Book Review – The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer (2018) Flame Tree Press

In all honesty, when I saw the cover, “Ugh, I’m going to have to slog through Science-fiction”, I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this book. But, being as when I received the ARC from Flame Tree Press and said I’d write up a review for my blog, I felt an obligation and I try and keep my word no matter how difficult it may be. Turns out, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be at all.

Car-En is on a mission, an exploratory mission to Earth in the 28th century. She, and others like her, have explicit order not to intervene with what now passes as intelligent life on the planet. Of course, how dull a story would it be if Car-En followed directions? She soon finds herself involved with the inhabitants of the small village of Happdal who are suffering from what appears to be radiation poisoning as well as the threat of invasion from another nearby settlement. Car-En just can’t resist the urge to help them in some small way. That small way is going to land Car-En into a heap of life-threatening trouble.

Moyer has created an incredible and detailed vision of Earth’s future that I found original and refreshing. He also kept the technical aspect of traditional Science-fiction down to a manageable and easy-to-understand level, Science-fiction for Dummies, in a way. That’s a wonderful thing in my book as that’s my biggest problem with the genre. I have a very hard time picturing future technology. The majority of the story is told from Car-En’s perspective and as she’s on Earth where all our modern gadgetry and beyond is a thing of the very distant past, it really helped me get into and understand what was going on. It was all very much like a Fantasy novel in that respect.

The residents of Happdal are of Nordic descent, adding a very mythical and down-to-earth element to the plot and characters. It makes you feel as if you’re in the ancient past and distant future all at the same time. They were well-rounded and realistic and I instantly cared about what was happening in the village and with its residence. Car-En’s curiosity became my own as she watched from various hiding places. It helped a great deal that the lead here was female, too. It made her much more relatable to me.

All in all, The Sky Woman is a great and very satisfying read no matter if you’re into Science-fiction or not.

4 out of 5 Ravens

The Raven Scale
1 Raven:  Ew. Yuck. Don’t Eat That.
2 Ravens: Bread Crumbs, A Bit Dry & Flavorless, But It’ll Keep Us Alive.
3 Ravens: Peanuts, Popcorn, And Cat Kibble! Nom-nom.
4 Ravens: Pizza Place Dumpster After Lunch! Hell, yeah!
5 Ravens: Holy Shit! Fresh Road Kill, Dudes!

Book Review – Rise of the Forgotten by Jason J. Nugent

The brothers, Eron and Timo (Nagi) are reunited only to be torn apart in the earliest stages of war. Eron desperately searches for his lost love, Mina while Nagi is going nearly mad looking for his wife and children. All while being hunted down by the evil ADF. Other members of Eron and Timo’s family emerge from the mayhem in the most unexpected of ways.
Having read the first book of this series, I was eager to dive into the second. I’m happy to report I found it even more delightful and engaging. Jason has rounded out his main characters very nicely in this book, giving them much more depth.
Rise of the Forgotten is a fast-paced read full of hope and despair, love, hate, suspense, death and some very unexpected twists. It’s probably the best work I’ve read by Jason so far. I am so looking forward to reading the third book in this series!

Four out of Five Ravens. 

Author Interview – Jon Frankel

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to reach out to more of my fellow authors and stop being such a hermit, I will be presenting you with a monthly author interview. The majority are of the horror genre, but I’ll slip in at least one YA and one Sci-Fi author just to mix it up a little bit.

For the month of February, I bring you an interview with Science Fiction-Noir author and poet, Jon Frankel. I’ve known Jon for a number of years, but never made the time to get to know more about him as a writer until now. So, without any further delay, let’s get to it!

Pamela: Tell me a little bit about how you became interested in writing. Have you known since an early age or is this something new you’ve recently started to get involved in?

JonFrankelJon: I guess for as long as I can remember I’ve been a writer. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until my senior year of high school, when my poetry teacher, John Perlman, said I was a poet. But long before that I was writing stories and poems and planning novels that I never wrote. I collaborated on comic books, co-authored a play, stuff like that. I started as a poet, but was also writing short stories that I hoped to turn into novels. When I was 28 I decided to write an experimental literary novel based on a story and utterly failed. I was reading Charles Willeford’s Pick Up, a hard boiled noir novel of the early 60s, and realized I could write one of those. I turned to another short story and banged out a 140 page near future noir. That became Specimen Tank, my first novel, after years of revision.

Pamela: I know you work in a library so you must be a fan of the reading as well as writing. Do you read the same sorts of things that you write about and who are some of your favorite authors?

Jon: My reading and writing are intimately related of course, but I read much different stuff than I write. I love nothing more than novels of the late 19th and early 20th century, especially from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I really read pretty indiscriminately though, lots of non-fiction, history and philosophy, and novels of all types and all periods, as well as poetry of course. A list of my favorite authors would be so long! Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Ellison, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Bohumil Hrabal, Jaroslav Hasek, Robert Musil, Charles Willeford, Elizabeth Hand, Raymond Chandler, Edmund Spenser, William Blake, William Shakespeare, China Mieville, Philip K. Dick, Marianne Hauser, DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Joseph Roth, Anna Kavan…..

Pamela: Like you, for a while I wrote under a pen-name. Why did you choose to use a pen-name in your earlier works and what made you decide to start using your real name instead?

Jon: My first book was a really violent, nihilistic near future noir. I guess I was embarrassed my family would see that all my talk about being a poet and writer had resulted in that. Sort of like if you were studying to compose symphonies and joined a thrash metal band. It was so long between the publication of my first book and my next (20 years!) that I had in the interim established a tiny, but searchable, online presence as Jon Frankel. It was a tough decision to retire Buzz Callaway, especially since GAHA: Babes of the Abyss, is a really violent, nihilistic far future noir. With literary stuff.

Pamela: Tell me a little bit more about your poetry. What inspires you and do your poems share a common theme or are they pretty much all over the place genre-wise depending your mood and the inspiration?

Jon: I think I’ve written the same poem over and over in some ways, but my methods have evolved a lot over the years. I used to write highly improvisational, stream of consciousness poems with strong rhythms and a lot of assonance, but no regular meter or rhyme. I read deeply and wide in the poetic tradition, and always have, but my work was very much New York School if not Beat. Language poetry and the various experimental, avant-garde schools of the 60s-the present really left me cold. I’m a romantic, if not a Romantic, at heart. A number of years ago, as I ran out of gas as a poet, I started to wonder why I didn’t write in meter and rhyme. Slowly I began to experiment with that (and I’m really not great at regular meter, rhyme I can manage) and found I was getting inspired to write, using methods opposite to those I was accustomed to. This essentially meant I could re-explore everything. Which is really exciting. I’m 56, and feel like I have a new sports car, the formal poem. I love to write short, cryptic, intricate rhymed pieces. I think my most basic concern is alchemical, sublimation and metamorphosis, and my methods are playful. The biggest pitfall for me is pompous, pretentious, glaring big statements. But I really hate timidity in poetry. No one reads it, so why not go for the big kahuna?

Pamela: I know you just had a new release back in September 2016. Tell us a little bit about “The Man Who Can’t Die”.  Can you give me the quick, elevator pitch for it?

MANcover Jon: The elevator pitch has always defeated me! Maybe if we were riding to the top of Sears Tower or something, with a stop for a second elevator of the 50th floor. MAN is a really complicated story, about a scientist who invents a drug that cures unhappiness, but kills 10% of everyone who takes it, and a man who wants more than anything to die, but can’t. It takes place 180 years in the future, and the world has been utterly transformed by global warming, and America is a corporate dictatorship. The characters are searching for freedom, but lack the vocabulary and concepts to articulate it. It has beautiful cars, fast women, ray guns, hovercraft and a sexual paradise. It’s a bulging valise of noir and sci fi romance. Sex, drugs and rock and roll as they say.

Pamela: Where can people find out more about you and keep up-to-date your writing?

Jon: I have a website, lastbender.com. My publisher, Whiskey Tit Press, also has a website. I’m on Facebook, too. My poetry is on lastbender.com, as well as essays, reviews and articles about cooking and food. One thing everyone notices in my fiction is the abundance of food, cooking and restaurants. On my website, the most searched thing I’ve written is on how to roast a wild boar ham!

Thank you, Jon. It was great getting to know more about you and your work as a novelist and poet.

Folks, if you want to learn even more about Jon, check out these websites.

Jon Frankel’s WEBSITE
Jon’s Publisher Whiskey Tit Press

Movie Review – 400 Days (2015)

Genre: Mystery/Sci-Fi. Directed by Matt Osterman. Starring Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman and Dane Cook

Normally I don’t go for Science Fiction, but while channel surfing the other night I chanced upon this gem and the notation that it was a psychological thriller as well as a mystery got my attention quick.

Four future astronauts are about to undergo 400 Days of testing to determine if they’ve got what it takes to endure a long voyage into space. They are locked into an underground replica of the space ship they hope to fly if they pass the tests. They’re told they will be subjected to various stressful simulations to gauge their reactions.

Everything seems to be going as planned until after what feels like an earthquake shudders their ship and they are suddenly cut off from mission control. They take it as just part of the simulation and continue with their duties as assigned. Slowly they each seem to be succumbing to the stress of their isolation from the outside world and are getting on each others nerves in such close quarters. Hallucinations start to take place. The power falters. Mission control will not, or cannot, answer. Has something gone terribly wrong or are they just being tested?

One night a half-naked and crazed man is found rummaging around in the ship’s kitchen. He is quickly subdued, but now they know something is definitely not right. Where did he come from? How did he get in? Before they can ask him any questions, the man escapes and is nowhere to be found on the ship. The final straw comes when the crew wakes up to a severe drop in the oxygen levels of their controlled environment. Life support systems have slowly been failing over the past months. They must decide.

Do they leave the ship and forfeit the simulated mission, thus surrendering a chance to be part of the real crew and flight into space or do they stay and hope the atmospheric conditions are all part of the test and all will be returned to normal soon.

They decide to suit up and head outside. Enough is enough. What they find is a world in darkness, dust, and ruin. And still, they don’t know if this too is part of the simulation or reality. What’s out there in the windy blackness that was once a grassy field and trees? Where did the intruder come from and where did he go? Are they still being watched or are they completely alone?

I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would, and I’m glad I saw that psychological thriller part of the description. I may have passed it by otherwise. There are almost no modern special effects. Instead the movie relies on a strong plot, lots of twists, very realistic human reactions to what’s going on, and a lot of mystery. The only part I didn’t like was the ending. No, no, sir. I don’t like endings like that at all!

4 out of 5 Ravens.

 

 

On The Recent Passing of Author Tanith Lee

“Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.” Tanith Lee, 19 Sept. 1947-24 May 2015

Tanith Lee died the other day at the age of 67. Most people I know have never even heard of her, let alone read any of her books or short stories. From what I’ve heard, she was struggling with getting any of her new work published. Hers was an unusual genre and style. Sometimes it was very difficult to read and understand where she was going or where exactly she’d just taken you, but at the same time it was always fun and thought-provoking.

My first exposure to Tanith Lee was a series of short stories called, “Red As Blood, Or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer” back in 1983. It contained some amazing twisted fairy tales that I immediately fell madly in love with. From there I went on to read “Sometimes, After Sunset”, before moving on to “Night’s Sorceries” which was the fifth and final book in her Flat Earth series. Only last year I read the Paradyse series for the first time. With 90 novels and over 300 short stories to her name, I am woefully behind. I fully intend to get to work on correcting that situation.

Her writing has a sort of ‘Modern Art in Literature’ feel to it. You have to stand there and look at it for a while. In just the right light it makes all the sense in the world, but when the sun shifts just a little, you may find yourself lost in another realm, twisted around backwards walking through an upside down haunted forest only to step a few more paces to find your place again and wondering what the hell just happened. It felt weird, but in a good way. I loved that about her. I loved the uniqueness. I loved her voice and her style even if I didn’t always quite get it. Most of the time I was right there with her, wrapped in the images and sounds. She was one of the few who could actually make me see the things in my head she was describing no matter how obtuse.

No one else ever made me ‘see’ science fiction the way Tanith Lee did. It’s no secret that Sci-Fi is NOT my genre of choice for that reason. Visualizing future technology has never come easy to me. Tanith could do it though and she seemed to do it so easily. I’m not sure why, but it worked for me. Perhaps it was just something in the female psyche we shared.

In that regard, she inspired me to write in such a way as to have my readers do more than just see the people and places of my own works. Many have complimented me on that ability and told me, “It was like I was right there while I was reading!” I have Tanith to thank for that, for making me so much more aware of including not just what is visually in a space, but what is there in the other senses. What does the air smell and taste like? What sounds are steady or just passing through? How does that glass of milk feel in the characters hand?

Something that very, very few people know is that Tanith also inspired me on a more spiritual basis. Not so much the actual beliefs, as I have NO idea what sort of spirituality she practiced, but with her name. Tanith. Tanith is likely derived from the goddess Tanit who was worshipped in what is now known as Tunisia. She was the equivalent of the Goddess Astarte, and later worshipped in Roman Carthage in her Romanized form as Juno Caelestis.

I was really getting interested in Paganism around the same time I discovered Tanith Lee’s work. One of the first things many people do is to adopt what is called a “Craft name”. It’s the name you are known by during ceremonies, a name of your choosing, a name you use to keep your mundane identity a secret. The name Tanith fascinated me. It was unique and magical sounding all on its own. But at the same time I didn’t want to copy it completely so I combined it with my Totem animal, the Raven. Using the first three letters of Tanith and the last three letters of Raven reversed, my Craft name became Tannev. Before now, I don’t think more than a handful of people have ever known how that name was created.

Even though I no longer consider myself a pagan, I still hold that name Sacred, as part of who I was, the things I learned during those ten or so years and how those teachings lead me to where and who I am today.

Tanith inspired me to write my own twisted fairy tales. She inspired me to write with all my senses. She inspired me to believe and be part of the magical realm. She made it okay to write weird things that maybe only I would ever really understand. My heart goes out to her family and friends during this sad time.

R.I.P. Tanith, you were a wonderful and will ever be an inspiration to me.