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That SOB Deserved That!

Gary Hickman
Gary Hickman Author Interview

The Light Reapers follows an elite team on a mission to rescue a scientist while battling hordes of zombies. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I initially wrote the story during COVID and I was thinking about how the zombies were created. As I thought through different options, the media kept saying CORONA Virus and that stuck with me. For my first book, I wanted to write something that I was familiar with but also wanted to have fun with it. I have always loved zombies since I first saw Dawn of the Dead (the original). Zombies and the military seemed like a good combination. I mean, plenty of people had done it before successfully, so why not me? There are actually quite a few events in the book that were based on real life. The fighting, the tactics used, the interactions between some of the characters all had a significant influence on what I wrote. There are a few of the characters who are based on real people I served with. I obviously removed the enemies and put in the infected, changed the names and locations due to counterintelligence reasons, but most were still based on truth.

This seemed like a fun book to write. What scene in the story did you have the most fun writing?

Chapter 19, the scene with Randy. I didn’t like writing the situation so much, but the end result I had quite a bit of pleasure writing. Something in most books that aggrivates me is the vilan causes all this pain and suffering only to be shot dead to fall off a building. I wanted there to be some moments in the book where people said, “Yeah!”, that SOB deserved that!

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Brotherhood of the soldiers. Acceptance of the others whowere not originally part of the team. Retribution on those who chose to do evil, even though the apocalypse was on them. Just shows some people’s true character. I wanted to show that even though there lies no obligation to people, they stucktogetherand made a life as best they could.

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

I am working on the sequel to The Light Reapers, this one is “The Light Reapers: Fight for a New Beginning”. The book is about 80% complete as far as writing. Then comes the editing. I could have done much better on the editing of the first book, so I am hiring a professional to edit the second book.

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The Light Reapers are a Special Operations Unit who had served numerous campaigns together. They were an expertly trained and elite group, but could they ever prepare for what was to happen next.
Under a shroud of darkness and maliciousness, a viral weapon was being produced by an alliance of terrorists bent on the destruction of their respective enemies. When double-crossed by an ISIS faction, the viral weapon is stolen and prematurely unleashed on the planet.
Now facing a worldwide epidemic, The Light Reapers are deployed to rescue a scientist who may be able to develop an antidote. If that wasn’t difficult enough, they also must track down the ISIS faction and eliminate them. All while battling hordes of the infected.

The Light Reapers

The Light Reapers: End of the World by [Gary Hickman]

Media about zombies always seem to fall between two categories. You have the slow-and-somber kind like Max Brooks’ World War Z and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, and then you have the guts-and-gore kind like the video game Dead Rising and Stuart Gordon’s Eaten Alive

Before opening this book, I didn’t know which category Gary Hickman’s The Light Reapers: End of the World falls under. I didn’t even know this was a zombie novel at all. But by the time I closed it I was glad it was the latter. From page one, blood and viscera start flying out of the page, and it hardly ever stops to give you a chance to catch your breath. 

It tells the story of the titular Light Reapers, a special operations unit with members that will annihilate anything that steps in their way. Everything goes south when they infiltrate a terrorist lab where a mysterious bioweapon is being created. Prior to the mission, they have little to no information about the lab or the weapon. The mission was supposed to be simple: “make it to the lab area, assess the situation, infiltrate the facility, secure the formula and any other intel, then exfil.” What they find is anything but. Now the virus is unleashed on the planet, driving the whole world into darkness and chaos. 

As crazy as the synopsis may sound, Hickman chose to ground the story in reality with references to real-world events. Still, that doesn’t make it any less imaginative and entertaining. The moments of extreme gore sometimes happen so suddenly with such detailed descriptions that they border on cartoonish. Still, like the obviously fake blood in early Romero films, that’s the beauty of it. The thought of the world’s population turning into a mindless undead horde is a tad depressing, so you got to have a ton of fun to balance it out. And by “fun,” I mean blowing-chunks-off-a-zombie’s-torso kind of fun. 

Now that you’re reading this review, it may be too late to say that the best way to experience The Light Reapers: End of the World is to go in blind. Walk in thinking you’re about to read a war novel, then come out with a new zombie book instead. But at the end of the day, it’s a bloody good time, and gorehounds will surely lap it up.

Pages: 303 | ASIN: B0945G5MMQ

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Legend of the Horizon Vengeance

Legend of the Horizon Vengeance (The Two Revolvers Saga Book 2) by [Dave Matthes]

Rancid Mahoney has received a letter–a letter from someone from his past. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to seek Rancid out. As life has continued following the apocalypse, Rancid has moved on and forgotten much about his life as a young boy. The letter, however, holds the key to a new adventure and a dangerous one at that. The letter requests he make his way to a place called The Throat and to do so as quickly as possible. There are now decisions to be made, and Rancid faces the possibility of a reunion he never expected.

Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, by Dave Matthes, is the second book in The Two Revolvers Saga and follows the apocalyptic life of Rancid Mahoney and the man who took him under his wing. Theirs is a unique if strained relationship. Boarding the Moonlady in order to take part in Frank Delmont’s plan isn’t exactly what Rancid had in mind, but he doesn’t exactly have too many directions to turn. His fate aboard the ship seems sealed–swabbing, scraping, and scouring. Frank seems determined to teach Rancid some survival skills he believes he may still be lacking after all these years apart.

Matthes’s work reads much like a western. Set in apocalyptic times, readers will appreciate the writing style, the absolutely vivid descriptions, and the fantastic exchanges between characters. Matthes does include some particularly graphic depictions of carnage. He paints quite the picture of a world seemingly set on destroying itself.

Rancid and Frank have a strange relationship. Their bickering throughout the story keeps readers on their toes. There exists a kind of electricity between the two, and as much as I wanted them to come to terms with their history and move on, I wanted this dynamic to continue. The two completely make this novel what it is. They possess the perfect mixture of qualities of protagonist and antagonist.

I highly recommend Legend of the Horizon Vengeance to any fans of action/adventure series. I was particularly drawn to the setting of Matthes’s story. I have not often seen post-apocalyptic tales set on the open sea. This one is expertly told, is driven by well-developed characters in a thoroughly engaging plot, and contains the ideal amount of humor combined with peril and suspense. It is the perfect addition to any fiction fan’s library.

Pages: 478 | ASIN: B097C9SJ81

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We Go On A Journey

Christopher St. John
Christopher St. John Author Interview

War Bunny follows a young bunny who’s banished from her warren and must face a dangerous post-apocalyptic world alone. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When my partner and I first started collecting rescue bunnies ten years ago, I knew nothing about rabbits. Like most people, I had been acculturated to think of rabbits as living plush toys: 24/7 snugglers created to be pets for tween girls.

I was surprised to discover how complex their lives were. How territorial they were. And how fierce.

We were bringing home rabbits one or two at a time from rescue organizations, and we gave them free run of the house. We did not know then that rabbits who don’t know each other may be highly suspicious on first meeting, and very protective of their perquisites.

We attempted to make them all one big happy family (called “bonding” in rabbit parlance) and were shocked to learn they had minds of their own.

The rabbits eventually organized themselves into two opposing gangs, each with its own leader. They competed for territory. They competed to control food, even though there was plenty for everyone. And they competed to monopolize the petting that came from the two amiable herb-dispensers and litter-box attendants who hovered over their world. Watching this, I was amazed at how “human” they were. 

Anastasia is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideas behind your character’s development?

Making any change in the world also means making changes in yourself. We go on a journey with Anastasia and she struggles to find her way out of the maze of beliefs she has been taught. The innermost kernel of herself is her guide. That is the thing that she will not give up. It’s her foundation in terms of judging what to do next.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Often the “truths” about the world are drummed into us at a very young age. In our own lives, we see enormous evils that we are taught cannot be changed because “they have always been this way.” Acquiescing is what the predators want you to do. If a rabbit can take on a world that assigns her the role of “victim,” so can you.

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

War Bunny is the first book in a series. The next book, Summerday, picks up right where War Bunny leaves off. I’m working on it now and it will be published in 2022.

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War Bunny: Book 1 in the War Bunny Chronicles by [Christopher St. John]

A young rabbit fights back against a world that assigns her the role of “victim.”

In a post-apocalyptic world where humans are extinct and animals thrive, rabbits believe their god, Yah, has decreed that they must be Glorified by a Blessed One. That means becoming a predator’s meal, accepting their fate in a surrender called the Giving.

But Anastasia, a brown yearling doe living in Bloody Thorn Warren, is different from the other rabbits. She starts asking pointed questions of the warren elders and gets exiled for it.

Without a warren, she’s enormously vulnerable, but she reaches out to others in desperate straits. Soon, she’s leading a group of outcasts in a ferocious battle for survival—and maybe even freedom. It’s a fast-paced story about friendship, honor, love, and coming of age.

A great adventure read for teens and adults! (Fantasy, 13+)

Summerday, Book 2 in the War Bunny Chronicles, will be published in 2022.

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War Bunny

War Bunny by [Christopher St. John]

War Bunny is a riveting post-apocalyptic tale with a wonderful twist that I thoroughly enjoyed. Humans have been consigned to history, and the land has returned to a lush world where sweet herbs grow by the side of rivers and the lives of animals provide the drama. In the world of the rabbits, the predators are the Blessed while a rabbit is doomed to live “only until it is needed” as a meal. They are taught to welcome dying as the natural order of things, and they’re held in such low esteem by the wolves and foxes who hunt them, that they call them “lunch meat”. Anastasia is a rabbit who cannot follow the rules, and she is cast out of her burrow for not conforming.  She also questions the rabbits’ preordained destiny as food for predators.

Author Christopher St. John has created a uniquely imaginative post-apocalyptic story while also providing some subtle but poignant commentary on society. The story is creative and droll at times which helps to break up what could have been an overly dark novel. One way he does so is through the clever use of character names. Regardless of their species, the characters all have names in a variety of styles, from the elegant Anastasia and Nicodemus to the goofy Love Bug and Bricabrac. With humor, he draws attention to his use of names when Bricabrac, the craftrat, introduces himself to a mouse called Death Rage. “O, that’s nice,” he says, without irony. “Very feminine.”

Besides this, the story paints a picture of a bunny world that is much more gory and violent than you might expect for rabbits. For example, where you might expect a warren to be called something like Cowslip, as in Watership Down, in War Bunny the home warren is called Bloody Thorn. The very name War Bunny sounds like a contradiction of terms and I love how that seeming contradiction is used throughout the book.

The ending was satisfying and I enjoyed the journey. War Bunny is a fantastic post-apocalyptic adventure novel that provides readers with an offbeat but ingenious story that will stay with them long after they’ve put the novel down.

Pages: 378 | ASIN: B096D18C15

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The Days of Myth

The Days of Myth (God Stones Book 3) by [Otto Schafer]

While still coming to terms with his destiny to lead the Keepers of Light back to Karelia, Garrett joins forces with his friends to rescue Breanne. Unfortunately, they face a perilous journey because the world is in utter chaos. Apep, an evil elf, has assembled the God stones to create an army he’ll take back to Karelia, and their power is messing with the earth. Not to mention that the elf is bent on killing Garrett, who has been prophesied to oppose his plan to seize the kingdom of Karelia.

In all of this, an unlikely third player rises in the form of earth’s trees. The God stones have given them consciousness and mobility. However, Apep’s plan to return to Karelia with his army and the God stones would condemn the trees to immobility again. The trees, angry at how man has treated them for centuries, want to retain their newfound freedom in exchange for sparing humanity. Now Garrett and his friends must save Breanne, stop Apep from waging war on Karelia and return to earth with a magical item that will ensure trees keep walking or watch them wipe out humanity.

The Days of Myth by Otto Schafer is the third book in the God Stone series. Not to worry, though; this exciting blend of adventure, magic, camaraderie and fantasy tells a story that you can get into with without having read the past sequels.

Schafer returns with his brilliant writing chops. He creates a steaming brew of steady storytelling and suspenseful moments that will keep anyone engaged as the plot unfolds.

Striking a balance between the familiar and unfamiliar is so vital to excellent writing. With relatable analogies, Schafer brings his story home. Actions, scenes and objects are more vivid due to the author’s spot-on description. I also love how he throws in amusing elements of frivolity like having a deranged, power-hungry elf correcting the grammar of one of his henchmen.

Sometimes you get stripped down stories that turn out flat, and at other times you get tales brimming with too many details. Schafer finds the sweet spot between these extremes. His is an intricate story with details tied together expertly. So you don’t have to stop to scratch your head wondering who’s who or what the link between certain occurrences is.

The book ends with a tantalizing cliffhanger to top it all off. It’s a master class in how to end a novel if you’re planning to continue the story in a sequel. And I sure can’t wait for the next part of the series.

The Days of Myth is a solid epic fantasy novel for me. Think you’re up for some fast-paced, magic-laden adventure? Then grab a copy of Schafer’s gripping piece.

Pages: 370 | ASIN: B095W2LYMP

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Primeval Origins: Light of Honor

Primeval Origins: Light of Honor (Book #2 in the Primeval Origins Epic Saga) by [B.A. Vonsik]

Light of Honor begins when paleontology-archaeology grad student Nikki and her professor are aboard the Wind Runner, escaping from international organizations intent on hunting them down before they uncover more secrets from the past and future. It’s an action-packed beginning and does not waste any time dredging up the details of the past book. In the previous book, Nikki had explored the distant past by inhabiting the body of Rogaan, a teenager who was found in stasis in her archaeology dig. This time, she learns about a humanoid race called Evendiir and its connection with Rogaan. It’s a rush to disentangle the puzzles both these artefacts have created before Nikki gets hunted down.

This is a sweeping and dramatic story that just swoops you out of wherever your mind currently is and takes you to magical faraway lands. It is definitely an intense read that digs into the details, even going as far as giving us the make and style of the secondary character’s shirt. However, I think this is to be expected from an epic fantasy read that is building a fully realized world. It really allowed me to see, hear, feel, and experience new worlds, whether past or present.

I would say it is similar to the first book, Paths of Anguish, in terms of pace and suspense but the tone is darker. It has a deeper and more gritty atmosphere. There is an element of psychological thriller to it which really just made it all the more better. Watching Aren and Nikki struggle with their memories and piece together an increasingly complicated puzzle was an extremely satisfying process. Nikki and Rogaan definitely grew on me more in this book as they had to tackle some complex moral dilemmas that really allowed me to understand the way they ticked. It was incredibly easy to root for them after watching them struggle and be vulnerable.

I don’t think it’s necessary to read the first book in the series to enjoy this one but it would be a good idea to get familiarized with the vocabulary and dialect of the ancient world. There’s also some Easter egg-ish storylines that were continued or wrapped up from the first book. Light of Honor is a thrilling fantasy adventure read that knows where it’s going and takes the most entertaining path to get there.

Pages: 294 | ASIN: B0186PBOIC

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Andar

Andar by [Fulris]

Andar is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story, told from the point of view of a juvenile wolf, Kalamu, who is travelling a bleak landscape with his old parents in a desperate search for food and water.  This story reads as if intended for the young-adult market, but with frequent use of strong language I would recommend this adventure story for a more mature audience.

The sense of tension is well-drawn, with danger lurking behind every mound of earth.  There is no reprieve from the violence and the sense of impending doom, so there is little hope to be found in the barren moors the family is crossing.

The landscape, tone and plight of the wolves remind me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. While the writing overall is very good, there is an occasional odd phrase that could be cleaned up to keep the fantastic atmosphere intact.

The fight scenes are plentiful, but they are sensitively told with excellent description of injury and death without wallowing in the gore. The dialogue, too, is skillfully written and an important element in characterizing the fearful young wolf, his protective mother and distant father. While I reveled in the engaging dialogue it was sometimes hard for me to tell who was speaking.

The tension in the story is high and the suspense is drawn-out in this coming-of-age story but I would have liked to have seen Kalamu grow a bit more. However, he does seem to find some hope at last, although at the highest of costs. Andar is a riveting fantasy adventure novel with excellent atmosphere, dramatic tension and sensitive characterization.

Pages: 87 | ASIN: B08W8QFQ78

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