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What is Reality?

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?

At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.

I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.

Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.

Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?

My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input,  they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.

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Adam's StepsonsDr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…

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End of Knighthood

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence, #2)

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces by Joshua Landeros is a ripping tale of military science fiction. The novel follows the continued struggle of William Marconi a cyborg super soldier as he continues to figure out his place and duty as a soldier and knight in this futuristic warzone. Will ends up joining the resistance movement. Fighting the UNR, the new world government superstructure, or curbing its growth becomes the center of conflict. Chancellor Venloran is the locus of these plans and wishes to destroy his enemies completely. Can non-UNR countries survive the rising tide and hardened troops?  The principal question is, what will Will do to make up for his past transgressions on behalf of his former role?

Landeros paints a picture worthy of the classic military science fiction writers in their hay day. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers can be felt in every leap of Will from rooftop to rooftop. He masterfully borrows what made these novels great by their action and dialogue. One of the strong parts of the End of Knighthood is not just the fantastic action, but the dialogue between the soldiers is some of the best I have ever read. This is what keeps these soldiers human and what makes them instantly relatable to the reader. Sure, it is cool to read the amazing action scenes that Landeros crafts, but in the quiter moments we get to see how these individuals struggle with their in between status and their struggle in the midst of war.

As far as action goes, you can’t get too much wrong when you have cyborg on cyborg action, but Landeros takes painstakingly careful steps so that the reader does not become lost in the rain of bullets and blows. We are able see every body fall, but we are also able to see the glimpses of humanity from these soldiers as they reflect later their deeds. Will, the main protagonist, and one of the few carry overs from the previous book, is one such character that we get to see who continues to develop.

In our current times of political upheavals and nation states, one would think a book such as End of Knighthood would be hard to swallow. The UNR seems to be something that could occur in the not so distant future, but with the addition of these tech enhanced soldiers, Landeros has given the reader enough of an escape to enjoy oneself rather than wallow in more reality. Despite having a military science fiction bend, the novel could appeal to anyone looking for an action centered yarn along with some political thriller overtones. The genre blending on Landeros’ part is spot on and should please a wide variety of readers.

All in all, the reader may lose some sleep going through one battle scene and turning the page for another, but it is sleep happily given up. I look forward to the next installment of the Reverence series.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B06ZZCDJ44

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Into The Liquor Store

Into The Liquor Store4 Stars

Are you a fan of people watching? Can you spend hours just watching society go by and analyzing situations that seam small and insignificant but are all part of a bigger drama that is unfolding before your eyes? Charles Sims-Charles creates a future version of Earth in his novel Into the Liquor Store. This novel does not have a linier plot line, it has no great mystery to solve, there is not even a major conflict in need of resolution. Instead we are transported into a world where the main character Bink is a spray paint graffiti artist and connoisseur of cannabis and we follow him through a series of life events. While the events all lead up to a surprise ending your left wondering just what is going on sometimes. Add in the Galactic Triumvirate (GT) and the colonies on the Rings of Saturn and the moons and you have an intriguing story to follow.

Bink’s journey is told through his eyes and through a third person narrator view. This adds to the disjointed effect of the novel, but adds to the feeling of watching someone’s life unfold from a distance, as if you were watching a movie. It is the year 2218, Earth is now called Terra and the inhabitants are called Terrans, while the people living on the moons and rings are called Orbiter’s. The world is divided even more than it is now, states are now their own territories with their own laws and rules, countries have their own sets of standards and laws, everyone is acting under their own guidance unless they are part of the GT. One of the focuses of Bink’s story is tagging. He is a talented graffiti artist. Tagging in this time is regulated art form and taggers are well respected. Each artist has a special ID cap that is registered and somehow when it is used, they can scan the paint on a piece of work and determine who painted it. There are rival gangs among the taggers, but most rivals are in good sport and everyone is out to keep the art form alive and well respected.

The other focus is on Bink’s love life. He goes through several relationships throughout the novel, but they all follow a theme. Bink’s relationships with the other characters, Derrick (Lux), Kris, and Milly are also a focus. It is not secret Bink hates the rings and the orbiters, but when his life lands him on a remote ring colony he is reunited with his lost love Milly. On the rings, life is confusing. They speak in riddles; they call their language Summertime. Everyone dresses in a steampunk style and paint their faces like animals. It is a complex society with it’s own rules drastically different from Earth. Somehow Bink winds up mixed in with the Mob, a group called the Koeghuza. He learns how to navigate this world as well and become successful.

Charles Sims-Charles’s world is creative and unique. His descriptions of the clothing, music, and environment draw the reader in and give them a feel for being there and experiencing everything Bink does. It is the perfect novel for the person that likes to watch others and analyze the psychology of people. The society structure is interesting and complex, the relationships diverse and just as complex as the characters that have been created. A great novel to take you out of the modern stress and see a glimpse into a future where art and science thrive.

Pages: 235 | ASIN: B01NAGKSJJ

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Paracelsus

Paracelsus3 Stars

War is never pretty. It’s a gruesome, deadly instrument used by those seeking something. Whether they seek power, reassurance or a misguided view of peace depends on those orchestrating the show. In Paracelsus by James Powton we see the horrors of an ongoing war of subterfuge and nuclear consequences as it spans nearly fifty-years and the entire world. When does one war end and another begin? These are questions that cannot be answered concretely. Powton uses this as he spins his tale of destruction with the backdrop of the world’s worst atrocities post World War Two. This story begins like several different threads spread out until you delve deeper and see that they are all entwined together into the perfect knot.

It is important to note that the story tells a slightly alternate history to the one that we have been taught in schools. It begins in 1969 and continues on until a time in our very near future. While it seems logical to assume that none of the characters in this tale truly existed, a reader can’t deny that reality is often stranger than fiction. If these characters did or do exist, let us all hope it is not in the same capacity as Powton has had us read.

Think of a world where nuclear weapons have been compartmentalized on a smaller scale to fit inside a briefcase. This unlocks a multitude of possibilities: none of them good. Powton uses this concept to his advantage as he paints a picture of a bloody war that the average person would know nothing about. This is not a war for the television or the media until things go too far. It’s definitely a thrilling ride as you read on, wondering how the characters will be connected in pages to come. Powton wraps all his threads up quite nicely.

There are a few stylistic errors and spelling mistakes that crop up in Powton’s work. The issues are not so substantial that they detract from the story itself. Because the story can be quite complicated it is impressive to see such organization and careful storytelling, which is where the real challenge is.

It is always interesting to read a piece of fiction that uses a real event as a back drop. By looking at past events with new eyes and a different idea of what potentially happened brings such an interesting twist to the history we have all been taught. Paracelsus does just that and takes the events further by covering a time frame in the not-so-distant future. With the world being slightly unstable at the time of writing, it is almost terrifying to think that James Powton’s idea may become a reality. If you are in the mood for intrigue and the blurring of historical lines, this is definitely a tale for you.

Pages: 316 | ASIN: B01MU6S0P5

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The Sightseers Agency

The Sightseers Agency (The Dreadnought Collective Book 5)5 Stars

The Sightseers Agency picks up with Richard Pencil leaving the government position he took up at the end of the previous book. With the new world order well underway, the big three-letter agencies are breaking up, and Richard is going back to work with Joe Fraser and the man known as the Inlooker. Richard also has an impressive upgrade to his extra-sensory detective powers. He’s joined by a new remote-viewer, Miss Plum Duff, whose talents were honed by alien intervention. Fraser hires them to launch the the Sightseers Agency, reporting to him and their mysterious benefactor. Their mission is to oversee the behavior of elected officials, and another secret goal is revealed later. Seb Cage, who is now a talented computer security specialist (along with the skills he gained from the Sombrella Syndicate), joins the agency as well.

The Sightseers soon discover that the greatest threat to earth isn’t just from rogue officials and politicians, but also hostile aliens who have been planning an attack for some time. Complications arise because some of the aliens on Earth are friendly, while some are more like tourists who take on human form just to experience something different. Ms. Plum Duff comes into her own here, since she, like Seb, has a long history with regard to aliens.

Like the previous agency novel, there is an overarching plot that is played out in several different investigations. While the book is described as a series of whodunits set in the future, each case is a link in a chain that ultimately brings conflict on both a personal and global scale. I was glad to see more about the use of psychic mind-reading to ferret out lies and criminal activity, and the manipulation of auras and even the soul itself. There’s also the fascinating angle of this “new world” society, run on a democracy-on-demand system with a goal toward a true meritocracy. While some of this society’s social practices seem dystopian, others, like the use of Tesla’s wireless transmission of energy, offer a utopia of readily-available power.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed throughout the Dreadnaught series is the author’s vivid imagination. His notes at the beginning of the books give real-world tales of psychics and UFO phenomenon that act as the launch pad for his stories. His humor and wordplay are also in full force, with inventive non-cuss words, ribald comedy—especially when it comes to Richard and his Lothario tendencies—and the continued jokes about “potties,” which are ubiquitous self-driving transport pods, giving “on the throne” a whole different meaning.

Overall, this series has been fun to read. The major recurring characters are so unique, each with their own set of skills, flaws, and quirks, that it’s a delight to follow them from one adventure to another. The Sightseers Agency ties up a lot of loose ends, answers questions, and ends on a hopeful note and fans of the series will be satisfied by the ending.

Pages: 307 | ASIN: B01KBAKX1E

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Drawing Word Pictures

Terry Tumbler Author Interview

Terry Tumbler Author Interview

The Time Slipsters spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. What is the funnest part about imagining and writing the future?

The fun is in seeing things that are commonly regarded as Sci-Fi beginning to happen. I believe that research on the web reveals what a wonderful world we live in. If you look for articles on medical research, the motor industry and technology in general, it also indicates where the human race is heading.

We are already seeing Nano robots being used for keyhole surgery, drugs being tailored to combat and kill cancer cells, and the early diagnosis of dementia, to name but a few. Plus the whiff of flying cars and free power is in the air!

Imagine a world where the health service does not feel overwhelmed by an aging population, because old people are no longer suffering the ‘ravages of old age’. Why would that be? The answer is: treatment of their various sufferings is being mastered, until death they do part! By the way, I come into the latter category.

Envisage a world where travel is from home to destination, in minutes. No airports, no connecting flights or trains or buses or taxis. No squandering of natural resources, no electricity costs, no power stations needed, no pylons or towering wind vanes blotting the landscape. Much of what I describe has been available for over a century, if it were not for intervention of vested interests.

The characters end up traveling through time, and like many stories, their actions in the past affect the future. What was the most interesting part about writing a time travel story?

Getting into the heads of the characters on both sides of the experience of time travel. Drawing word pictures of the experience and conveying mental images to readers was fun too. It challenges my imagination to run riot. By the way, unlike Professor Hawking I do not believe that the death of an ancestor caused by a time traveler would have any impact whatsoever on his or her descendants.

The threat to Earth is revealed by uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate. What was the inspiration for the Sombrella Syndicate?

I once worked for a Lloyds of London group of insurance syndicates, so am familiar with the concept. The deserted brickworks near where I live in Spain was an ideal undercover location for an alien base, but not big enough to house it, on the surface. Who better to man it, underground, than dwarfs, who have a reputation for mining and gold!

Time Slipsters is book three in the Dreadnought collective. Where does book 4 take the characters?

Book 4 takes the characters in an entirely new direction that totally engrossed me for a while. I took great interest in the feasibility of psychic involvement in crime detection. This added another dimension to the evolution of the Dreadnought Collective. The various characters in all the books are intertwined in book 5, the Sightseers Agency, which is now run under the auspices of the U.S. government, as is the entire collective. The individual agencies in the collective instantly become more effective as the two genres are mixed.

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The Time SlipstersA group of friends who have drifted apart decide to reunite and take a trip together. It is the near future, and their intention is to travel on the latest type of transport, in order to visit the ancient sites in Turkey.

They want to do this in luxury, and the travel company they selected has done its best to accommodate their desires. They are lost for words when they first cast their eyes on the spectacular, gleaming new vehicle waiting for them. It is in fact alien in technology, and far more of a futuristic craft than a mere ground-hugging coach.

Unwittingly, they are entering a world where time travel is a reality and machines can cater for individuals as well as the masses.
Soon, they embarking on a sightseeing tour like no other they could have imagined, and meeting a time-travelling stranger who takes them under his wing.

More than one person has a hidden agenda, as they realise when reach a highly protected secret location. It contains hybrid creatures on which the Gods of mythology are based.

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I Was Curious

Terry Tumbler Author Interview

Terry Tumbler Author Interview

Seb and his brother spend the summer in Spain with their grandfather who pulls them along on a journey to discover that the town is filled with dwarves of alien origin. What was the inspiration behind this fascinating idea?

The inspiration for this idea is that fact that my hometown in Spain contains a high number of perfectly proportioned very short people. I’m surrounded by ‘em!

I felt that the story was adventurous but also humorous. Did you have fun writing this novel?

Yes, especially as there is a deserted brickworks near where I live, which is much like I describe it – above ground! The research into UFOs and how they may be powered took longer; I was curious about them, having seen a few, usually in groups, as I grew up.

 I felt the characters were well developed. What was your process in creating the characters and how did that change as you were writing?

It didn’t change much, if at all. The characters are nearly always based on real people, including my own family. We all circle each other warily.

Seb Cage Begins His Adventures is book one in the Dreadnought Collective. In what direction does book 2 take the story?

Book 2 is The Inlooker, which is pivotal to the expanding series and you have already reviewed that. It takes us into the near future, where Seb Cage is going to occupy a planet where the population is going to be drastically reduced by gentle means. The types of transport are also undergoing fundamental change, as are the methods by which we are ruled. This is where I need a lot of support from readers, since I am prophesying a future that can become reality, if we realise that it is achievable. My fear is that our senses are being dulled deliberately and we have to snap out of it.

Seb Cage joins the action in the third book in the series, The Time Slipsters. If the first book becomes a success and I live long enough with my marbles intact, the series will become volumes, and his continuing adventures will be related in Volume 1, Book 2.

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Seb Cage Begins His Adventures (The Dreadnought Collective Book 1) by [Tumbler, Terry]Seb and his younger brother Bart customarily spend all of their long summer holiday in Spain, with their grandparents. Gradually, as they all become older, relationships are strained, as the old folk try to find things to keep the boys amused.

It is not long before the grandfather, Tumbler, who is a retired detective, is using Seb as a trainee investigator to keep tabs on the movements of a sector of the local town who he thinks ‘don’t fit it in’ – they are in fact dwarves of alien origin.

Soon, Tumbler and his apprentice are rumbled, and Seb is invited to join a summer campus. Coincidentally, this is run by the dwarves and has only recently been set up, virtually on the Tumbler’s doorstep!

At the campus, it gradually becomes apparent that Seb and his classmates have been chosen beforehand, by genetic engineering. They find that they possess special abilities, which have been implanted in them at an early age, and realise that these are now being developed in a matter of weeks.

Whatever plans they may have had for the future, their chosen destiny now awaits them.

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The Time Slipsters

The Time Slipsters5 Stars

Book 3 in the Dreadnought Collective series returns to the home of Terry and Sandra Tumbler. Terry and his wife plan a return holiday to Turkey, recalling their last visit with their grandson, Seb, when his tour group from the Sombrella Syndicate got into trouble in the underground city of Derinkuyu. They’d like to go again to see it at their leisure. Terry invites several couples who had accompanied them on an earlier visit to Santiago. Since they’d had trouble on that particular tip, Terry sweetens the deal by booking a luxury version of fast-travel flying cars, colloquially known as “potties,” to speed them on their way.

On arrival in Istanbul, the five couples embark on a grand tour of historic sites on a large coach, shared by a group of Spanish tourists. During their travels, Terry meets with a mysterious man named Marius. Marius asks Terry for help regarding Alien visitations, and Terry is delighted. His love of researching UFO phenomena may help save lives, and Marius may be able to explain the odd dreams Terry is having. When the tour visits the ancient hospital of Asklepion, the true nature of the “Magic Carpet” tour coach (dubbed the Turkish Floater by Wilf) is revealed, and the travelers slip back in time to witness ancient Rome in person. This leads to uncovering the mystery of the aliens who have been living under the auspices of the Sombrella Syndicate, and a threat to earth.

If you can’t tell by the irreverent names of the vehicles, this is a very funny book. The Time Slipsters is a delightfully fun read. It crosses genre borders as easily as the Magic Carpet crosses timelines. The story spans science fiction, travelogue, historical fiction and comedy while showing a vibrant world of the future and the past. Terry is a loveable rogue, and his gaffes are both funny and important to the story. Laughing at phallic rock formations and obsessing over bathroom facilities in ancient buildings could be jokes, but they may come in handy later.

But the trip is not all fun and games. When the ship begins to slip between time zones, the travelers are under very explicit orders to stay away from the locals. One of them foolishly ignores that advice, and like any time travel story, what you do in the past can have a ripple effect into the future.

The author’s imagination is truly fantastic. Even the little details of this future world are well fleshed out. There’s the concept of Democracy on Demand that allows people to guide their government by instantaneous voting. And sure, the flying cars are neat, but what about smart suitcases that carry themselves to and from your hotel, or having delicate surgery performed by nanobots while you sleep? I can’t start on the alien technology without spoilers, so you’ll have to read for yourself.

One thing I liked was the occasional break in the intrigue so I could wander the streets of ancient monuments along with the characters. It’s clear the author has visited these places and wants to share these remarkable places and their histories with others.

Though Seb Cage Begins His Adventures was a book aimed at young readers, The Time Slipsters is decidedly more adult. The adult humor and a few sexual references, though never explicit, wouldn’t be appropriate for a young reader. If you like SF, time travel stories, or dry British humor, you’ll like this book.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B018MLKT7M

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PrimoDeus

Primodeus4 Stars

PrimoDeus, written by John Lachance, is a novel based on the life of Beaulyn deFaux. Beaulyn is a defrocked priest, caught in a nightmare of illusion and reality whilst having flashbacks of his childhood. Abandoned as a toddler, Beaulyn was thrust into the arms of his babysitter, Claire. Shortly after, arrangements are made to foster the boy and he is soon visited by a group of triumvirs to assess his well being. During the meeting, the terrible secrets haunting each woman are unraveled and secrets of the past are exposed. Flash forward to the current time and Beaulyn is fighting his own demons as he tries to forget the pivotal moment in his life that leads to this future- a beast in revelation.

PrimoDeus is a novel styled around religious ideologies and focuses on a journey of demons and biblical style events that surround the life of Beaulyn DeFaux. Beaulyn is a former priest who is lost within a land that tortures him into a delirious state of confusion. Throughout the story, the characters intertwine in both past and present to allow the reader to gauge the truth around the mysterious Beaulyn.

The chapters are written in a similar format to a play with parts of the story labeled as an “Act” and even an “Interlude”. Throughout the various Acts, the story occasionally changes the font in order to depict inner thoughts. For example, one style shows Beauby (Beaulyn) as a baby where he slips into “daymares” as the characters of his life morph into witches and fairy tales. This can sometimes act as a moment of relief for the reader as some of the themes are sensitive and may be a trigger for some individuals.

One part of the story takes place in the past where Beauby is being assessed by women from a church (sometimes referred to as triumvirs). Memories of imaginable horror resurface during the triumvir’s visit to Beauby, providing an insight of the tragic circumstances each woman endured throughout their lives. Bizarre interactions begin to occur between the women and child as they strive to understand the probing stare of his intense blue eyes. Little do they know that a torturous moment in his childhood is forming the path of his unfortunate demise.

In the present time, Beaulyn is constantly battling his inner demons in a fight to decide what is real or a delusion. Haunted by his own personal demon, Azra (sometimes appearing as a vulture throughout his life) the story flickers through characters of the future and past, leaving the reader to slowly piece together what is real and what is an illusion.

At parts, the story delves into unimaginable trauma and John Lachance’s style of writing leaves the reader feeling emotional and empathetic to characters that you would not expect. Brigitte is one character that is involved with Beaulyn during his years as an apostate and her innocent demeanor and loyalty to him is one attribute that I admired. They are lost in the Caldera, walking for days with no food or water, yet the intricate details of her love seem more like an infatuation with the powers Beaulyn seemingly possesses.

Demons, swarms of bugs and exorcisms are all part of the biblical style novel that leaves the reader questioning, what is real and what is simply a delusion? I would give this book 4/5 and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the mystic of demons and religious beings.

Pages: 532 | ISBN: 1524653942

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Game Over

Game Over (A Series of Ends Book 1)4 StarsGame Over begins inside a virtual world created by Sybil, an AI that rules over the virtual world of Elysium. Ekko Everlasting spawns into what seems to be a video game, armed and ready to fight, although he has no memory of who he is or why he’s there. He knows only his name and his innate ability to survive in a kill-or-be-killed environment. This skill helps him win his first match in No-Life, the most popular game in Elysium.

Flush from his win and mobbed by fans, he’s saved from an imposing cyberman—and potential deletion—by Ridley Scott, who tells him that Ekko is an important asset to the resistance. Ridley and his boss Dadgar recruit Ekko for their mission to find the central core of the Sybil system and free what’s left of humanity on Earth. Dadgar tells Ekko that Elysium was created to solve humanity’s problems, including illness and death, so millions of people were uploaded into the system. If humans in Elysium don’t live up to Sybil’s standards, embodied by the No-Life game, they are reprogrammed or deleted by the cybermen. Deletion brings death in the real world.

There’s a lot to like in this novel. The stakes are as high as they get: life or death for not only Ekko but humanity itself. The games he plays, No-Life, Myth and Magic, and The Test, bring the kind of exciting combat and split-second decision making that will keep you on the edge of your seat. His adversaries and allies are experts at the game, and the scenarios Sybil pits them against are both elegant and deadly.

There’s also a throwback to the “choose your own adventure” books that were popular in the late 1970’s and 80’s. At several points in the story, readers are given a choice for Ekko’s next action, and the wrong choice can lead to the words: Game Over! If you follow the right choices, it leads to a surprising conclusion with an interesting twist on Ekko’s mission—and his identity. His journey through the different levels of the game reveals the lengths that the elite will go in their quest for power. In this case, literal power measured in watts instead of mere credits.

A few things didn’t go over well. Every scene that ends with a choice of adventure has an obvious “opt out” spoiler, so it’s too easy to avoid the “game over” choice. I was also a little confused about the cyberman, Naraku Carbon. The author gives him an entire chapter and backstory, but after that chapter, he vanishes completely. His only contributions to Ekko’s story were brief encounters that could have been fulfilled by any anonymous security drone.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy gaming, tense action scenes, and life or death adventure. Though it borrows a few concepts from popular movies like Battle Royale and The Matrix, Game Over offers an interesting take on what might happen if life really is a simulation.

Pages: 268 | ASIN: B01KNJ8WB6

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