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Coming Darkness

Coming Darkness

In Susan-Alia Terry’s novel Coming Darkness myths and legends become real. Known as the Other-kin, angels, demons, werewolves, vampires, and other fabled creatures live among one another. When Archangel Michael appears to seek Lucifer’s help, Lucifer’s comfortable life starts to unravel. The Father and the rest of Heaven are missing, there’s a mysterious black ooze that burns the skin of angels, and an unknown race reveals itself seeking to destroy. As Lucifer struggles with this conflict, his lover Kai sets out to prove himself worthy of respect. But with Lucifer gone, Kai realizes how dependent on the fallen archangel he has become.

I love the world Terry has built in Coming Darkness. She wove together characters from myths and folklore, as well as creatures from different religious sects, to create a seamless and fascinating story. Her characters have distinct personalities, which make the reader want to know more about them and who they are. Terry provides glimpses into interesting backstories – glimpses that explain why Lucifer was exiled from heaven and the relationship he holds with Michael.

There was a lot going on in this novel. Terry uses various sub plots to help us get to know the characters and to move the story along. This is a great technique to use – it adds interest and excitement. It also keeps the reader from becoming complacent since so many things are happening at once.

However, there are so many things going on that I sometimes felt lost, every time I felt I had a direction, the story would change or add a different sub plot. Ultimately, I felt there was too much happening.

The world and characters the author has created are fantastic. Angles on Earth have been written about so many times, but Terry is able to imbue her characters with original personalities that sets this apart from most books in this same genre. The ideas presented were interesting, and I couldn’t wait to read more. There are some steamy sex scenes in Coming Darkness as well. Although I felt that they could have been handled more subtly, they do add another emotional layer to this already thrilling story. Terry’s skills as a storyteller are superb which is why I wish that one or two ideas were really fleshed out so that I could immerse myself in this fascinating story.

If you enjoy reading about werewolves or vampires, or find Lucifer and his fallen angels intriguing, this book would be a good fit for you. Honestly, everything about this book pulls me in and makes me want to like it. As I do with any author with great writing talent, I beg for more focus, detail and character development. Coming Darkness showcases Susan-Alia Terry’s talent and I cant’t wait to read more of her work.

Pages: 258 | ASIN: B01D7MM5IM

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A World of Wonder

A World of Wonder by [Ford, Brent A., Hazlehurst, Lucy McCullough]

A World of Wonder by Brent A. Ford and Lucy McCullough Hazlehurst is an educational combination of photographs and poetry, designed to be enjoyed by parents and children together. Giving the latter an interest in the world and to act as a starting point for appreciating its wonders. It consists of 41 high-quality, color images of nature and natural phenomena across the globe, each paired with a relevant, short poem – some newly written for the book, and some classics. The interactive copy has links to further information related to each photo.

The first thing that struck me was the quality of the photos, which are expertly-framed, beautiful shots of a range of animals, scenery, and weather across the globe, as well as views from beyond the upper atmosphere. As an adult, I still wonder at many of them, so it must be magical for a child. They evoke multiple emotions – some are dramatic, some cute, some calm – but all are of a suitable nature for young children, as should be expected.

The accompanying poems are apt for the stated age range of 3-8, and grade level K-2; they’re short, accessible and fun to read aloud. Some are humorous, while many are more instructive about the habits of animals or natural processes. They match well with the photos, and explore different aspects of life on Earth.

The combined variety of photos and poems are ideal for promoting conversation of all kinds between parents and children; it’s easy to tell that the authors have experience in education. Not just parents, but teachers could certainly get a lot of use out of this book, too.

It’s not particularly long, and because it’s designed to be picked up and put down, it seems perfect for different attention spans and available periods of time. It could be used at bedtime, or for car journeys.

The amazing choice of photographs enables you to revisit this book many times, so parents can ask different questions to highlight different points and to introduce more complex ideas as their child grows. This flexibility of use would is a huge draw for parents. It would be ideal for guessing games – trying to remember the photo from the poem, or even the poem from the photo. Budding artists could get some great inspiration from it, and it could be a very useful starting point for crafting projects or for guided research about animal habits and habitat.

I appreciate the authors’ aims and the work that they have put into the book in order to achieve them. A World of Wonder truly delivers on the wonder that it promises.

Pages: 88 | ASIN: B072LJWBSZ

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Adam’s Stepsons

Adam's Stepsons3 Stars

Adam’s Stepsons by M. Thomas Apple is an interesting science fiction piece. We follow Dr. Heimann who designs the perfect super soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. Heimann quickly discovers that he did not anticipate the brutal efficiency of the military, nor the attachment that arises from his creations. These clones are not only the peak of what the human form can do, they actually transcend humanity through intelligence and strength. They are the weapon that the United Americas will use to crush the rebellion on Mars. Dr. Heimann is shocked when one clone, Six, begins to call him “Father” and then the can of worms truly opens.

Apple’s novel is almost painfully short, only because I wanted to have more to read and dive into. He anticipates the future of inter-solar system colonization and the struggles that can arise, such as this between the United Americas and the Martian colonies. He does not neglect the complicated matter here or the scope considering the Terran governing force is losing the war and needs these clones to pan out.

The struggle between scientist and soldier is an old one, but one that takes on a new twist with the rise of cloned super soldiers. Apple goes along the lines of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but does not seek to critique war itself. Instead, the author goes further and asks whether these soldiers are “truly” human or are they  just “equipment” as the military officer Marquez calls them.

The conflict deepens even further when “Seth”, clone number six, as Dr. Heimann calls him when no one else is around, begins to call him “father”. The book bounces between the POV’s of the scientist and Six, which is interesting because as the book goes on Heimann becomes more and more unstable and uncertain of his mission of designing soldiers, who resemble the people that their genetic material comes from. Six, or rather, “Seth” becomes increasingly more confident in his abilities and his intelligence. All of this leads to a climax that may polarize readers, but one that will still make the reader ponder on far after they have finished the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Apple’s prose. It reads crisp like that of Asimov or Heinlein, but I am still unsure if the short length of the work was appropriate. There is a lot of dialogue and not enough actual “action” going on throughout, so I was expecting more digging into the rich themes of personhood and philosophy of the soul. I realize that may be asking too much.

Adam’s Stepsons is a fun addition to the long canon of science fiction that dares to ask the “what if” of the future. It also seeks to ask the “should we, if we can” question that not enough science fiction is retrospective enough to ask. A good read for any science fiction lover, especially of the Heinlein or Asimov variety.

Pages: 92 | ASIN: B06XJRT8CS

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Stealing Magic

Stealing Magic (The Legacy of Androva #1)5 Stars

Have you ever wondered if there are parallel dimensions where magic exists and people can travel from one world to the next with a simple portal? If you could what would happen? What could possibly go wrong with this? Alex Vick answers these questions in her book Stealing Magic. A quick read that pulls the reader into an adventure of mischief and saving two worlds. The book is told from the third person perspective so you get to hear the thoughts of all the characters. The three main characters are Shannon, from Terra (Earth), and Jax and Darius from Androva. They all meet when Jax and Darius travel through a portal from Androva to Terra to harvest magic from the trees that grow there. Shannon sees them and sees them using magic. It is then that she discovers she also has magical abilities. Shannon seeing the boys and discovering she can use magic causes an irreversible change that effects both their worlds and leads to great changes for the inhabitants of Androva.

Terra is your typical modern day Earth environment, teenagers complaining about school, cell phones, internet and day to day mundane activities. Androva is a world where magic is incorporated into daily life, however their world does not have great trees like Terra, and that is where the living magic comes from. Androva is also governed by very strict laws they call The Code. This is the law that all citizens must adhere to and live by in order to keep the balance of the Treaty in place. Jax is your typical rebellious teen that wants to prove he is the best at magic and knows better than the “stupid rules” that are in place to keep him from learning more. Darius is his best friend and loyal to a fault, he will gladly take the blame for Jax when he can for no other reason that he wants to protect him. When Jax broke several of the laws in The Code, a chain reaction of events starts taking place. In an attempt to reverse these events Jax brings Shannon through the portal into Androva and starts teaching her how to use her magic. It turns out she is stronger than anyone suspected and learns quickly. The three friends now put into place a plan to find out how to fix things, however they soon discover they cannot change what has already started.

Some of the key themes in this book are loyalty, family bonds, trust and letting go of the past. All these topics come up in Stealing Magic, as well as the lesson of doing things for the greater good not self-advancement. Given the reading level of the book I think it handles these difficult subjects well and gives good examples of self-sacrifice and showing how hard change can be. Vick has managed to provide a diverse set of characters to love and hate and even the ones that are hated are still very relatable, Marcus being a key example. Marcus is the bully that wants to control people but his passion is strong and while his methods are questionable, his desire to protect his world is genuine.

Overall Stealing Magic is a good book and great start to the Legacy of Androva Series. I look forward to reading more about the adventures of Shannon, Jax and Darius as they grow from teens into powerful magicians. There is a lot left for Alex Vick to cover in this series as the first book just gives you a taste of the world of Androva and its connection with Terra.

Pages:  | ASIN: B01LXQEPYR

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Perforating the Darkness

Jacob Harrell Author Interview

The Transient, The Emperor, and the Man Left Alone is a science fiction story that follows a common man from Earth and his interstellar misadventures. This is a very fun novel. Did you have fun writing it?

Of course. I don’t think I ever could have completed this novel if I didn’t enjoy what it was that I was writing, and it was that enjoyment which helped to propel me forward day after day. When I first began writing ‘The Transient,’ I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go with any of it. There is a certain degree of excitement buried in the unknown, and each day brought a whole new set of wonder to me. In the end, I hope that the reader will be able to pick up on my enjoyment, on my excitement, and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to find this piece as fun, fresh, and entertaining as I had found in writing it.

The main character is abducted by aliens whom might be more human than they pretend, and their motives are deeper than a simple probe. How did the idea for the aliens creation and motives come to fruition for you?

Before I had even begun to formulate my ideas for ‘The Transient,’ I had written a rather short story about a guy and his apartment and it kind of went absolutely nowhere. It was just a few pages and it ended just as abruptly as it began, but there was something about the ideas that it presented that piqued my interest. I had wanted to take it a step further, but had no idea where I wanted to go with it, or how I wanted to get there, so I set the story aside and forgot all about it. Later, much later, I was hanging out in a forgotten section of West Virginia, staring up at the night sky. It was brilliant out there, a million points of light perforating the darkness, and it got me thinking about everything. I thought about our relative place in this infinitely vast universe, about life in all of its complex arrangements, about this and that, and, of course, about whether or not we are alone. The concept of extraterrestrials has always intrigued me, especially the idea of alien abductions. What is it about the human race that would make another advanced race want to travel a countless number of lightyears across the galaxy to study? I mean, are we really that interesting of a people? Surely, if these abductions are truly happening, they would have to harbor some sort of ulterior motive aside from the “we just want to study you people” excuse. For hours, laid back beneath the starry sky, I thought about this, and then, at some point, the idea of that original story I had written crept into my skull and, quite suddenly, I knew that an abduction would be the perfect segue into taking an otherwise abstract story that went nowhere and spring boarding it into any which where that my mind thought to take it. Of course, the aliens had to be as human as possible, because, as Hollywood teaches us, if there is to be intelligent life out there, it would undoubtedly be modeled after us, and it would also have a firm grasp of the English language. It’s as if Earth is the warm and happy center of the universe that all life gathers around. We are just so very important, aren’t we?

This story offers outrageous situations that serve as biting commentary on human’s need for entertainment. What are some of the things that you find naturally funny about the human condition that you think makes for great fiction?

There is so much that I find funny, and sad, and ridiculous, and depressing about the human condition. I’m not even sure where to begin here. Certainly, our diminished attention span thanks to our love affair with pointless technology is something to laugh at. Also, our never-ending courtship with violence, our dependency on television and other socially inept forms of entertainment, our inability to see the glaring hypocrisies that govern our lives, our further inability to take responsibility for our actions, and our complex social hierarchy that states that one group is much more preferred over another group simply by having the dumb luck of being born a certain way or in a certain place, are all extraordinary themes that are finely suited for the world of fiction. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of our species, the one that just may dictate everything else, is our overwhelmingly enlarged ego. We have an enormously big head, and having such an inflated view of ourselves translates quite well into some great fiction. We have this tendency to think that we are superior to all else. Nature is our footstool and the very Laws that govern life cannot possibly apply to us as humans. I love playing with this notion of collective self-worth. I only hope that we will one day be able to take a step back and realize that we are not some special and perfect little creature. We are just victims of blind coincidence just as everything else is. Maybe there will come a time when we can once again live with Nature instead of in constant opposition to it.

This novel is funny, in the same was at The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is funny. What were some of your inspirations as a writer?

It was only recently that I read ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide.’ I’ve heard others mention it when talking of my book, so I thought to finally check it out. I must say that I am completely humbled to have my story be compared to that of such an amazing writer and story teller as Douglas Adams. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide’ is a fantastic piece of fiction that I urge everyone to read. All that aside, I think that what inspires me more than anything else is…boredom. I spend a lot of time on the road, or lost on some trail, or doing some mundane activity, and it is through these actions that I find the creative juices tend to flow best. I usually carry around a pen and notebook because I never really know when inspiration is going to strike. I am also heavily inspired by the surreal no matter the medium it comes in. Works of Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Les Claypool, Frank Zappa, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Kurt Vonnegut have all had a great impact on my thinking.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when is that due out?

There are three things that I have in the works right now. The first is a continuation of Derren’s story. This next part will pick up where ‘the Transient’ leaves off and will describe Derren’s new life back on Earth. Without giving too much away, I will say that it will involve murders of crows, shady governmental entities, and inter-dimensional beings living in the rectum of a cosmic being. I am also hard at work with a novel centered on life in a small town life. It is a tale that points out the glaring and countless contradictions and hypocrisies that guide us through our lives. This is something that I have been working on for quite some time, but I hope to have it completed and out in print by next year. Lastly, I have been compiling together a number of short stories, poems, and other oddities. These are just miscellaneous bits of this and that, ideas that came uninvited that I felt the need to capture. I hope to have that collection out in print by the end of this year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Transient, the Emperor, and the Man Left AloneDerren Washington’s life has never amounted to much, and lately it has become boring and stale. Sure, he does well for himself. He has a job, a place to live, and is breathing and living-enough for most people and all Derren believes he needs. And then one morning, Derren is awoken to an unexpected knock that changes the course of his life, spurring a mad journey that he never could have possibly imagined. Confronted with the sudden loss of his apartment and, subsequently, everything he has ever owned, Derren must face the insensitive marriage of blind chance and sheer coincidence. His situation becomes even more dire after a regrettably made phone call finds him abducted by a group of towering extraterrestrials who have mistaken him for their long, lost emperor. Now Derren struggles to navigate and survive in a baffling world amid suffocating seas of deceit and absurdity in hopes of one day making his way home and finding some meaning in his life. This science fiction novel tells the tale of one man’s unintended adventure as he stumbles from one confusing world to another in an attempt to regain what he has lost.

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Milijun

Milijun4 Stars

On a distant moon, a miner stumbles upon an apparent catacomb of an alien species, but when one is brought to the surface for study, it sparks a strange and violent invasion as the species wakes and makes their way to Earth. While on vacation in southern Australia, Laura and Jason Sinclair are the first to view the aliens’ arrival, but while trying to put the strange sighting behind them, their vacation turns into a nightmare as Jason’s sudden abduction and physical interaction with the aliens sparks a journey across the desert in search of answers. As the mother and son are pursued by law enforcement, military personnel, and the otherworldly beings, they’ll have to discover who is friend and who is foe in a world where any human may harbor an alien within.

Graham’s book Milijun is, at its core, the story of a mother trying to keep safe a son who is increasingly thrown in danger, first by others, but later at his own behest and for noble intentions. Her panicked determination and fierce protection of her teenage son are entirely relatable and hold the emotional center of the book. Around that, the sci-fi plot swirls, much like the pressurized vortex the aliens create, occasionally landing in moments of sincere character development, but otherwise surrounding the reader in the universe Graham has created. Modern technologies are newly interpreted in this year of 2179 AD, with fantastical ideas like phasing, instantaneous teleporting, and corporeal possession given plausible, scientific grounding. As with many sci-fi works, the focus is the world, the background against which the plot occurs. The expanse of space and the futuristic Australia are both described in wonderful detail, revealing great personal knowledge with both environments. The humanity and motives of every character is questioned, both for their personal interests in the new alien species and the possibility they are being possessed by that invading species. There are themes throughout of motherhood, the moral stakes in scientific exploration, the nature of the afterlife, and the existence of souls – all used to great effect.

Beyond Laura’s motivation to keep her son safe, however, the other interactions between the human characters seems plot-driven, as opposed to true connection. However, because of this, the reveals and surprises in the final third are true surprises, but I wish I could have been let in on the secret with half-hidden hints about our character’s motivations throughout the first two-thirds. As it stands, people seem to realize they’re being deceived or supported because of sudden gut intuition, not conveyed from the character but from the plot’s necessity.

One of the character devices that stuck out the most was the supposed romances – I say supposed because they either come out of nowhere, or aren’t supported by the involved character’s actions. They don’t interfere with the basic story, but they don’t add much either, many because they are unbelievable, or they aren’t necessary to the story’s development. These romantic pairings are supposed to make us feel more for the characters, but if they had been executed as well as the mother-son relationship, I would have cared more about the outcome, instead of seen them as odd personality traits thrown out to garner affection for one particular character.

In the end, these character flaws didn’t keep me from enjoying the story presented, and the eventual abolishment of the classic “good vs. evil” dichotomy was greatly welcomed, as well as that character’s choices, whether right or wrong in the end, did have consequences. The ending, which was oddly ambiguous in its instantaneous, unexpected nature, nevertheless intrigues me, especially with many plot threads still left open-ended, and I’m excited to see where the surviving characters go in subsequent works.

Pages: 322 | ISBN: 0994495609

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