“Ocean of Storms” by Christopher Mari and Jeremy K. Brown (47North, 2016)


Ocean of Storms is the type of science fiction that not only piques your interest, but grabs your imagination and sucks you right into the story.

It is the near future, and much like now, the world isn’t doing so great. Tensions are reaching a pinnacle as the US and China stand on the brink of possible nuclear war over Taiwan. Then there is what seems like a worldwide electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that shuts down everything electronic planet wide and causes a lot of trouble. Days pass and governments around the world start getting everything up and running again and it is then they discover the origin of this mysterious pulse: a catastrophic explosion has struck the moon and now there is a massive gash in its surface. The answer to all this seems pretty obvious: we are most certainly not alone in the universe.

And then the race is on to find out just what is happening on the moon and what might possibly be inside that recently created chasm. China gets an unmanned probe into space first and gets some closeups of the giant black hole in the lunar surface. The US wants to get a manned mission out to the moon pronto, the only problem is no one’s been to the moon since the 1970s and the technology just really isn’t there. Nevertheless, NASA is given carte blanche to do what needs to be done, but still can’t make it happen. Eventually a joint mission between the US and China is formed and finally launched.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first putting together the mission to the moon and then finding out what exactly is there, and the reveal is somewhat predictable; while the second part focuses and dealing with what has been discovered back on Earth. The momentum and drive of the first part definitely slows and gets a little lost in the second part, as the book turns more into an action thriller. Overall, Ocean of Storms is an interesting and catchy read that fulfills all the important buttons to be pushed when reading speculative fiction.

Originally written on January 5, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Ocean of Storms from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Darkness of Evil” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2017)


Alan Jacobson has delighted us readers for a number of years now with his gripping Karen Vail books, and in the latest installment, the sinisterly titled Darkness of Evil, Vail comes up against what could be her greatest foe yet: a convicted serial killer.

Senior profiler at the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Karen Vail, is juggling lots of projects and problems at once; but that’s just her modus operandi, in addition to dealing with a new boss who she doesn’t really get along with. She’s also keeping her eye on Jasmine Marcks, who has just published a book about her life as the daughter of a serial killer, which she had no idea about until she was a teenager and was crucial in having Roscoe Lee Marcks brought to justice and put away for a very long time. Roscoe killed fourteen people and Vail took over the case in the early days of her career, helping the guy get put away.

Jasmine receives a note from her father. He knows about the book. He knows what she said about him in the book. He wants revenge. Vail lets Jasmine know the man is locked behind bars and everything will be okay. She is finally granted access to begin interviewing Roscoe to find out what he is up to, and then before she knows it, the serial killer escapes with help from a number of people on the inside.

The rules have changed; the stakes are through the roof. It’s a whole new ball game.

Bodies begin turning up, including a cop who was protecting Jasmine. The daughter decides to go it alone, keeping hidden and quiet, only getting in contact with Vail occasionally. Meanwhile, the ace profiler joins a crack team of US Marshals and other experts to chase down Roscoe and put him back in prison where he belongs.

The Darkness of Evil kicks it into high gear right from the start, as the reader immediately gets drawn into the book. Jacobson continues to make Vail a complex and complete character, as she juggles personal life problems, other cases, and the nail-biting terror of a serial killer on the loose who seems to have no limits to whose life he may take. He could be coming around the next corner with his sights on her. But Vail is a professional. She is experienced; a veteran. She knows what has to be done, and the reader is thrilled to be along for the ride.

Originally written on March 15, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Darkness of Evil from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Powers of Darkness” by Bram Stoker, Valdimar Ásmundsson, translated by Hans de Roos (Overlook Press, 2016)


In 1901, an Icelandic edition of Dracula was translated and published by Valdimar Ásmundsson, which he titled Makt Myrkranna or Powers of Darkness, for the Icelandic readers. It included an original preface by one Bram Stoker but remained unknown for a long time. In 1986 this Icelandic edition was discovered, and Bram Stoker’s preface was translated and studied, while the rest of the book was largely ignored.

In 2014, independent researcher Hans de Roos took a look at the rest of the Icelandic text and discovered something unique: a whole new, never before seen story of a vampire named Dracula. Apparently, when Valdimar Ásmundsson translated Stoker’s bestseller, he made some character and plot changes. The result is a shorter novel that runs a lot faster, is a little more erotic and suspenseful. Makt Myrkranna focuses more on Jonathan Harkness’s stay at Castle Dracula and the strange and terrifying things that go on there.

This edition of this new and unique text features an introduction and margin annotations by Hans de Roos, as well as a foreword by Dacre Stoker, and an afterword by John Edgar Browning. Powers of Darkness is a completely new look at this classic text that fans of the book and genre won’t want to miss.

Originally written on November 18, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Powers of Darkness from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Flame Bearer” by Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, 2016)


The Flame Bearer is the tenth installment of the Saxon Tales from bestselling historical fiction master, Bernard Cornwell. Is it the final tale in the series? No one knows except Mr. Cornwell himself, and I suppose in a year or so readers will find out. But this volume may be the most important of the series, even over King Alfred’s reign and death, as our fearless and now aged hero, Uhtred, returns to his beloved Bebbanburg.

Uhtred is not a young warrior anymore, and may not be able to perform some of the feats he used to, but he is still perhaps the smartest and most cunning man in all of the lands that King Alfred one day hoped to unite as a single Englaland. For now the land remains divided, with Sigtryggr, a Viking, ruling in Northumbria, and the Saxon Queen Aethelflaed ruling from Mercia. However, they are at a truce; so for the first time in many a year, Uhtred has some free time and he knows just what he wishes to do.

Bringing together his people and those who will fight for him, he heads to Bebbanburg, his home, the land of his father, and the land that rightfully belongs to him, even though he hasn’t set foot on it since he was a child. But this is a Bernard Cornwell novel after all, so nothing will ever go as planned. This is also the Middle Ages also, meaning there are many out there wishing to take lands and make them their own. Such is the way of things, and as Uhtred likes to keep reminding us in the Old English, “Wyrd bið ful aræd,” or “Fate is inexorable.”

Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Flame Bearer from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Arcanum Unbounded” by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, 2016)


If you’re any sort of epic fantasy fan, then by now you know full well who bestselling author Brandon Sanderson is. You may know him as the author who finished the long-spanning Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan; or the creator of the fantastic Mistborn series; or perhaps you know him as the great mind behind his ongoing epic Stormlight Archive series. As a young adult reader, you may have also discovered him through some of his YA titles like The Rithmatist or the Reckoners trilogy, or perhaps even his Alcatraz series.

In case you haven’t realized, the guy can write. What you may not know is that all his books and stories are intrinsically linked together in his Cosmere universe. I know. Woah! Just when you think the guy can’t astound you more, he does. Sanderson has mentioned and hinted at this over the years of his climbing to stardom and bestseller status, and now readers get their first full insight into this galaxy of wonders, and of course, it’s a heavy tome weighing in at 672 pages, in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.

The book collects a good amount of Sanderson’s short fiction. Of course, one can’t really consider these short stories, because when it comes to writing, the word means little to Sanderson unless he’s referring to a character’s stature. Each novella and novelette features an introduction by one of Sanderson’s knowledgeable characters about what they know about this particular planet and system and how this affects those who live on the world or worlds within it.

The collection features nine tales, including an Elantris novella, a Mistborn story and novella that brings back an old beloved character. It features the first chapter for what became the script to his graphic novel, White Sands, as well as a sample of the great artwork. Included is also his novelette “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” which first appeared in the George R. R. Martin’s and Gardner Dozois’ anthology Dangerous Women, which features one of the strongest and most impressive female protagonists ever, and is one of Sanderson’s best stories. Period. Arcanum Unbounded also has a very nice and very long novella from his Stormlight Archive called “Edgedancer.” The book showcases impressive artwork of the planets and star systems, and is of course beautifully designed and executed, as is any high-class work from Tor books.

Originally written on January 4, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Arcanum Unbounded from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Of Saints and Shadows” by Christopher Golden (JournalStone, 2016)

ofsaintsandshadows

Back in the 90’s, very pre-Twilight, when there was really only Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles to contend with, as well as a really bad movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bestselling author Christopher Golden (Dead Ringers, Snowblind) penned a series of vampire novels known as The Shadow Saga that brings a whole new world, feel and sense to the vampire story. Featuring the vampire hero Peter Octavian, they are now being re-released. Also some of these vampires can go about in daylight, and no, they damn well don’t sparkle.

Vampires have been scorned by the Catholic church for centuries, and are referred to as the Defiant Ones, an abomination under the sight of God, so there are those within the church who do all they can to kill and eradicate the blood-suckers, even if it means using powerful, magical abilities that seem like a form a heresy. There is a book of the undead, the Gospel of Shadows, that holds the answers to wiping all of the them out once and for all. The book has been missing for some time, but has recently been discovered. Now the church is looking to get a hold of it and carry out a mission it has longed to complete for a very long time.

Peter Octavian is a Private Eye, he’s also a vampire with some impressive powers. Those powers help him solve the cases, though he tends to pretty much just work at night. He has separated and distanced himself from his vampire coven for some very specific reasons, but as a new case is brought to his attention, he realizes it has far-reaching ramifications. He’s sees that the Catholic Church is involved and what their plan is. He must make some big decisions and consider the costs.

Of Saints and Shadows is a vampire story that has a very different feel to it. With the P.I. angle, it feels a little like the TV show Angel, but in this world the vampire rules don’t always apply in the same way. Magic is also alive and well and those who can wield it can carry out some impressive feats. There are also demons – aren’t there always demons? – that can be summoned, drawn from another world in this one to wreak havoc. The story does have an “older” feel to it, since it was written and published in the nineties, but nevertheless is enthralling and entertaining and sexy and many things a vampire story should be.

Originally written on November 22, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Of Saints and Shadows from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Feedback: A Newsflesh Novel” by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2016)

feedback

“And we’re back” says Mira Grant in her acknowledgments, as the bestselling author returns to her Newsflesh world after a trilogy and collection of novellas. Events essentially reset as we jump back in time to the beginning of Feed with the presidential race beginning in a world where zombies are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. While the main characters from the aforementioned book are joining the campaign of the Republican nominee, our new diverse group of characters find themselves being tapped to join one of the Democratic potential nominees and cover her run for president.

The story is told from the point of view of the Irwin Aislinn “Ash” North, who is Irish but now a recent citizen after having married Benjamin Ross for pure green card purposes and getting herself out of her native country for some very specific reasons. Then there is Audrey, the fictional, who is Ash’s girlfriend. Finally, there’s Mat, the requisite techie, who is gender-fluid.

Readers are no doubt excited to hear about a new Newsflesh novel, but hopes will be somewhat dashed when they learn it is a very similar story to Feed about a news team covering a presidential race with lots of zombie attacks thrown in for action. There are some new details and facts added about the world that open things up a little, but after the astounding ride around the world that was Rise: The Complete Newsflesh Collection, Feedback is pretty much a disappointment in most areas.