“Codex Ocularis” by Ian Pyper (Pelekinesis, 2016)


Codex Ocularis is a journey; a journey through time and physical space to a distant planet, but also a journey through the mind.

There is a planet in a galaxy far, far away that is unlike any planet you’ve ever seen or known of. It is known as Ocularis because it is eye-shaped, and has a focused lens pointed right at planet Earth. Yes, the planet is in fact looking at Earth and from what it sees, it is creating unique creatures in the aqueous humors of its surface. How do we know this? Because of one Astronaut/Psychonaut/Holonaut who has traveled across the dimensions of time and space and visited the planet through this unique advanced technology that employs the mind in some way. His words and diagrams have been left in his log book known as the “Codex Ocularis,” where you’ll find his thoughts and musings, his scientific theories and revelations of Ocularis.

Codex Ocularis is partly a storybook, partly a philosophical journey, and partly Ian Pyper having a lot of fun illustrating the ideas of a planet. The concept is an interesting one, but the execution is a little lacking. The astronaut’s notes are done in cursive that make it hard to read certain words at times. The content of the writing is pretty complex and “pretend-scientific” that kind of loses the reader. The illustrations are fun, but get a bit repetitive and when the reader isn’t sure what they’re reading, it makes understanding the images even harder. The book could’ve used more structure and plot to help the reader along.

Originally written on May 12, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Codex Ocularis from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Kronos Rising: Kraken Volume 1: The Battle for Earth’s Oceans has Just Begun” by Max Hawthorne (Far From the Tree Press, 2016)


After thrilling fans with a new giant-sized menace on the high seas with a taste for human flesh in Kronos Rising, Max Hawthorne is back with a new species of sea monster in Kronos Rising: Kraken. If the first book was the “Jaws” event for readers, then its sequel takes it to the level of Pacific Rim.

It has been thirty years since the tragic events of Paradise Cove, and the world is now a changed place. Giant pliosaurs now ply the oceans in the multitudes wreaking havoc against sea vessels and wiping out crews. In retaliation, there are those crews with unique vessels looking to capture the high-priced bounty that is the pliosaur. There are specific rules on what can be killed and what can be captured. Our story focuses on brothers Garm Braddock running the Gryphon, an anti-biologic submarine with some unique weaponry and tactics specifically designed to take out the pliosaur or bag it. At the secret research facility known as TARTARUS is Garm’s brother Dirk, working on the primeval pathogen that is alive and well within the blood of the pliosaurs. Meanwhile, in the deep ocean depths there is a new menace on the rise, one that makes the pliosaurs look like puppies.

Hawthorne has once again done his research in marine life and what it’s like living on and off the sea, whether it be above or below the waves. While the characters are interesting and well-developed, Hawthorne takes it too far with men being men in a combat zone and wanting to outdo each other; at some points the reader is just waiting for them to undo their flies and whip it out. There are a number of graphic sex scenes in the book that just come out of nowhere and derail the reader from novel. Overall, Kronos Rising: Kraken goes on for too long and loses its momentum unlike its thrilling predecessor.

Originally written on July 13, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Kronos Rising: Kraken from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided” by Jeff Carlson (JVE, 2016)


With Jupiter being a hot topic item in the news these days, it’s time for a riveting science fiction thriller set on one of Jupiter’s moons. Cue bestselling author Jeff Carlson’s latest novel, the third installment in the Frozen Sky universe.

Like the previous novellas, Carlson throws the reader right in the middle of some intense action, with Vonnie dealing with the Sunfish and things being pushed to the limit. In Blindsided readers learn more about the complexities of the Sunfish and the fact that they’re a lot more intelligent and developed than anyone really thinks, except perhaps Vonnie. Carlson cuts back and forth between Vonnie working with the sunfish and the interactions of the people in the European Space Agency, giving an insight into what life is like living in a small space many millions of miles from Earth.

Meanwhile, tensions are increasing with the Brazilians and the Chinese, as well as a new “competitor” entering the ring, just as the sunfish are getting all haywire because of a creature deep below the ice that is having a strong effect on them, but the big deal is it isn’t a sunfish.

Originally written on August 11, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Mostly Void, Partially Stars” & “The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe” by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Harper Perennial, 2016)

 

Go here to enter the Welcome to Night Vale giveaway

For perhaps the first time in history a couple of books have been created, written and brought together for every single conceivable type of fan, but you’ll have to read to the end of this review to find out exactly how. I am talking of Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe that collect all the episodes for season one (the former) and season two (the latter) of one of the most popular podcast shows in history. I am talking, of course, about Welcome to Night Vale, which features an astonishing number of followers and avid listeners, a bestselling novel (with the same title as the show), and a cast that seems to be continually on tour playing to sold-out shows across the globe, while still recording new episodes and releasing them every two weeks.

The last book I had that collected all the episodes for an entire season was for The X-Files, but as addictive as those books were each time they came out before the airing of the new season, the Welcome to Night Vale collections are just as addictive and perhaps more important, for they feature more material. In addition to the complete scripts for every episode of the season, there is bonus material, such as some awesome illustrations that sometimes relate to the current episode being read and sometimes not. The reader can choose to study the image and forget about the haunting soullessness of say the Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD!) and lose themselves in the detail of the shocking artwork, or perhaps be terrified by the graphic detail of the illustrations that they immediately go back to reading the script.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars features an introduction by bestselling author and awesome tech-nerd (Boing Boing) Cory Doctorow. A contents list for each episode, providing handy referencing. As well as the script for the live show “Condos.” The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe features an introduction by author and Night Vale contributor Maureen Johnson, as well as the bonus script to the live show “The Debate.” Both volumes feature a piece from the creator of all the awesome music for Welcome to Night Vale, Disparition, as well as all the artists featured on “the weather” segment of the podcast. The other really awesome thing about both books is that they feature intros to each episode. The majority are written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, while others are written by Cecil Baldwin (the voice of Night Vale) and many of the other cast members, guest stars and guest writers for the podcast. The intros provide a back story, a history and/or an insight into a specific episode, or just an entertaining anecdote.

Good you’ve made it this far. So if you’re reading this it means you are familiar in some way to the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, and you may be wondering (though if you’ve read this review fully I don’t really see how) how these books will benefit you. Well, you will likely satisfy one of the categories listed below which each, in turn, explain why you need these crucial Night Vale volumes.

1) You’re a die hard fan of Welcome to Night Vale: You’ve listened to every episode multiple times, you’ve been to many live shows, and you know everything there is to know about the characters. But sometimes you don’t have the option of listening to a particular episode or remembering a particular phrase from the middle of an obscure episode. These books are the tools to accomplish this. You can find that episode and read that phrase in an instant!

2) You’re kind of a fan of the show but haven’t heard everything: So you missed a few episodes here and there, especially in the first couple of seasons. No problem. Just start with Mostly Void, Partially Stars and you can find those “lost episodes” and read them in less than five minutes and get all caught up.

3) This is the first time you’re hearing of Welcome to Night Vale: Firstly, welcome. You’ve made the right choice. Secondly, you now have the option of listening to many many hours of this awesome show, but that takes a lot of time you might not have, especially if you heard the Night Vale cast is coming to a city near you next week and your friend just bought you a ticket and you need to get caught up fast! Well, these two volumes can be digested in record time and then you’ll have a fruitful lexicon for seasons one and two of the show. However, I’d recommend listening to the first episode or two, no, not to boost their download numbers, Night Vale has already broken a lot of records in that regard, but to acclimate yourself to the show and to familiarize you with the deep, baritonally-comforting emanances of the shows narrator, one Cecil Palmer. After that you’ll be able to read each episode from the book with his wondrous voice solidly fixed in your head, equal to a narration by Morgan Freeman or Sir David Attenborough. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the wonder that is Welcome to Night Vale.

Originally written on September 5, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To help support BookBanter and purchase a copy of Mostly Void, Partially Stars click HERE; to purchase a copy of The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe click HERE.

“Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch (Random House, 2016)


From the author of the Wayward Pines trilogy (now a TV series) comes Blake Crouch’s follow up novel which is in every way as addictive and compelling as his previous works.

“Are you happy with your life?”

These are the final words Jason Dessen hears before he is abducted by a complete stranger. The man takes him to a warehouse where he injects him with something. The man is wearing a mask, obscuring his identity. Dessen falls unconscious. When he comes to he is strapped to a gurney and surrounded by people in hazmat suits. He has no clue who anyone is, but they all seem to recognize him. He manages to escape and return to his home where he finds his house filled with different items, furnished and decorated differently. It is his home but at the same time not. According to photos and what he can tell, he is also not married to the wife he loves very much, and doesn’t have a son he loves more than anything in the world.

The mysterious thrill of Dark Matter folds over and over on itself, like a thick taffy plot, that keeps the reader’s eyes glued to the page, not having any clue where the story is going to go next. The story goes places that other stories that have dealt with this similar subject before rarely dare to go, pushing the limits of imagination. Crouch clearly had a lot of fun writing Dark Matter, and the readers will have an equal amount of fun reading it.

Originally written on March 26, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dark Matter from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep” edited by Peter Öberg (Affront Publishing, 2015)


When people think of Sweden a number of cliche thoughts and preconceived notions come to mind. When they think of Swedish authors, they are likely two that come to mind: Stieg Larsson of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and John Ajvide Lindqvist of Let the Right One In. One is a thriller writer, the other horror, but what about speculative fiction?

In Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep readers get to experience the genres of science fiction and fantasy in this fascinating anthology from the land of the midnight sun. 26 stories (some quite long) cover the gamut of the genres, with plenty of dystopian worlds spelling doom and gloom. Others will take you to other worlds, others to the future, and others to a very familiar place where things just aren’t quite right.

“Melody of the Yellow Bard” is an unusual story about wormholes and how what you find on the other side isn’t always that great. “The Thirteenth Tower” is a moving tale set in a destroyed world where those within it learn of how good times were before. “The Road” is of an alternate world featuring a female marshal employed by the Road Council, charged with keeping everything in order.

While the dystopian future is a common theme with a few of the stories, there are many others on diverse and unusual subjects, some short some long, providing a great smorgasbord (sorry, I had to) of stories for interested readers.

Originally written on July 9, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Xenowealth: A Collection” by Tobias S. Buckell (Xenowealth Books, 2016)


Bestselling author Tobias S. Buckell has penned a number of novels in his Xenowealth universe, such as Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose. In Xenowealth: A Collection, Buckell collects all of the short stories he has written over the years and published in magazines and anthologies, bringing them together in this self-published volume. Here readers get to see the beginning stories of the unlikely, mechanized hero Pepper as he goes around looking to make enough money to survive and get by, but also to help those in need as much as he can. At first he seems like a tough-as-nails mercenary only looking to help out himself, but readers soon learn there is more to this man than his mechanically enhanced exterior.

Pepper makes an appearance in each of the stories in this collection, but the rest of characters – some readers will recognize from Buckell’s Xenowealth novels – are developed, fascinating people of color that readers soon care for and want to do well. But in this tough world, it is often hard to get by.

Xenowealth: A Collection is a great diving board for new readers to delve into this world and quickly get hooked. Buckell self-published the collection through a Kickstarter campaign wanting to give readers – fans old and new – a chance to read these thrilling stories.

Originally written on March 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Xenowealth: A Collection from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.