Tome of the Undergates: a book review


Adventurer. The term has long been synonymous with cutthroat, murderer, savage, zealot, and heathen. And Lenk, an errant young man with only a sword and a decidedly unpleasant voice in his head, counts all five among his best and only associates. Loathed by society and spurned by all merciful gods, he and his band are recruited for only the vilest of jobs.

Denaos, a lecherous thug; Asper, the cursed priestess; Dreadaeleon, the pubescent wizard; Gariath, the psychotic dragonman; and Kataria, the savage shict who farts in her sleep, have all followed Lenk out of necessity. But as their companionship increases, so too does their enmity for each other. Thrown together by necessity, motivated by their distrust for each other, it falls to Lenk to keep them from murdering each other long enough to allow something more horrible the pleasure of killing them.

When an esteemed clergyman hires them to track down a missing book stolen by a zealous foulness risen from the depths of the ocean, intent on using the tome to raise its abyssal matron from her hell-bound prison, Lenk finds his skills put to the test. Faced with titanic, fishlike beasts, psychotic purple warrior women, and the ferocity of an ocean that loathes him as much as his own people do, the greatest threat may yet be the company he keeps.

Full of razor-sharp wit and characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunge the reader into a vivid world of adventure, this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.

I first encountered this book after stumbling upon Sam Sykes’ Twitter page through a retweet of writerly wisdom. After perusing a bit, I discovered that the wisdom he could share was lost between bouts of animal photos and cruel but hilarious jabs at his friends. I came for the wisdom, stayed for the pigs. Continue reading

Dominant Race: a book review

Lilia is a genetically altered human – a modified – with special animal instincts and abilities. She is half wolf and half human under the microscope, and it shows in her territorial pack mentality.

When Lilia learns about a growing threat against all modified, she leaves home for the first time to join a militia that, like her and her family, survive in the fragmented remnants of the United States, the Old People country.

Their enemies?  The Eighth General of the Greater Cities and the ever-expanding devolved, degenerate modified that are mindless killers, blind instinct and rage in human form.  When a coup occurs in the First City, Lilia and the other defenders must choose: help reinstate a government in the business of killing their kind, or defend a radical modified in the business of killing everyone else?

Dominant Race is a novella by Elisa Nuckle, available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, with Apple to come. It’s only $2.99, and it’s a steal for something so enjoyable.

In a not-so-distant future, scientists and experiments have created a race of modified humans, those who have animal DNA mixed in with human. The main character, Lilia, is a wolf modified, living a sheltered life with her family in the ruins of North America. Although the strength of the animal DNA varies with each individual, Lilia’s wolflike characteristics are strong, and it shows in the way she behaves with others.

Throughout the course of the story, she has to learn the hardships of leaving home, discover a whole new world she never expected – and all the joys and difficulties that come with it – and doing what is right in the face of oppression and prejudice. It isn’t an easy path – when is it ever? – but the style of writing and the emotion evoked will leave you laughing, in tears, and desperately wanting more.

Dominant Race is dystopian science-fiction like nothing else; completely unique, with a cast of characters readers will fall in love with – and love to hate. I’m not just saying this because I’m friends with the author: Dominant Race is well worth the read, and since it’s only $2.99, how can you possibly go wrong?

The Gendarme: a book review

Now, it isn’t often I gush about books other than Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. However, for the past several months I was eyeing up a book at work: The Gendarme, by Mark T Mustian. I’m a history buff, and take a keen interest in tidbits of information unknown by most. An example of this, which ties into my interest in the Gendarme, was in my grade 11 social studies class. The teacher asked which of us had heard of the Holocaust; naturally, everyone raised their hands. He then asked which of us had heard of the Armenian Genocide. Just me? Okay. I also have a history of only reading books written in the past tense. I’m not sure why I was so biased, but there was something about the present tense that I couldn’t stand. Reading the Hunger Games changed my mind some, and I was ready to try it again.

What would you do if the love of your life, and all your memories, were lost—only to reappear, but with such shocking revelations that you wish you had never remembered…

A haunting, deeply moving novel-an old man comes face-to-face with his past and sets out to find the love of his life and beg her forgiveness.

To those around him, Emmet Conn is a ninety-two-year-old man on the verge of senility. But what becomes frighteningly clear to Emmet is that the sudden, realistic dreams he is having are memories of events he, and many others, have denied or purposely forgotten. The Gendarme is a unique love story that explores the power of memory-and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities and politics, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness, this is a transcendent novel.

Emmet Conn has been living a lie since the end of World War I – without even realizing it. A head injury wiped away much of his memory of his childhood and the war, and he was forced to rebuild after recovering in a British hospital. Emmet’s health is quickly deteriorating, beginning with a brain tumor, but what is most disturbing to him are the dreams of a deportation and genocide he didn’t even know existed. As the story progresses, Emmet learns more about his own mysterious past, as well as the history kept hidden and denied by Turks since the First World War.

What really struck me about the Gendarme is the style in which it is written. It is present tense, but I was able to overlook that because the descriptions were so vivid and flawless. The scenes written in the present, during Emmet’s health problems, are choppy and short, without too much detail. It puts you in Emmet’s head, and his distorted thoughts and confusion. On the other hand, the scenes written as dream sequences, or memories into the past, are clear and concise, with great detail and beautiful – and often disturbing – imagery. The reader experiences firsthand how horrific the deportations of the Armenians from Turkey really was, not just through the eyes of a Turkish soldier, but those of an Armenian deportee as well.

The end is so striking and heartfelt – and painfully heart-wrenching, as well. You’ll find yourself rooting for a senile old man, while knowing in the back of your mind how it will play out. I cried like a baby.

The Gendarme is disturbing and beautiful, and pinpoints a dark part of history that few really know about. I recommend it to anyone – whether you like history, love stories, or have a peculiar dislike for the present tense, or what have you – this book appeals to everyone.