Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a fascinating novel that finds itself straddling a variety of themes, writing styles, and motifs. In this novel, one can witness the conjunction of several major literary genres. From bleak dystopian imagery and post-apocalyptic ruin to deeply intense mystery and intrigue, Extinction 6 provides enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. Taking place in the year 2066, the reader is introduced to a world mostly underwater. Following a sharp rise in global temperatures by an average of 8 degrees Celsius, sea levels drastically increased and major settlements like San Francisco were submerged. In conjunction, animals and plants have completely vanished. Beyond this, the world appears to be plagued by war and corporate espionage. Battles for oil fields and small scraps of territory appear to occur daily, while depressing news bulletins ring out, highlighting decreases in rations or celebrating the smallest of military victories. In this dystopian future, greenhouse gases continue to be pumped at alarming rates, and it becomes clear to some that the world is facing its sixth, and potentially last, extinction crises.
Hosein Kouros-Mehr expertly uses this setting to deliver a story that is captivating and vividly written. There is a profound amount of world building conducted in this novel and the story’s framing gives readers a holistic experience at what life in this dreary world would look like. Through the use of multiple perspectives and point of views, Hosein Kouros-Mehr provides readers with an inside and personal look at the various dimensions that take place in this world. In some chapters, readers will become intimate with a forlorn lover embroiled in major geopolitical developments. Other sections masterfully showcase the experiences of an aggressive and cunning CEO. These different perspectives are woven in a way that provides keen connections and startling insights.
The writing itself is suspenseful and tense. The diction wastes no time in putting the reader through long segments of empty description and word padding. Every sentence is deliberate and has a definite sense of immediacy. Every word counts in a world that is slowly ticking towards oblivion. This is aided by Hosein Kouros-Mehr’s wonderful sense of pacing. While the writing is forward facing, it still gives readers the time to engross themselves in the world. Details about the major corporations and the nations that inhabit this world are peppered in where needed and helps to provide depth to the world. Many of these elements come into play throughout the course of the novel, and the pace in which these details become relevant greatly benefits Kouros-Mehr’s deliberate writing style. If there is any issue in the way in which Hosein Kouros-Mehr presents his work, it is the fact that the large cast of characters can lead to some confusion. This is somewhat alleviated by the clear characterization and literary role each character plays, and as a whole, this critique does not detract from the novel.
Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is an incredibly tense story about what our future could easily look like.
Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07HB5Q24P
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A Fire in the West is a genre-crossing novel with elements of fantasy, science fiction, and inspirational fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Harry James Fox: I agree that the novel steps all over the genre boundaries. Some have insisted that the books in the Stonegate series are really Dystopian or Action/Adventure with elements of Romance. My only defense is that I wrote stores that I enjoy reading. I suppose I wanted a novel that explored a collapse of civilization that would later lead up to the events described in the Bible in the Book of Revelation. But I decided not to write about the final Armageddon. These novels might be thought of as a prelude, however. I tried to make a believable society that could reasonably have developed a few generations after the beginning of a new dark age. I was not concerned with fitting within conventional genres, so it must have happened organically.
Lucia Mudgway: It was actually Harry James Fox’s idea about this trilogy in the first place. Harry masterminded the plot and story-line as well as outlining the major characters and the map of the area and the names of the towns, and and I helped create and develop it as well as adding some new characters into the mix. Basically, my writing was inspired by my faith and my knowledge of history from my undergraduate studies at University where I completed a Bachelor of Arts/Humanities degree majoring in Creative Writing and History. I am currently completing a Masters of Divinity degree after completing a Grad Dip in Creative Writing last year. A lot of my ideas did happen as I was writing, and it often felt as if there was an external spiritual force working with me.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Harry James Fox: The characters from the earlier books were old friends, such as Donald and Rachel. But the character that I liked the best was Arielle (“Ari”). She has a big heart and finds the strength to face adversity and emerge the stronger for it. I like her level head and her courage. I do find that I need some help in developing female characters, but my co-author, Lucia, was helpful in making her believable.
Lucia Mudgway: My favorite character was Robbie as he reminded me a little of the prodigal son whose defiance led him into dangerous waters where his faith was tested after doubting God and backsliding. I also loved the evil False Prophet as he reminds us that we are living in a world of spiritual darkness today from leaders who are not always interested in looking after the people, but where self interest and power are what motivates them. I guess I have a fondness for the false prophet because I helped create him with Harry. I found some inspiration for his character in Ephesians 6:12 which states, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It was evil that ruled the mind and soul of the False Prophet, so I would recommend reading the three books of the trilogy to get a better picture of how despicable the False Prophet really is. The second book, “The False Prophet” reveals his character more fully.
You both have written a fascinating novel. What was the collaboration like between the two of you on this book?
Harry James Fox: Lucia helped a great deal with the second novel of the series, and she actually wrote a novella based on the characters in the first book in the series. I then expanded this novella into a full-length novel. But I decided that the third novel would be one where we both were co-authors from the beginning. I was very pleased with the partnership. I probably would have procrastinated, but she helped keep me focused. I rather specialized in all things military, and she was the creative idea person that created an intriguing plot. It all went quite smoothly.
Lucia Mudgway: The collaboration between Harry and myself was pretty amazing and we work really well together, bouncing off each other for ideas. I am definitely interested in working with Harry in the future on other books, but at this present time I am trying to complete a novel I started years ago called “The Isis Factor”, which is a fictional thriller/romance inspired by facts and some true events. This story is set in England where the major protagonist, Nick Flanagan, an MI6 agent, is caught up in a world of terrorist activity from terrorists buying arsenal supposedly from the Russians for military training camps in Afghanistan. I am hoping to complete this in 6 months and have it published soon after completion.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Harry James Fox: I always have several projects at different stages of incubation. I am considering reworking some unpublished material and creating a novella, a prequel to the Stonegate trilogy. I imagine it will be published in 2019. I am a former intelligence officer and definitely have an interest in Lucia’s book “The Isis Factor.” I have volunteered to help with some technical details.
From author Harry James Fox, and co-author, Lucia Mudgway, comes an epic Christian fantasy, third in the Stonegate saga. In this gripping finale, Donald of Fisher and Rachel of Westerly as well as Carla and other favorite characters return to face another attempt by the evil False Prophet to overwhelm the free towns of the East. However, this tale centers around Donald and Rachel’s son, Robby, as he confronts all of his demons— his forbidden love for Ari, his cousin, and his conflicts with his father, Donald. Ari, Carla’s daughter, also finds herself in the heat of battle and is tested as she had never imagined. Family secrets emerge amid the threat of war, but courage, duty, and love become more important than ever. Will the False Prophet finally succeed in stamping out freedom, or will good finally triumph over evil? Will Robby find redemption for his decisions, and will the shocking truth about his past set him free to be with Ari?
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A Fire in the West is a Christian fantasy novel that is the third installment in the Stonegate Series. The third book takes place a hundred years after the first two, in the west of the Rocky Mountains. Even though the book takes place in the future, it seems that civilization has taken a back step. The novel takes place in the United States, and even though some locations are easily recognizable to the reader, it’s evident that they have changed in many ways. The one thing that has completely changed are the characters within the novel. They are left without the technological advances needed or wanted to face life’s challenges. They’re faced with evil and have to work together to battle it while keeping their basic values intact.
One of the big things that I appreciated within this novel was the authenticity of the main characters. I found there to be a good mix of characters and all were believable. Harry James Fox and Lucia Mudgway do a great job at giving each character a level of complexity that makes them more interesting. The authors also do a good job at setting up the dystopian future that the characters are living in, so these aspects of the novel are believable to the reader as well. I can see how the break from the social norm and downfall of technology came about.
Even though this was the last book in trilogy, the reader can still follow along with the story line without having to read the first to books. It’s a good enough story to want to go back and read the first two however.
I thought that the theme of Christianity within the story was a bit off from what I was expecting. We understand from the beginning of the novel that Christianity has remained with the characters despite the collapse of just about everything else. This story line provides the argument that once everything else is gone, our faith in God remains. But the characters don’t discuss or display an intimate relationship with him throughout the novel. I felt that there was no specific relationship with God illustrated throughout the novel, and I thought that the characters also don’t seem to give a second thought to the devil or the idea of hell. He’s present within the novel, but I never got the feeling that the characters actually feared him, it was more of a loathing towards him. These missing pieces aren’t necessarily a bad thing, just something that I thought might have been incorporated into the tale.
This book can be read and enjoyed by adults and young adults. Fox and Mudgway work together to create an interesting story that keep the reader’s attention and harkens back to an important aspect of any society, culture, or religion – morality.
Pages: 343 | ASIN: B07DRRMZLF
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Undercurrents in Time follows Tabitha as she sets off on her own adventures to try and understand what will happen to her family in the future. What were some themes that you felt were important and wanted to explore in this novel?
I felt the theme of balancing family and personal identity were very important, as this is something that happens to may women. Hence, the focus and tone does become a little different in Undercurrents in Time. There is also a theme of love/romance, as one’s expectations of love sometimes experience drastic changes as life goes on. However, there is still some fun in this book. Tabitha is a little rebellious as she tries to deal with her perceived loss of personal identity. She is a stubborn, strong-willed woman just as she was in Detours in Time.
Tabitha is an interesting character that I enjoyed exploring. What served as your inspiration while you were creating her character?
They say to write what you know. Well, I sure don’t always do that, however, I have spent a lifetime of holding in my opinions and second guessing the things I have said. Maybe that is what turned me into a writer. I revisit and reinvent my responses to scenarios from my life. I made Tabitha a strong-willed, outspoken woman, as that is what I have been taught not to be all my life, yet, I have always been stubborn. I think she deals with it in a healthier way. She is also never a peace maker just for the sake of being a peace maker. Her experiences in this book go back to some of my experiences with marriage and motherhood. I imagined some of the things I really longed to do when I was at that point in my life. However, I wanted to make her heroic. So, she was based on a mix of myself, the person I wish I was, and the personality of Jodie Foster’s character in Contact. (If I had to choose an existing character).
What were some ideas you wanted to carry over from Detours in Time and what were some new ideas you wanted to expand on in this book?
I wanted to revisit the character of Sal and expand a little bit on the character of Louise as well as giving some story to their family. In between, we have Calais. I also wanted Sal to have more backstory in this timeline while giving more backstory to Tabitha’s brother, Jared, whose life is drastically different in this timeline.
Ideas I carried over were the differences between Milt and Tabitha’s personalities, and how Milt really does not try to change her. Another was the suffering we do for our family members, learning to love them while stepping back a little and balancing our concern for them with concern for ourselves. Another thing I wanted to expand on the reality of love, how the illusion of new love is never the same as what you have a few years later. Yet, there is hope. I am trying not to give away key plot points here….
Are you a fan of the science fiction genre? What are some of your favorite time travel movies or books?
I certainly am a fan of the science fiction genre! When I was younger, I’d read my mom’s Stephen King books and just loved how they warped my understanding of reality. I loved Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, Dr. Who, and many futuristic dystopian books and movies. I loved reading Kings 11-22-63 and the Outlander series, though I am hard-pressed to read her recent 1,000 pages tomes. I also loved The Time Traveler’s Wife, which was a mix of time travel and romance. To be honest, I haven’t read that many time travel books, it is more the time travel shows that have impressed on me, that and historical fiction or dystopian fiction. I love to ponder how things would be different if we tweaked just one little facet of our lives.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
Malachi (from Undercurrents) is speaking to me. It’s funny, I also started a story last fall about Norrie from the Made for Me series, but I think Malachi will be next. However, that could change. Can you tell I don’t write full-time? Sometimes I write to shave off remnants of a bad day, or I catch a mood. I get inspired at times by the oddest things. I am sure this is why the tone in my novels is not always the same. At any rate, I write a lot in Nov. and Dec. when there is less daylight, then I send to beta-readers, ruminate on it, revise, etc. Summer is usually when I like to publish a book because I teach, and summer allows me time to devote to releasing a book. However, I have short story ideas that I may release in the fall or spring. Following my newsletter is a great way to get notice of my stories or new releases, as I sometimes send free short stories to those on my newsletter list. I have ideas for other characters from Undercurrents in Time as well as new ideas that may not get the attention they need until I retire. Please don’t ask when that is. I have got to play the lottery more often…For sure, I will have plenty to keep me busy!
Now it seems the very things that cemented their bond will also drive a wedge between them emotionally. Travel to the future, discovery of a long-lost, troubled family member, and an unplanned baby all have taken a toll. Tabitha struggles to accept her new identity as a mother while remaining a strong, independent woman. She longs for a getaway, even a short one, but that getaway puts her on a collision course with danger.
Milt is busy trying to prevent a horrible future disaster at the hands of an enemy he has not yet met. While concerned, Milt doesn’t even suspect Tabitha’s plans, the very plans that will have her facing Milt’s nemesis.
Tabitha risks it all on a brief escape. How will she handle the unforeseen dangers she faces and make her way back home? How far will Tabitha and Milt go to prevent tragedy?
Posted in Interviews
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The Matriarch Matrix is a unique blend of genres combining history and centuries of speculation regarding ancient alien invasions of Earth. What made you want to start writing this novel?
I few years ago I read a news release on the world’s oldest temple built 12,000 years ago at a site called Göbekli Tepe in the Anatolian region of Turkey. Somehow hundreds of nomadic hunter-gathers came together and built a complex of monolithic pillars weighing tens of tons each. 6,000 years before Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza, pre-pottery Neolithic man figured out how to work together to build a stone complex seemingly unrelated to ordinary living.
Archaeologists would say that mankind was far more advanced than we give credit for coming out of the Paleolithic age, coming out of the ice age. Alien theorists would say that Göbekli Tepe is further proof of alien intervention in human history. Given some believe this complex represents the oldest temple known to modern man, some may believe that divine inspiration guided mankind into the modern age.
In 2016, more time came into my life and I wrote a story line pitting people with these three inherent beliefs into a search for a legendary object which will save the world from impending war. A key theme is what has happened in the past continues to happen throughout history. Mankind continues to repeat the same issues, the same themes. But to what end?
Zara endures many horrors, but becomes a woman who is true to her roots and a follower of her faith. What was the inspiration for Zara’s character?
As I crafted the story in early 2016, the lands south of Göbekli Tepe had been conquered by the Daesh, or ISIS as the West calls this group – a name which evokes religious stereotyping. In researching the lands around this temple, I read about the Kurdish women who fought the Daesh in all female units. So I decided to make the main female character a Kurdish woman who fought for her people’s freedom. As I researched the Kurds, their culture, their history, their centuries of oppression, Zara’s character became more complex and dark as a metaphoric reflection of what Kurdish women have endured. Hence I made Zara Khatum a woman who fought Saddam as a teen, then Assad as a young adult, and finally the Daesh only to be captured by the latter.
The horrors of her past life, the darkness she carries in the story, combines the biographies of Kurdish women, accounts by social workers treating Kurdish women refugees, the news stories of the Kurdish struggles, and documents from international governing bodies investigating human right violations in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, including institutional violation of women en masse.
What has happened to Kurdish women is a continuance of the horrors women have suffered repeatedly in periods of genocide or cultural/racial oppression throughout time. The accounts in Bosnia are very similar to that of the Kurds. Similar accounts are told in WWII between the Germans and Russians, with the Japanese to the Koreans and Chinese. History repeats itself in the worse ways.
I made an active decision not to pull punches in describing this oppression staying true to the multitude of actual accounts. But I made the ancient race, the giant Reindeer warriors, the originating perpetrators as to not condemn anyone in the present as to avoid the equal horror of stereotyping a group of people based on the crimes of but a few. I understand for some readers, this reality is too much. I opted to stay true to historical accounts as we must learn from our past follies in order to prevent the same horrors from happening again. In a number of European countries, they teach the past in this way so people will be sensitized to not repeating the bad of what happened in the past.
My inspiration to bring Zara’s story to life in this manner came from the words of a 22-year-old beta reader from Germany: “I would actually like to extend my gratitude. I can’t explain how touching it has been to read about a character like Zara. I think it sends a really strong message home that people seem to really forget. We can all be subject to rape. The world isn’t pretty. And it doesn’t matter how strong you are. But through everything, Zara is so incredibly beautiful. I think that’s important. Whether she agrees or not, she’s a stronger person for everything she’s been through. Thank you for not writing her as some typical rape victim. Thank you for creating something so much more powerful.”
What the portrayal of Zara did for her as a person gave me the conviction to bring this story to others. To bring strength into people’s lives.
I enjoyed the intuitive technological advancements juxtaposed with a glimpse into 9500 BCE. What were some themes you wanted to capture with this story?
The first theme is that culture did not start with written history. The wisdom we believe came from the Greeks and Persians through their writing likely came from their predecessors from oral traditions passed down through the centuries before mankind learned to write. For all we know, themes in our lives today came from the end of the ice age through stories passed from one generation to another.
Another addresses the dangers and opportunities of the modern digital age. Is the advancement of science, of technology leading to dystopic world? The recent FB data privacy issue is only an example of the magnitude of such privacy incursions all over. But what if the collection of information worldwide could lead to the cure for the worst diseases, could lead us to a greater prosperity and peace? Is the body collecting that data for these ends so bad after all? I built that notion into the book’s villain who in end professes in his Machiavellian way he was only trying to save us all.
The last, the most subtle, and yet the most important is the human tendency to pass judgement early and form stereotypes and harmful impressions about other people who are different from them. Zara has been a victim of this trait by others to her, but she does the same until she hears “the voice”. I made her Muslim to show the metaphoric example of what religious discrimination does to negatively form a child’s life. Like other forms of hatred and discrimination, Islamaphobia shaped her belief of the world only to be changed by her meeting her other half from the other side of the world. The book is written in a way that if the reader passes judgement too early they will not glean as much as those who are patient. Peace in this world will us striving to understand each other.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Matriarch Messiah is the working title. What is “the voice”? Is it good or bad? From the divine or anther planet? What secrets lay buried in the Crimea? The protagonists travel through the pyramid lands of China, through Jerusalem, and finally back to where the originating family came from in the Crimea.
The first half of the book is with four alpha readers. Four of the most intelligent, insightful, powerful, and well-read women I know. Release maybe by the end of this calendar year.
Kidnapped again. But this time by the oligarch who saved her from kidnapping by the Daesh. And he wants her to do what? With whom?
Meet Zara – a woman of great depth, courage, faith, and human frailty who only wanted to follow the path of love and peace. But a dark, violent past haunts her from which she cannot escape. Destiny calls her to shake up her life and partner with her exact opposite from the other side of the world. Together they must discover the answer to an ancient legend from the world’s oldest temple locked in their DNA. Only through finding a certain love as told by an ancient matriarch will they unlock this mystery and stop the next world war.
The fate of Earth is now in their hands in an all-encompassing narrative of conflict, salvation, and the struggles of womankind across the ages in this dark, intriguing science-fiction fantasy epic.
Posted in Interviews
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J.M. Buckler’s Stillness of Time details the adventure of Elara and Cyrus as they try desperately to make their way on Aroonyx with the help of Jax, their guide and mysterious friend. Aroonyx, a planet void of insects but rich with plant life, hides secrets the twins, Elara and Cyrus, cannot comprehend and may not want to learn. Jax, the man responsible for watching over them and bringing them through their travels unscathed, seems to hold more than his share of the secrets embedded in Aroonyx. As the two prepare to face Zenith, the ruler of Aroonyx and a deadly force in his own right, Elara and Cyrus learn they, too, possess their share of secrets.
The beauty of Aroonyx is undeniable. Buckler has created a phenomenal setting for this otherworldly novel. The characters’ fascination with the land and water matches the readers’ awe in the authors’ descriptions of the landscape. The setting in Stillness of Time immediately caught my eye and played an important role in holding my interest in the plot in the initial chapters.
I enjoy levity in most any genre and, for the most part, Buckler maintains a serious tone throughout Stillness of Time. One scene in particular provides a much-needed break from the long sequence of tense events. When Cyrus mistakenly drinks Maragin and hallucinates for hours about a moody imaginary monkey companion named Rico, the feel of the book changes for the better. Though Buckler could easily have omitted this lengthy bit of lightheartedness, I truly appreciated the stretch of joviality with the characters.
The gifts bestowed upon the characters by the author are something to behold. Each time Elara and Cyrus engaged in the passing of energy through Elara’s body, I was amazed. Not only is this a unique gift, but it is one I have not seen before in this genre. Buckler has hit upon a wonderfully simple defensive skill for her protagonists. It was a fascinating process to watch as the two perfected the method and put it to use to defend themselves.
Buckler, without a doubt, uses the element of anticipation to her advantage as she builds tension from one chapter to the next before the final meeting with Zenith. I found myself dreading this final moment as much as Elara and the rest of the cast of characters–an excellent sign of effective writing. Jax, the former tenth member of Zenith’s evil Inner Circle, has never been replaced. The spot left vacant and ominously waiting to be filled helps build suspense as the story progresses and the journey to face Zenith gathers steam.
I am giving Stillness of Time by J.M. Buckler 5 out of 5 stars for its uniqueness and engaging plot. The characters within are memorable and relatable. I recommend Buckler’s work to any science fiction fan who fancies action over romance. Though Buckler includes elements of romantic relationships, the focus of the book centers around three intense characters, their unique skill sets, and one harrowing journey to overpower a madman.
Pages: 392 | ASIN: B07B6BWR83
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Victory Perspective reveals a new angle on the creation story complete with a dark and foreboding side. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
I have always been interested in religion as a subject. As a non-religious person, I view the subject as an area of interest rather than a personal investment. I was thinking one day about how different people view the world based on the particular coloured glasses they wear, whether that be social, religious, socio-economic etc. I started to think about the view of people who follow a number of religions and that they follow teachings that state in a matter of fact way who is who; and the ideas of good and evil are central and accepted. But, what if everything we thought we knew was completely the opposite? That thinking led me to write the creation story everyone knows from a different perspective, where everything is the opposite to what we think. The idea transformed quite a lot as I was writing the novel, it grew to include more social issues and to tackle some of the nastier and more obscure subjects of the bible that are accepted but not generally discussed. Strangely enough, I actually initially thought this story would be humorous. It turned out to be definitely the opposite of funny. But early human life was brutal no matter which way you look at it, and I think that came through in the end.
Your characters are the personification of mythical religious figures. How do you capture the thoughts and emotions of an angel type being?
I just view them as people, almost the ‘first people.’ My thinking was that we are like them, not the other way around. The way that humans behave, act and talk is all because of the ‘makers’. The character of God makes humans to be like him in every way, including volatile emotions. This is one of the reasons I decided the characters would talk in modern verse, I wanted the characters to be more approachable and relatable.
What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the characters development?
The violence is a big part of this book. Humans can be a brutal species and following the logic of this book, so can the ‘person’ we were created for. A lot of trials are over looked from the creation story. Eve for example, after being cast out of Eden, what happened to her? What might she have gone through? I felt it was important that the brutality of life played a big part in this story. With Lucifer, I felt that although he endures a lot of physical pain, his trials are equally emotional. Dealing with loss and reconciling it with guilt can produce emotional torment with just as much impact as physical torment.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
I am starting work on the next book in this series. The Victory Perspective Vol. 2 will continue the story, highlighting Lucifer’s continued fight for human-kind and God’s continued attempts to manipulate events to his advantage. Expect Vol. 2 to be out next year.
Five individuals find themselves in a wondrous paradise with the perfect climate and boundless resources. But when one develops remarkable powers, he hatches a plan to take control of his comrades and create his perfect world by any means necessary.
Beneath the veneer of life lies the darkest truth of all. Perspective is blinding.
In The Victory Perspective, author E.J. Kellett will change the way you view the world. Turning the classic creation story on its head, this thrilling and thought-provoking dystopian novel pushes the boundaries of our preconceived notions.
“I lived in that place with Alpha, there were five of us. When I gained the courage to stand up to him, he banished me to a place that is worse than anything in your world. I am there now, stuck for eternity to suffer at the hands of a self-proclaimed God.”
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It’s the 22nd century and the world is overpopulated and under-educated. To combat this, the government has decided that male and female students will be segregated for their first 22 years of life. They will have no knowledge of the opposite sex or of their parents. Finn is a brilliant and questioning student, but his intelligence leads him to test boundaries and break rules. When he enters the real world he meets Angela, and they have a son, Leonardo, who awaits the same fate of separation. But Finn cannot let go of his son that easily, and he begins to tread on very dangerous ground…
The Separation by Thomas Duffy is a dystopian speculative fiction novel. Duffy has written a story with a fascinating premise, and some hefty themes are handled deftly by the author. Topics of religion, sex, gender and class are woven through the narrative, and many of the questions posed are philosophical ones such as ‘what is really important?’ and ‘what constitutes a ‘good’ life?’ There are interesting reflections on the complexity of human desire, governmental control, finding meaning in the world, and whether career or love is more important–all of which feel quite relevant in today’s world.
Finn makes for a very likeable hero, behaving in ways which are extremely relatable and understandable considering his circumstances. Duffy has written an empathetic protagonist, which isn’t always the case with dystopian fiction, and I was really rooting for him throughout. Some of the other characters, including Angela, remain quite one dimensional which limited me in really believing in, or caring about, her relationship with Finn. I would have liked some more well rounded female protagonists, but perhaps this was a technique used by the author to represent how detached the sexes are.
The book is written mainly in the third-person limited narrative with the focus on Finn, but we get insight into Angela’s thoughts and feelings too which helped me to feel slightly less detached from her. The writing is full of dialogue and at times it is weighed down with exposition—unfortunately, this made a lot of the dialogue feel quite heavy handed and not particularly natural. I particularly struggled with the conversations between Finn and Angela which were lacking in real emotion. Again, this could have been a mechanism used by Duffy to portray their stunted development when it comes to relationships/the opposite sex and communication. Despite this, the narrative moves at a fairly steady pace. I enjoyed watching Finn’s misdemeanours unfold, and there was plenty of action and intrigue to keep me turning pages.
Overall, this is a fascinating addition to sci-fi/dystopian fiction which might leave you in a slight existential crisis! It throws up profound questions about what is truly important in life, and if this sounds a little too intense, there are also lots of unexpected twists, turns and excitement to keep you on your toes.
Pages: 306 | ASIN: B078YRNM8M
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The fifth installment of the Reverence series, Voice of a Crimson Angel, by Joshua Landeros is both an intimate and thrilling look at the lead up to his debut military science fiction series. Julissa Marconi’s life was pulled apart after her husband went into a coma. Her relationship with her daughter is on the brink of falling apart, friends have disappeared from her life, and the only solace she finds is at the bottom of a bottle. This all changes when Dr. Neeson offers her an open door to change her life and with the help of allies like Captain Halsey, and she grabs the opportunity to fight. The ever-scheming Chancellor Venloran has his own designs afoot for the expansion of the United Nation Republic.
With this new trilogy Landeros is giving background and context for his series, while also showing that the ever present villain of Venloran has been around for a long time in all of his power. If you’ve already read all the way up to Ballad of Demise, then this is another superb excuse to dive back into this torn apart world of super soldiers and war.
Landeros still manages to deliver on his strengths of dialogue and action. The beginning of this novel might start slow, but it picks up that familiar fast pace I have become accustomed to from this writer. Still heavily leaning into the military science fiction legacy, Landeros uses this to full effect in the near future of the United States and pushes it further with the backstory development of characters we haven’t either met or gotten fully developed in past stories.
While, the ending clearly makes room for a sequel, the novel itself is still satisfying on its own merit. It will be a treat to see where this new series goes and if there is something new waiting for us at the end, which we can hope. This stage setting series should please fans of the books and of science fiction in general with the way it keeps to the best tropes, while making fresh the well trampled ground of such narratives. Landeros keeps pushing his world deeper and expanding the horizon of both the characters and story line while managing to give readers a ride they won’t soon forget.
Pages: 207 | ASIN: B079H4FBKS
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Ballad of Demise is the third and final installment of the End of Knighthood series by Joshua Landeros. Set in the far future, we continue following Will Marconi, the renegade cyborg super soldier, who is aiming to launch an assault the same night as the International Summit. Chancellor Venloran, emboldened by his victory against the resistance fighters, moves into the final phase of his scheme. The International Summit will draw leaders from all over the world to New York City, and he will be able to achieve peace through the dominance of his design. It is up to Will, Alex, Bri, Gabriella, and others to stop the Chancellor and his deadly minions.
Ballad of Demise is an explosive and satisfying conclusion to the End of Knighthood trilogy. Landeros has been getting better and better with every installment. Expanding the borders of military science fiction, Ballad of Demise incorporates elements of horror through war and the suspense of a thriller. All of this adds up to a book that does its best to defeat the conventions of the genre and archetypal narrative structure.
While confining this book to virtually 48 hours and flashbacks, one would think this is a bold move from a relatively new author, but Landeros manages to pull this off with skill. The pace is snappy and engrossing for the reader. The internal struggle of Will and even Venloran shape the tone and theme of the work, which keeps asking if the ends justify the means. Even for the proposed hero, Will finds himself questioning if everything is acceptable for him to have his vengeance.
If there are any issues in this book at all, it would be that Landeros tries hard to stretch out these two days. Some of the action seems forced, and in other places, the dialogue slows the pacing but never enough for the reader to notice for too long. These are minimal problems and ones that take nothing away from the story itself.
For a trilogy, this series sets a high mark for the rest of Landeros career. In other ways, readers will be sad to see this cast of characters go but maybe they will return in future stories? Either way, this book is memorable and a fantastic sound off for Will Marconi. One can hope that such a world does not arise in the future, but these books seem to be asking, what if?
Pages: 161 | ASIN: B076BW7YLJ
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