Remember To Recycle explores a twisted state of dystopian society run rampant with political tension and censorship, as experienced through the eyes of a sordid slew of characters, each crafted to be as unique as they are controversial. Author Tantra Bensko unapologetically invites readers into the thick and gritty atmosphere of this nefarious nation on the brink of war. As seedy government organizations work through mass media to manipulate the opinions of the general public, three oddball outcasts must struggle to uncover their own personal truths, regardless of how dark and uncomfortable that truth may be.
There is an oddity and nuance to the style in which Bensko develops the story, weaving the intricate and disharmonious lives of the ragtag crew together. The characters are so individually strange, perplexing me at times to debate whose personal version of the truth I should put my stock into. What they lack in relatability, they more than make up for in personality. For instance, there is little for me to relate to in a neurotic homeless man suffering from a multiple personality disorder, but nevertheless, I found myself rushing to reach his chapters, drinking in the off-the-cuff humor and casual profanity of his perspective. Each character in the disjointed trio is unique and realized to the point of feeling authentic, boasting a well-rounded checklist of endearing qualities as well as anxieties and vices – certainly enough to make you love or hate them, respectively.
Although the modern literature lover in me appreciates the quirky and informal tone of Bensko’s writing, I do have to admit that I struggled a bit with the sporadic pace. The narrative voices are wildly different between each character, and on occasion, the sudden shift felt so abrupt that it confused me for just a moment. Bensko lovingly lingers in the details of certain interactions for quite some time, while briskly splicing other important moments into the middle of a quick paragraph. The revolving narrative among the trio is certainly a testament to Bensko’s strength in voices, but it didn’t make for the quickest read. Still a charming one though!
I felt a bit sheepish upon realizing that Remember to Recycle is actually the second installment in the Agents of the Nevermind series. Whoops! I suppose that’s always one tell of a good book though – if it can stand alone within a larger collection. Without knowing any of the events from the previous title, readers are still able to quickly grasp the tone and plot of this work, even within the steep setting of an economic fallout. Benkso poured such a generous amount of attention into the thoughts and motives of the characters, which served well to support this work standing on its own.
Overall, this was an undeniably interesting read, although the density of the political theme felt a bit heavy to me at times. I’d recommend it to readers with interests in the dystopian and psychological horror tropes, that also have an appreciation for quirky writing styles.
Pages: 285 | ASIN: B06XY4CF1S
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It all starts with a dead cat. Thomas Beckon is a father of two daughters, a husband to a kind, happy woman named Pat, an IT Manager, and a seemingly nice man who many fondly refer to as “Tommy.” His life changes when his daughter’s cat dies, and he realizes that the dead cat’s soul temporarily inhabits the body of another cat in the house. It’s always been his belief that even the smallest creatures have souls, so this discovery intrigues him more than it surprises him. His curiosity leads him to attempt a soul transfer of his own, taking over the body of the remaining cat. After much struggle, he’s successful.
This early success gives him the confidence to move on to humans. He comes to believe that he’s trained his entire life, through his interactions with his co-workers and his ability to understand them, to take on the role of Inlooker. An Inlooker is an immortal supernatural being which has the power to take over the souls of others. Beckon works to enhance these powers, not just reading souls and manipulating his own, but taking control of other people, body and soul.
He starts out using this power for what he believes is “good,” but even his idea of good is twisted around his own self-interests. He moves from doing “good” to purposely doing evil. As Beckon explores his abilities and learns the extent of his power, he will face many enemies, the strongest one of all, himself and his baser instincts. When the future of the world and humanity hangs in the balance, the question for him becomes: can he overcome his greed and hunger for power and chose to utilize his superpowers for the greater good?
Set mostly in England and written by a British author, The Inlooker has a distinctly English voice with a dry sense of humor readers often find in British mystery novels. I enjoyed the voice most of all. It’s humorous, dark, clear, and ironic. At first, I didn’t like the narrator’s intrusions into the story, but I soon grew used to them and enjoyed the quirky voice very much.
The author, Terry Tumbler, is able to move around in time without confusing the reader and without making unnatural or abrupt scene changes. I like the way he reveals Thomas’ true nature slowly, first showing us how he became the Inlooker, and then backtracking to illustrate how he was kind of always an Inlooker, or at least an Inlooker-in-training. His skills didn’t just appear in an act of God type of moment; rather, they were always evolving, always building until the moment when he took over the cat.
This idea of latent powers is further explored when Thomas uses his powers selfishly and heartlessly. Early in the book, I was reminded of the quote by Sir John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” I at first believed that ultimate power corrupted Thomas, but as the story went on, I realized that self-centeredness and the lack of conscience he displayed always existed within him. Societal norms, familial pressures, and office etiquette had served to control his baser instincts, but once Thomas achieved absolute power, he no longer needed to work within those parameters, so he didn’t. In an ever-evolving world that grows more complicated with an alien invasion, Thomas must decide if dominating the world or saving the world is his ultimate destiny.
I like the format of the book, specifically the short chapters and the descriptive chapter titles. Both kept the story moving at a steady pace. My own personal preference would be for the book to end with Chapter 25 and to not include the Addendum and the five Reference chapters. Beckon does a splendid job in Chapter 25 of wrapping up all the major themes and storylines of the book in a satisfying, yet unexpected way. Readers who like to dive in deeper and learn all the ins and outs will likely enjoy the evolution of the story in the remaining sections.
Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00VVCVEZ6
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Cleansed by G.S. Scott follows the life and adventures of a young man named Dirge as his destiny is unwittingly grafted to a battle among a triumvirate of otherworldly gods. The fantasy tale, which has a refreshingly contained scope and brisk pace considering the current genre climate, begins with Dirge as a small boy who is loved, if a bit neglected, by his prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold mother. As street urchins are wont to do, Dirge quickly comes across his call to action in the form of a magical pendant that he finds during an early flight from danger, and thus sets the stage for later conflict. In a series of events that may be a bit on the nose for some readers and exactly right for others, Dirge loses his mother, becomes an orphan, and is immediately adopted into a patriarchal and heraldic order that provides discipline, training, and spiritual sustenance. By the end of the first act of the novel, Scott has positioned Dirge to be the prototypical young warrior – full of both shining promise and untested potential. What follows is a by the numbers rise-fall-redemption story seeing the fated hero forced to choose between serving the god of death or the god of law as they both combat the singularly evil force of Chaos.
Scott’s Cleansed offers enough quirk on top of the familiar that the snappy tempo makes the book a quick and exciting read. Unlike other writers that slog the reader over every continent, mountain range, and ocean, Scott understands that no one needs to see the entire globe to feel gravity. The book primarily takes place in one city, and most of the scenes actually occur in or around the same tavern. Admirably, Cleansed dedicates it’s pages to putting characters together and keeping the background where it should be.
While familiarity and the use of certain tropes are not automatically drawbacks (and how could they be when they are impossible to avoid entirely?), there are some legitimate issues to take up with Cleansed. For example, scenes often begin or end at the wrong moments in time, making them either unbalanced or extraneous. There are editorial issues such as misused homonyms or dropped words. And these small items can be overlooked, but what is less escapable is a badly managed point-of-view. The book can loosely be described as 3rd person “close” or 3rd person limited omniscience with respect to the lead character, Dirge. That is the construct that the text follows. Except when it doesn’t. At times it drifts into the first person of Dirge. At other points the 3rd person omniscience balloons to include other characters’ interior thoughts simultaneously. At other points still, the limited 3rd person will focus on a side character’s interiority and exclude Dirge, and this doesn’t occur in any meaningful serialization. It doesn’t happen all the time, which would be more acceptable, because then it might represent a gimmick with which the reader could build a stable, albeit annoyed, pattern or logic. The fact is, the POV slippage happens irregularly.
For some readers, point-of-view grievances are pedantic. For others, they are deal breakers. If you are the former, G.S. Scott’s Cleansed will provide you with a fun, fast read that is action packed and well worth the time.
Pages: 306 | ASIN: B01J92LAEO
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In Sir Princess Petra’s Mission, Petra’s father sends her on a mission where she is expected to fail so that she can stop having fantasies of adventure and become a proper lady. The book is beautifully written, did you set out to create a story rich in kindness and morality, or did that happen organically?
Before I began to write the story, I did tons of work creating the characters. When I felt the characters were fully rounded and as well-known to me as friends, I began to write their adventures. It was, also, important to me to have noble characters doing noble deeds. So, the story was written and developed with noble values in my mind, but the characters seemed to develop the story organically because of who they are.
Princess Petra is a strong young woman. What was the inspiration for the main character’s traits and dialogue?
I’ve always believe that gender was never an issue to accomplishing what one’s heart desires. Petra’s character was created out of that belief. Petra is a strong young lady, and I am sure those traits come out because of my upbringing with a strong mother figure who has, and still is, accomplishing great things in life whether those accomplishments are male or female orientated.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in Sir Princess Petra’s Mission?
Believing in oneself is the most important theme Petra instills throughout the series. Also, kindness, acceptance of others, standing up for what is right, bravery, and friendship were important themes to bring out in all the characters.
What will the next book in that series be about and when will it be published?
The characters haven’t told me yet what the next book is about yet. They have mentioned that they like the title Sir Princess Petra’s Quest. I’m hoping we’ll have created the 4th book for publication in later 2017. In the meantime, I have a new book, based on these characters, releasing in early 2017. The book is entitled The Dragon Grammar Book, and it’s an-easy-to-understand grammar book for middle grades through adults. The book is kind of quirky (well, if you think fantasy characters giving grammar lessons is quirky), and a fun and easy way to learn grammar.
Sir Princess Petra has already attained her knighthood in the Kingdom of Pen Pieyu and her non-princess-like talent certificate from Talent School, neither of which pleases her father and mother, the king and queen. The king writes up more silly rules in the royal rule book to deter Sir Princess Petra from her knightly ways and useless talent, and turn her into a real princess once and for all. Will the king finally succeed with this newly written, ridiculous mission for Petra?
Posted in Interviews
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Sally Roger, in her recent book Stage Door Comedies, provides a cheeky glimpse into the quirky characters surrounding theater life. The book is composed of several short stories revolving around people in the theater industry. Roger obviously has a lot of experience working behind the curtain and she gives us a feel for day to day life of the actors, writers, producers, and stage hands who are always trying to keep their careers moving forward – sometimes through very strange, and comical, means.
The book is based in England and Paris, with each providing a unique backdrop that flavors the stories with each local’s unique atmosphere. Characters wander through the West End of London and ring up the Globe Theater, or walk down Boulevard St Michel and get coffee at Montparnasse. But the stories are, in essence, character studies of a wide variety of entertaining people who are almost always trying to push forward obsessively in their careers. With the stories set in these world-renown metropolises known for their arts, we get the feeling that this is the way it really is. This isn’t some little town trying to put on a stage play – this is the weird process a Parisian must go through to find the perfect actor for the main role. In one of the first short stories, an over-the-hill director, tired of being used as a stepping stone by strangers looking to make it big, tries to figure out the meaning behind a bizarre waiter’s rantings – does he want something from the director or is he just crazy – as well as his long-ago connection to a middle-aged actress who has invited herself into his home. In a later story, trying to find an English-language company that will produce her play in Paris, an observant young woman visits the unusual office of a local production company, where American expats seemingly revel in the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris.
Roger shows us the underbelly of the theater industry – all the weird happenings and intricacies of the individuals who call the shots, as well as those who want to ride their coattails. And for this, I give Sally Roger’s Stage Door Comedies a 4 out of 5 stars. As a collection of short stories around a singular theme, it works rather well. She obviously has quite a bit of hands-on experience in theater and therefore she is able to take a biting look at those who work in the industry. However, there’s no real continuity among the different stories, and with some being only a few pages long – I felt like she could’ve gone deeper into the mind, the actions, or pasts of the characters. With that aside though, her writing style is quite engaging and I found myself quickly starting the next story, enjoying the quirky characters and being able to peek into an industry and all its inhabitants that most of us only see from other side.
Pages: 108 | ASIN: B01CBR20WA
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