wednesday, September 14th - Aparajita, Le' Grande Codex
Thursday, September 15th - Farrah, The Book Faery Reviews
Friday, September 16th - Nevey, Le Vanity Victorienne


So now that you have the list, whatever are you supposed to do with it? Well, as a part of this tour, along with the interviews and special stuff that abounds, we're giving away a Kindle 3 along with a brand-spanking-new Silas skin! All you have to do is go the the blogs, read through the posts, and enter into the contest forms. Each form has a rather simple question having to do with building the Silas playlist, and the correct answer will award you 3 points toward the grand prize! In other words, there are 15 chances to gain a total of 45 "entries". Can you get better than that?

So head over to the blogs, folks, and enter to win! Oh, and help support up-and-coming authors!