My review of M. R. Carey's The Boy on the Bridge

Time to catch up on some book reviews! Way behind these days. Not because I'm not reading good stuff, but because I'm a knucklehead with too much to do and poor time management.

The Boy on the Bridge is a prequel of sorts to The Girl with All the Gifts (one of my absolute favorite reads of 2015), the story taking place some years before. Mr. Carey does not disappoint. This is an amazing book. There are some similarities to Girl in story and structure, with a similar relationship between a child who is different and special and a caring adult with baggage, but I found this to be welcome and familiar as opposed to a repeat.

The story is wonderful, but what I still find most amazing about Carey's work is his writing style and obvious depth of thought. Overall, the narration proceeds with a subtly shifting and often ambiguous perspective that set me slightly off kilter, adding an almost queasy uncomfortability (yes I may have made that word up) to the story and the reading experience. But Carey is no novice, and especially considering the subject matter of the book, this is obviously a purposeful tactic on his part. He's creating an atmosphere not only with words but by how he uses them as well. The effect is like that of having subtly shifting shale beneath your feet, or standing on the deck of a ship, something you feel more than consciously recognize. 

The book is written in present tense (as was Girl), something we don't see often in adult fiction, sci-fi or otherwise. Then there are the subtle style changes as we shift between character POVs. The young Stephen Greaves is the "child" in the story, a teenager with a brilliant mind but some characteristics that place him somewhere on the Asberger's Syndrome or autism scale - it's never said - and a savant. Carey not only treats this with respect, he is able to capture Stephen's frame of mind and condition with class and inspiration, presenting a voice that is decidedly more youthful but more calculating a the same time. He adeptly navigates the terrain of Stephen's mind - a boy with a photographic memory and far superior analytic skills than most adults.

Boy is the work of an incredible mind. I got the same feeling reading is as I do when I read Cormac McArthy - that there's a lot more going on here than I may understand. I continue to be astounded by Carey's powers of description, how he is able to weave nostalgia with action and humor, his choices of focus, and masterful balance of bleakness and humanity. This is a fantastic read. Don't miss out.

SPFBO AudioBook Giveaway!

In celebration of the completion of the SPFBO and Paternus's 3rd place win, I'm giving away 5 copies of the Audible audiobook!

Just contact me here using the email address you'd like your audiobook delivered to. Enter "audiobook giveaway" in the subject and message. That's it!

Entries will be accepted until this Sunday night, April 30, at midnight, U.S. EST, then five winners will be chosen at random.

Thank you all, and especially Mark Lawrence and all the bloggers involved in the SPFBO. It has been a privilege and an honor to be included in this amazing event.

All the best,


Review of Robert J. Bennett's City of Stairs

I picked this up because I wanted to see if that handsome bastard Robert J. Bennett’s writing is worth all the hype. It is. Dammit! Great male fantasy writers are all supposed to look like G.R.R. Martin! Oh well. Anyway - 

Welcome to Bulikov, a broken city once ruled by gods that... Whatever, never mind that. This is brilliant stuff. Incredibly well done worldbuilding that never seems overwhelming or overly complex but just keeps getting deeper, and deeper, and deeper, deftly interwoven with unforgettable main characters Shara and Sigrud, not just a backdrop. Political intrigue, yes, but plenty of action and old fashioned fantasy fun as well, with a terrifically well developed and executed magic system.

And the monsters... Rarely am I this affected by the sheer creepiness and horror of fantasy creatures - but the mhovost and Urav in particular are seriously the stuff of nightmares.

Read City of Stairs, be entertained, be amazed, and be afraid.

Review of Sara Dobie Bauer's Bite Somebody

I laughed louder and more often reading Bite Somebody than with any book I've picked up in years. Quick-witted, sharp, scary fun, with unforgettable, wonderfully well-rounded characters and snappy dialogue. Forget it's paranormal romance if you must, Dobie Bauer's Bite Somebody is a perfect summer read guaranteed to please anyone with a sense of humor and a pulse (unless you're a vampire, then you'll like it even more).

Review of Chuck Wendig's Blackbirds

Sick, hilarious, no holds barred insanity! Incredibly well written contemporary psychic action-horror from Chuck Wendig, who obviously has no shame, no filter, and no flaws in his writing style either. Wendig doesn't fear taking incredible risks with language, potential political incorrectness (yeah maybe I made that up, whatever), downright nastiness or narrative style. Heart-thumping, in-your-face present tense, swiftly shifting POV and a seriously kick-ass (and totally f-ed up) main character in Miriam Black. Felt like I was literally ripping out the pages as I went, shredding through the prose, one page unable to hit the floor before I was done with another. Yeah, I liked it that much. Whiners can whine, wimps can blush, politicos shake their fists, but this is great fun stuff, and a tremendous read. You want something that will shock you, gross you out, thrill, embarrass, and get your pulse racing, while making you laugh at the same time, Blackbirds is your next read. Nuff said.

Review of Pierce Brown's Red Rising trilogy

I really didn't know what to expect from the Red Rising trilogy and new author Pierce Brown, but I had to read it because EVERYBODY else was and it was developing such an unbelievably loyal and fervent following. Glad I did!

Red Rising begins with an almost staccato, jarring, even somewhat abrasive style that hooked me just because it was different - and I like different. That smooths out a bit, and then I was wondering where all this was going to go - and then the hook, which I won't mention, but what a hook.

Brown has managed to provide so many things I like in fiction together in one series, and kept things moving so quickly, I read these books one after the other and groaned when I had to stop reading for the night and get some sleep. Action worthy of any action-adventure novel, grand scope of epic fantasy/sci-fi, even ancient history and mythological elements, fascinating characters, all in a supremely intriguing future setting. It's got the "school," it's got the dystopia, it's got the "rebellion," everything we've loved about the biggest fantasy and sci-fi novels of the last two decades. But far from being derivative, Brown makes it all work in a refreshing, exciting way.

Sure, Brown takes some liberties with his "science," and a few are a little eye-rolling, but what the hell, it's all in the service of great fun. One of Brown's greatest skills is the ability to fork the story into entirely unexpected directions, providing "what the...?!" moments that make you wonder why he did it and how the heck he's going to make it work - but he does, and that is not an easy thing to do. Highly recommended!

Review of M. R. Carey's Fellside

Amazing new effort by Michael Carey. I loved The Girl with All the Gifts and couldn't wait to get started on Fellside. Carey has a real knack for a creating a wide variety of "voices" and POV, and Fellside is very different from Girl in that respect. The narrative and writing style fit the story perfectly (form follows function). Though it was a while before I could really find myself absorbed, and the build has a gradual curve, the effort is well worth it. Grim, flat (not in a bad way), in the beginning, with nearly no characters to actually "like" or root for, there's a thread of impending... something, that drew me further and further into what becomes an almost psychedelic nightmare of characters' bad choices following good following bad and so on, then I DID begin to care about the characters very much, becoming a story of hope that climaxes in a most bizarre but incredibly satisfying manner. And I must say, Fellside has some of the most beautiful closing lines I have ever read. Highly recommended.

Review of A. Dale Triplett's Halcyon's Wake

I love this book. Can't believe I just said that, but it's true. Something about Triplett's style, plotting and the subject matter gave me that feeling I used to get as a kid when I'd read something that would make me giggle and squirm and be mortified at the same time, and just be thinking, "this is sooo cool." I mean, we've got astronauts, aliens, mythological beings, and even Bigfeet, Bigfoots Sasquatches, yeah those things. Triplett makes it work. And a comet is heading straight toward earth - far faster than a comet should be able to travel. Straightforward, intelligent prose with style in a fast moving adventure that takes us into orbit, beneath the earth, and even to the moon.

As fantastical as that all sounds, Triplett brings his military experience, as both Marine and Airman, to bear with just enough technical and procedural detail to make it all feel just right. His knowledge (and obvious fascination with) space travel, UFOs, and mythology is apparent throughout, and infuses the story with his bubbling enthusiasm for all things wacky - but possible.

If you haven't read it, and are looking for something seriously fun and refreshing but with real depth, then do. Right away. You won't be disappointed.