Douglas Wells’, debut novel, The Secrets of all Secrets begins with a mysterious stranger, who issues a fateful quest. The reader follows Zane, a graduate school and seminary drop-out, who receives a USB from the stranger. The USB contains a message that promises the Secret of All Secrets and he is pressed to go find out how far the rabbit hole goes. He soon meets a waitress at a diner, named Dali, who received a similar USB. They initially butt heads, but they soon come together to figure out the mystery. They are dogged at every step by four conflicted government agents, who pursue them to the very end.
Wells combines smart, informed prose with fun, engaging dialogue to create an interesting story that hails the modern quest narrative, but also the old-fashioned road narrative calling to mind Jack Kerouac and others of that generation. There are plenty of moments where Zane calls back to his graduate school education with references to Pascal and Tolstoy, which do become a bit pandering to a point, but soon get lost in the action that ensues.
Zane and Dali are both enthralling characters, where Wells’ skill shines through and even shows up among the government agents who serve as the bulk of antagonism in the novel. The decent character portrayal also smoothes over the often-sparse description and scene setting that would normally keep the reader engaged, but the characters are able to do this on their own. The ideological lines that all the characters have seem to be commentary on our day to day lives, from government drones to Zane’s cynicism.
The setting of Northern Florida was an interesting choice and provides a unique setting rich in regional idiosyncrasies as well as clashing rural and coastal tendencies. Zane and Dali adventures are increasingly crazy and fit in with this setting choice. They venture into an armadillo festival, nudist resort and even find a presumed dead 60’s rocker. All of this combines to be a sort of satire of American politics and greed.
All in all, The Secrets of all Secrets will keep the reader’s attention until the very end with its light-hearted prose and topical social commentary. Wells blends the ironic with wry humor and never misses a point to push the absurdity of his tale a little farther, as if encouraging the reader to do the same.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B07147R17F
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Upon entering the book, The University of Corporeal and Ethereal Studies, the reader is immediately greeted with an acceptance letter. Wolfgang Edwards uses this as a sort of introductory to foreshadow what is to come: you are literally stepping out of our own reality and into this new one and this letter serves to summarize that. What follows is the collections and stories of various students and characters who attend this university. Set in a fictional, sometimes bizarre, universe, Edwards explores various facets of the supernatural, blending fantasy with characters who have very human traits.
I think an interesting way to categorize this book is like taking Harry Potter to the next level. You sort of get that feel because of the setting that it’s in. It’s not magic per say, but exploring otherworldly things, some of which I was unfamiliar with before learning about it. So that’s really the closest way to describe it, although it goes far beyond that. I learned a lot because certain things piqued my interest which I honestly have never heard about before. The book is intriguing and I became more interested the more I read. One such example was a chapter titled ‘The Oneironaut’ which is based off a concept called oneironautics. I learned that this is the concept of lucid dreaming, or being able to control your dream, whether it is trying to wake up from a dream or make something happen within the dream.
The actual story is divided up into a number of different perspectives from each character. Some had more relatable stories and more developed characters than others; some were truly fantastic. It reads like a dark adventure of disconnected people that the author is able to draw together for a bigger purpose – much bigger, and much more dangerous. Throughout the various chapters, we learn of different schools within the University, from which the different characters attend. There’s the School of Coin, School of Metallurgy, School of Engineering, etc. Each school is headed by a dean; and one sticks out in particular. Dean Merkea – an unpleasant man with an ugly, tattered demon dog who even urinates on a character’s shoe at one point. My favorite chapter, Prisoner from Beyond, ties together Dean Merkea, a curator, and unravels the launch of a very unique exhibit at a museum.
Despite its setting, the author manages to piece together a few solid pieces of insight every so often that can be just as intriguing as the story. One such example was of Arakatzeko, a character who can be related to someone like Socrates today: deceased, but full of wisdom. As Araktzeko is studied, we learn alongside the characters: “the true rulers of the royal palace were the cats, who were said to live through every change in royal families without incident”. Such tangible reliefs are welcome and help humanize an otherwise crazy setting.
As the book progresses, you get a feeling it’s heading towards something – just not sure what. The unique stories of each of the characters has surely got something for everybody, admittedly some more than others. It is guaranteed to stay fresh and new until the very end, which may leave you wishing that the author could’ve just kept going.
Pages: 720 | ASIN: B01MUAKPM3
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Would you like to try the 13 seed Remedy? It dates back generations and hails from Scotland. These seeds are the greatest of all Superfoods! If I were you I would steer far far away from those seeds. Like the olden days of the bible, beware the peddler selling snake oil, if it sounds too good to be true, it is, and will just land you in trouble. This is what happens in Seed Me by Konn Lavery. Unfortunately, for Logan and Janet the warning came too late and they ate the mysterious black and red seeds. This brings the unlikely pair closer than they ever intended to be, and into a world of magic, mystery and murder.
The story takes places in Alberta Canada, in the town of Edmonton. Edmonton is a tiny town where nothing exciting ever happens. The story is told from the perspective of Logan who is a recovering drug addict that plays in a band with his best friend Skip. Logan has a lot of emotional baggage from his drug addiction days, mostly the loss of his longtime girlfriend Emily that became one of the victims of the legendary 4-20 killings. These killings were thought to be done by a serial killer that is called the drainer because all the blood is drained from the victims. They are either covered in puncture wounds or partially ripped apart and still drained of all blood. The story line really takes off after Logan and Skip are out at a bar. While they are outside smoking and police chase ends across the street. When the police stop the truck a headless body is found in the back. Later behind the bar Logan starts kissing a girl who he later discovers looks exactly like the dead girl in the truck. This leads to Logan wondering if he is crazy, done too many drugs, or if he is really involved in some crazy plot.
Logan’s partner in all this is Janet, the hippy college girl that turns out to be a lot smarter than anyone anticipated. Character development on both Logan and Janet is slow going and your over halfway through the novel before you get a real idea of who Janet is and not the ‘dumb blond groupie’ she is portrayed at the start. Konn does a great job introducing the reader to the background and really gives a feel for the small town world. His attention to detail on developing the character of Logan and Janet and even Skip to a point, is meticulous. It does take a while to get the full picture but that’s because so many little details are filled in and really give the characters a full spectrum of characterization so that you can relate to them.
Janet and Logan start investigating the strange seeds and the murdered girl, revealed as a local named Vicky, and decide to talk to the truck driver. From the driver they learn about the strange group of people called harvesters. They ware long black trench coats, and have a tattoo and scarification of plants on them. They refuse to talk about these things and are very mysterious. Yet they keep showing up where Logan is.
Who are the harvesters, what is going on with the strange seeds, and why is Logan hearing voices? What is going on in him, and who is doing the draining on the bodies that keep showing up around town? Konn answers these questions and leaves the readers looking for more answers by the end. While the theme has a lot of Pagan and Vampirism traits, this is a unique twist and its own direction. An engaging read that will draw you in and connect you to the characters.
Pages: 228 | ISBN: 0988116081
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