Friday, August 25, 2017

Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus by Ivan Ewert



I'll be the first to admit that I should read more horror. As part of the generation that grew up on A Nightmare on Elm Street  and Friday the 13th. I should love it, but I just don't read it that much. That may very well be about to change though and it's all because of Ivan Ewert's Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus.  Don't read this one right before bedtime kiddies!

Seriously, Ewert nailed the setting for this. The perfect horror setting is one that's close enough to the real world as to be indistinguishable on the surface, yet is terrifyingly different underneath. Ewert got that to perfection. The first book starts with what appears to be a normal Christmas Eve dinner. Unknown to Gordon Velander, our main character, it is anything but. It's not until after Gordon goes to Christmas Eve Mass that he finds out that there is something wrong. It's not until a few chapters later that he realizes what it is.

Which leads me to my next point. Ewert manages to get us totally immersed in his world without infodumping. That couldn't have been easy. We're given whatever information we need at the moment without having it all force fed to us quickly. Part of the reason this is possible is because Gordon begins the story unaware of what lies beyond and what part he plays in it. Part of it is just good writing. Admittedly, there is a lot of overlap between the two, but that's how I see it anyway.

The story is thoroughly entertaining, but I can't quite grow to love Gordon. He's sort of an anti-hero. (Minor spoilers ahead. Sorry, can't figure out a way to avoid them) The people Gordon is fighting against are cannibals, although they would be disgusted to hear someone call them that. They use torture and kidnapping to get what they want. In a way, you could argue that they poison Gordon to bring him to The Farm, which is the name and primary setting of book one. They're not nice people and it is very easy to root against them. Lord knows I did. I mean, we're talking about people who farm other human beings for food a la the Creepies in William W. Johnstones' The Ashes series.

The Gentleman Ghouls make a smart, crafty, tough opponent and I've always loved books with a strong enemy. Seriously, GI Joe was fun as a kid but no one wants to read about a dumbass enemy like Cobra Commander in their forties. Ewert has delivered in spades. The Ghouls know their stuff and use it to the best possible effect. Gordon's only real advantages tend to be his guts, his brains and to a certain extent the element of surprise. Gordon holds the initiative and can call the shots and they still almost beat him repeatedly. This isn't a Saturday morning cartoon. There is real suspense here.

Ewert's backstory for the Ghouls is awesome as well. The guy has done enough historical research to have picked a group that everyone knows existed but whose eventual outcome is unknown to history. This gives him a good way to root the group in the modern day United States while adding deep roots and not giving anyone a reason to be suspicious that there is anything untoward going on. This could not have been easy to do but he pulls it off with aplomb. I won't say who, but this is a historical group that I have often wondered about myself. They're just popular enough that people will get the reference. Granted, I'm a nerd with a history degree but this makes me happy.

Gordon on the other hand is not always such a nice guy himself. He consorts with demons. He tortures people. He does whatever is necessary to achieve his goals, uses whatever means he can find but there are some steps he takes that I don't necessarily approve of. I'm not saying this makes him a terrible person. Drastic times call for drastic measures and he's fighting against cannibals. I'm just saying he's a little more morally ambiguous than some other heroes I've read. In a way, that's almost a good thing. No one is perfect and Gordon certainly is not.

On the other hand, you would never mistake Gordon for a hardcore anti-hero in the mold of Thomas Covenant who is often wantonly cruel and has to be forced to save the world. Gordon has his good side as well. He fights hard to find and protect his mother. He tries to save his girlfriend and fails, but at least manages to show her that he respects her in the only way she would understand. even that was a little weird though. He's a complicated guy and I respect that about him.

The demons in the books have a very, well, demonic feel to them. The delight in death and destruction as well as the pleasures of the flesh. They do whatever they want and answer only to each other. They show no sense of responsibility whatsoever. I like these demons, by which I actually mean that I hate them.

Ewert has a gift for description. Some of the scenes in this book make my stomach turn. In and of itself that's no surprise in a horror setting but I've seldom seen it done so well. There is one scene in particular where a description of a  demon, emerging from someplace uhh... unique makes my skin crawl. This is a good thing though, because my skin NEEDED to crawl there. It's horror. I needs to make you uncomfortable and it needs to do it the right way. Ewert succeeded in that.

This is the part where I mention any drawbacks to the works but at the end of the day, I really couldn't find any. These things just work. The characters are believe. The plot movies. The setting is eerie. Gordon's motivations are believable as are those of his adversaries. Ewert has done a phenomenal job.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Cutlets

Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus
Ivan Ewert
Apocalypse Ink Productions, 2017

Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus is available for purchase at the link below:










Thursday, August 24, 2017

Guest Post by Ivan Ewert


(Editor's note: I promised this the day before the release of the book, which was at Gencon. That was last weekend. I thought it was this coming weekend. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Ewert, Sarah Craft (the publicist I've been dealing with) and Apocalypse Ink Productions for my tardiness. I'm such a turdface. My review will be up tomorrow. I have a few more pages to read yet and I can't wait to see what happens next.)

Whenever I talk to an author about hosting a guest post by them, I ask for a column about either: A.) Their current or most recent release, B.) Their writing process or C.) Some combination of both. Ivan Ewert, author of the Famished: Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus, sent me the following about his writing process. Thank you Mr Ewert! I enjoyed this one.

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My writing process has changed over the years that were consumed by Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls, but it’s changed for the better, which is nice. It’s also different for long-form, short stories, and poetry, but I’ll focus here on the long-form.
I start by writing up a review of intention, chapter-by-chapter, as if I were describing the action of each to a friend. Those typically take between 2-3 pages in Word and give me an idea of what’s generally needed for each of the chapters to move forward and make sense.
Generally speaking, I write in order, chapter to chapter. Sometimes a scene will pop into my head that’s far in advance, or hasn’t been planned out yet, so I type that up as quickly as possible and save it for later revision. For the most part, though, it’s 1-2-3-4. I find it much easier to keep track of motivation and causality that way.
At this point, I don’t worry much about descriptions. The world will come together later. With my stage background, I think of this stage as similar to table reads: the actors are going through their lines while the set, lighting and sound designers in my head listen and take notes. I’ll go over the broad strokes, of course – where the characters are going, is there a door or a chair, etc. – but I don’t bother with the model of car, color of door, material and style of chair.
These days, I send each chapter as it’s completed to a group of alpha readers after a brief proof-writing pass. These stalwart folks have the unenviable job of reviewing what’s happening in its roughest form and keeping me on track. I learned this lesson after completing Famished: The Commons, only to be told by everyone I knew that half the book needed to be tossed and re-written. Receiving chapter-by-chapter feedback serves as an early warning system.
Once complete, I let the work cool off for two weeks or so prior to printing the whole thing out. Reviewing in a different presentation gives me a way to physically interact with the work, writing notes or edits longhand rather than in comments on Word. That breaks up the sometimes monotonous and ethereal feeling of what we do on the screen.
After making those edits, I print off a second version and read it aloud to myself. That helps me adjust dialogue to sound more natural (or unnatural, depending on the character for whom I’m writing) and highlights any clich├ęs or awkward turns of phrase in the description.
The next go-round includes adding in layers of description and foreshadowing. By now I’ve got an idea of the feel of the overall work, which colors the descriptions. If the book is despairing, you’ll get low cloud cover and dim, flickering lightbulbs; if it’s confrontational, electrical storms and fireplaces, etc. That’s part of the reason I don’t worry about the descriptions earlier on – while I have an idea of the feel and theme of the book at the beginning, these often change and shift as the words are pouring out.
Additionally, now that I know the order in which things happen, I can go back to reference them. Do I need to highlight there’s a gun on the mantelpiece earlier? Has a character morphed into a turncoat who needs to give signs of unreliability in previous conversations? Does a car need to break down, so hints should be dropped?
When all of this is done and I feel more or less satisfied, the beta readers get the entire book. I generally ask them to mark the document up in Word with Track Changes activated. As those reports roll back in, I go through and immediately fix any typos or awkward phrases in my master file, and file the various thoughts and comments away in the back of my mind.
When ALL the readers have got back to me – or indicated their regrets that they won’t be able to return it in time – then I look for common threads in their comments. For example, in Famished: The Ranch, everyone agreed that the torture scenes needed to be more gruesome and lavishly described. I’d done a fine job technically, but they didn’t drive the horror home. After three rounds of revisions, everyone agreed that I’d made them deeply uncomfortable enough to consider them ‘done.’
Then it’s finally off to the editors. In general, I accept their revisions without complaint. They’re more experienced with what sells and what turns people off, so unless I strongly disagree I go with the flow of their requests. When I’ve returned the manuscript, it’s just a waiting game until the work is published.
At that point, I reward myself. Since writing isn’t my primary stream of income and doesn’t pay the bills, I use any proceeds to reward myself upon publication. Generally speaking this means a good bottle of Scotch, a shipment of Baby’s Coffee, or a new piece of consumer electronics, although when my paycheck coincides with some disaster in the world I’ll earmark some of it for additional donations.
Throughout the process I’ve generally got bandcamp.com or mynoise.net playing in the background. Music or ambient sound effects help keep my subconscious critic occupied with feel and atmosphere rather than the technical perfection of the work. When editing, though, it’s noises off all around, just me and the manuscript at a writing-desk.
That’s how the work gets done, snout to tail. It’s not an hour a day or a certain number of pages a week, but it does seem to do the job for me.

Famished: The Gentleman Ghouls Omnibus is available at the link below:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fire Breathers Wanted!

Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your...

Actually, to hell with that. Stop listening to me and make yourself heard for a change. Do you know what time it is?

It's time. It's time. It's Dragon Time!

Yup. Nominations for the Dragon Awards are due July 24th. That gives you less than a week to nominate your favorite new Science Fiction and Fantasy related products for the coolest awards ever. I mean seriously if ypu've read or played something that was Just... Too... SWEEEEET!!!! since the last nomination period ended, here's your chance to get it recognized.

Jimbo 3:16 says that all fans should be allowed to have their voices heard. Go ahead and cross the boss. Worldcon may have erected the Walls of Jericho to keep their geriatric main eventers in the spotlight, but this is your chance to give your favorite author a Money in the Bank match. Actually, it's not just your favorite author.

The Dragons are awards that are truly given by the fans. The Hugos make the same claim but they made a heel turn about twenty years ago and haven't been worth a damn since. It's hardly surprising given the fact that Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah are both too young to get into Worldcon to share their opinions. Seriously, even a midcard blogger like yours truly can vote. Speaking of which...

Do you know who can vote? Anyone who damn well pleases. Just follow this link and nominate one work in each category. Well, unless you want to skip a category. I didn't vote for Besy Board Game because I haven't playef any new SF/F board games in the past year. I did vote for Best Video Game (Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Legion). There are also categories for things like Best Comic Book, Best Movie and Best Mobile App. They don't solely recognize fiction and treat everyone else like a member of the Job Squad. It doesn't have to be One,Two, Three for life if you more than just writing.

Seriously,  the Dragon Awards are about what this blog is about. There are a lot if awards given in writing categories and that's awesome. There is a lot more to Science Fiction and Fantasy than what a bunch of blue hairs and their traveling convention will recognize. There is a lot more to Science Fiction and Fantasy than what a bunch of blue hairs and their traveling convention will recognize. This is an award that recognizes all of the areas that the other cons should.

I want to make this point too. It's something Declan Finn offered me a chance to explain when I appeared on his podcast, The Catholic Geek, but I let the chance pass. What should have been a snap suplex turned into a missed spot. (Cue ECW fans.) Things like this are the key to introducing the next generation of fans to the classics of SF/F.

If you want to tell a kid about Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake you do it while he is watching John Cena. If you want to tell kids about Larry Niven's Ringworld is while they're playing, watching or reading Halo.

So it's time to lay The Smackdown on that old garbage and put your favorite works over. Last year's winners are going to drop the strap. Nominate your favorite works to pick it up.Everyone wants to see their favorite win a title, right?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Life's Lessons as Learned From a Bag of Pretzels

(Yes,  this is an SF/F blog.  No this is not SF/F related.  I actually have five minutes to sit and write however,  and [cue music] It's my bloggie and I'll post if I want to. You would post too if it happened to you.)

A weird thing happened today.  See,  I'm moving in today and as I was finalizing packing I came across an old bag of pretzels.  This shouldn't have been surprising. I'm a three hundred plus pound man and I love pretzels.  Actually,  I love to eat,  period.  That's just me.

The surprising part is that I couldn't remember when I had bought these pretzels.  I had known they were there,  but not for how long.  I hadn't had time to eat them even though they were in front of my computer and that's where I spend pretty much all my time when I'm at home. I just hadn't been in front of my computer for long enough to eat a pretzel in weeks.

I tried one before I threw them out.  They were stale and disgusting. I thought back and I'm pretty sure I bought those when I first went back to work at the end of April I think.  It's a little hazy.

See,  I work thirteen hour shifts and I ride the bus.  It's currently (before the move) about two and a half to three hours each way to work.  Most days I've been walking in from work and passing out face first in bed so that I could be up for work in three to five hours to either go back to work or go spend time with my kids. I've been so tired that I literally can't see straight sometimes.  (That's not jus an exaggeration this time. I walked into a wall because I missed the door once.)

The thing is,  I haven't been concerned by that at all.  I was raised to believe that, as an adult,  you just sucked it up and went to work.  Work was a responsibility and to be taken seriously.  You had to go so you went.  I remember my dad having an abscessed tooth once and walking around with his whole face swollen for like three or four days because he didn't want to take off of work to get it fixed. That's just how it was supposed to be.

What I'm finding out is that there needs to be more to life than work.  I haven't been able to do many reviews recently because I haven't been able to stay awake on the bus to read books.  I see my kids but I can't enjoy it because I'm too tired to process the experience. I don't even think about slowing down because I can't. I have obligations.

Not only that but I've lost weight. This should be a good thing.  I'm fat.  I need to lose weight.  The thing is I haven't been trying.  I've been losing weight because I don't have time to eat.  This sucks.

I guess my point is that I learned that I need to try taking care of myself.  Moving is going to help that because I will be cutting commute times down to about a quarter of what they currently are.  I should be able to get more sleep and maybe have some time to goof off starting tomorrow. I just wish I had learnedy lesson sooner

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thoughts on the Twenty Year Anniversary of Harry Potter

Long, long ago (circa 2002) in a galaxy far, far away (better known as Clinton Township, Michigan) I received a book for Christmas. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. (Yeah. I'm an American. We're not smart enough to know what a Philosopher's Stone is.) It was a book I had sworn to never read. I mean, it was kid stuff, right? What adult was going to read it? There was only one problem: i was dating my ex-wife at the time and she loved it. She wanted me to read it so she gave it to me. I wasn't working at the time so I couldn't tell her I was too busy, so I read it.

I loved it. I had stayed over at her place one night and started reading it the next day while she was at work. By the time she got home that night I was halfway through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I was hooked. It was that good. At the time, only books one through four were out. I read them all in a matter of days. I saw the first movie at the second run movie theater that only charged a dollar fifty that weekend. I saw the second movie a week later and paid full price. I attended the release parties for the next three novels sans children. I got a few weird looks but I got all three books on release night so it was worth it.

I have since read every HP book at least twice and watched the movies with my kids more time than I would care to count.  I'm actually pretty upset with myself that I didn't read these sooner. When I split with the ex one of the things I made sure to take were the HP books. I could live without that woman but I needed those books.  Yeah,  they're that good.

I've heard a lot of literati types hate on the Harry Potter series. Apparently the fact that the books are popular means that they're not true literature. You know what? Fuck that attitude. I mean that.

Rowling's works have popularized an entire genre of fiction. Before Harry Potter,  Young Adult fiction was a joke.  Now it's one of the fastest growing areas in all of publishing and every YA author that gets published owes a debt to Mrs.  Rowling.  She wrote the works that opened the way.

J.K. Rowling is literally the mist influential English language author of the last century. Only Tolkien comes close and for the same reason.  Tolkien revitalized the fantasy genre. What separates Rowling from Tolkien is that Rowling popularized a genre that had never been big where Tolkien brought back an old genre.

She did it not by kissing liberal ass with message fiction but by telling an awesome story with awesome characters. Rowling's characters are quirky and strange but they are believable in their actions and motivations. The conflicts escalate continuously. Every time Harry and friends win their enemy gets tougher. It's not till the end of the final book that a final victory occurs.

Let's talk about some compelling characters:

Harry Potter: He's an orphan. He's been, at the very least, mentally and emotionally abused by the Dursleys. He has to feel at least partially responsible fir the deaths of his parents, who lost their lives defending him but he never gives up. Harry fights against a force that is bigger than him. No one would be able to blame him if he decided to pack it in and go home but he doesn't.

Looked at another way, he is the chosen one. He could easily let that go to his head and turn in to an arrogant snob but he doesn't. He's smart enough to know he needs help and brave enough to get the job done.

Hermione Granger: Raised by Muggles and starting off in a world like nothing she's ever seen before, Hermione thrives. Her amazing intellect and drive to excel push her toward greatness. Without Hermione, Harry fails. It's that simple. She even saves the day while petrified. But there's more to Hermione than just that.

Hermione is everything I teach my daughters to be. She is also a lot like my girlfriend. She is strong, proud, smart, tough and brave. I spend as much time rooting for Hermione as I do Harry. Plus she starts off the series as a nerd and that's something I can identify with. Oh and her drive to free the house elves amazes me. No one else even cared.

I'm intentionally omitting Ron as I see him as a cross between Samwise Gamgee and Carrot Top with a little bit of that fat kid from that one episode of Little House on the Prairie thrown in. He's a necessary character but not one of my favorites.

Speaking of Weasleys though, how about Molly? I love that Rowling cast her not just as the helpless housewife but as the mama bear. Molly is sweet as sugar until you endanger her family and then LOOK OUT. Her worst fear is something happening to her family as we see when she faces down a boggart. All this and she still manages to keep her whacky husband moving forward.

Even Tom Riddle, AKA Lord Voldemort, is a compelling character. He's a man who was mistreated as a child and now hates everybody like those who hurt him. He's mad for the power he needs to get back at them. No one likes this guy but his motivations make sense even if his methods are too extreme. He's sick and twisted yet we can see how he ended up that way. And despite all of that, Rowling makes us hate him enough that his death is a crowning achievement. I could go on for days.

It's also obvious to anyone that pays attention that Rowling has done her research. Almost all of the monsters come straight from mythology. The parallels between Nazi Germany and some of the actions taken by the Death Eaters are legion. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Triwizard Tournament was somehow inspired by the Labors of Hercules.

All of this adds up to one of the most amazing stories ever told. Rowling amazes me with what she managed to pack into those books. There are ups and downs. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. The books start off fairly laid back but by Deathly Hallows they're dark as all get out. No one and nothing is safe, even if we wish they were. It's a crazy world but it's entertaining. How entertaining you ask?

Rowling's books have sold hundred of millions of copies. She is considered to be the world's first billionaire author. All this because she created a story about a boy and his friends and refused to give up on it or herself. She submitted book one dozens of times before it was accepted and maybe that's
the biggest lesson of Harry Potter: The odds may be against you, but you should never give up. J.K. Rowling didn't. Harry Potter didn't. You shouldn't either and neither shall I.

Some Harry Potter related products are listed below:








Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leo Champion's Legion

Have you ever had a bad day? I'm talking about the kind of day where the best case scenario is that you've ruined your life for the next five years and the worst case scenario is that you end up dead or maimed? We're talking about the kind of day where you involuntarily leave behind the career you've spent years building because you got a little too drunk last night. Oh and, just to make it worse, you were promoted last night. I mean, I've had some bad days in my time but this might legitimately be the worst day in history. It's okay though. If Paul Mullins hadn't had the worst day ever then he wouldn't have joined the United States Foreign Legion and there would be no Legion by Leo Champion. That would make me sad because Legion is a really good book.

Our hero is Paul Mullins. After he somehow managed to get so drunk at his own promotion party that he ends up enlisting into the military without wanting to he struggles. His goal is initially to get out of a contract that he was tricked into signing by an unscrupulous recruiter. He eventually ends up just trying to keep himself and his buddies alive. At the beginning of the story he's not used to struggling. By the end it's all he knows.

I find myself liking Mullins. He's hardcore. He made a bad decision but he decides to roll with it. He does try to get out of his contract because he was tricked but he simultaneously pushes himself to be top in his class and survive. He works hard on missions that he never would have been on if he hadn't been tricked. Basically, Mullins finds himself in a situation where he would be perfectly justified in throwing a whiny bitch fit worthy of a Stephanie Meyers protagonist but he never does. I mean, if I ever accidentally joined a branch of the military and then found out my odds were what they are in the USFL I think I'd freak out. Mullins holds it together though.

Mullins matures a lot in other ways as well. At the beginning of the book he's some business guy with better things to do. By the end he has accepted responsibility for his entire unit and called in air and artillery strikes. He has been promoted to radio man, knowing and accepting the fact that his new assignment is even more dangerous than his old one. The only part he seems to worry about is that it'll get him shorten his hitch. He is promoted once and is being looked at for going further. He really seems to have it all put together by the end of Legion and I respect that,

The titular Legion is more properly known as the United States Foreign Legion. It's based on the model of the French Foreign Legion, which recruits anyone but mainly gets convicts and foreigners. French convicts are offered a chance at redemption in exchange for their service. I like the concept. As a matter of fact, offering a convicted felon a choice between imprisonment or service used to be fairly common in the real world US. (True story. My grandfather got arrested for running shine and was offered a choice between prison and the military. He chose prison, but not everyone did.) It has since been ruled unconstitutional by a partisan court. I wouldn't mind seeing the practice brought back though and Champion posits a very realistic way that it could return.

The USFL lives up to its reputation as a bunch of trouble-making convicts as well. Whether they're stealing equipment from the Army or participating in a brawl that is several blocks long, they're always up to no good. They loot places as well. It's weird though because on one hand they're thieves and brawlers but on the other hand, these are the guys who take on the toughest assignments and succeed.

The relationships between the characters in the book are amazingly well done. Not everyone gets along, but that's life in any large organization. They all manage to pull together when it's their asses on the line though. It just works. The NCOs are mean when they have to be and helpful when they can be. The officers (and one lieutenant in particular) give orders knowing that it's going to get their men killed and then agonize about it afterward. And yes, there is the inevitable shirtbird but that happens in every unit too. I'm not sure if Champion has served or not but his unit reads as true to life as it gets.

His use of tactics makes sense as well. The Legion gets all the most dangerous assignments and is not the most well equipped branch of service but they do things in an intelligent manner. There is no lone wolfing. The soldiers work together toward the goal and they have each others backs. They use suppressing fire and grenades when it makes sense to. Kudos to Champion for being the one guy who writes members of the military as having enough brains to fight well. They call for artillery and air support at the right times. They accept help from wherever they can get it when it's their asses on the line. Everything about the way they fight makes sense.

Fans of diversity done right will love this book. Legion is a good story featuring characters of color. The minority characters are believable and they serve a purpose in the story. There is mention of suffering due to racism but it's not the focus of the book. There is no navel gazing here. This is a book with plenty of action to keep things moving that includes minority characters who do things for their own reasons and not necessarily to follow bullshit rules as lain down by Social Justice Bully assholes.

All in all, I really enjoyed Legion. I couldn't find any real problems with it either. There was no jarring moment that threw me out of the work. It didn't shy away from the world's problems but it didn't focus on them to detriment of everything else.  This thing just worked.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Signed Contracts

Legion
Leo Champion
Argilla Tabula Publishing, 2013

Legion is available for purchase at the following link:


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sarah Hoyt's Darkship Revenge


Have you ever sat in a cab at three in the morning with no fare in the back reading when you should have been taking a nap? Have you ever gotten home from a thirteen hour shift driving a cab knowing you only had five hours to sleep before you went back and did it all over again and sat starting at words on a cell phone screen anyway? If not I'm guessing that either:

A.) You've never read Darkship Revenge by Prometheus Award winner Sarah Hoyt.
B.) You don't drive a cab and work midnights.
or
C.) Both.

First the disclaimer: This is the third book in a series.  I think it would work pretty well as a stand-alone but I've read the first two.  The reader may want to start with Darkship Thieves and Darkship Renegades. Then again,  you don't really NEED to unless you're anal about reading a series in publication order like a certain blogger we all know and lone.  *COUGH*

The story centers around Athena Hera Sinistra, daughter of Goodman Sinistra, ruler of one of the seacities in Hoyt's future Earth. Athena is an interesting character, possibly in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse. She was raised to be a body donor for her father. He did what he had to do to attempt to control her. It didn't work very well. I wouldn't want to be the guy who tried to control Thena. I guess that makes me smarter than him. Then again, Daddy Dearest was gene-engineered to be smarter than the rest of us, sooo... yup. Smarter than anyone who would try to control this chick. She's a little out there. But what do I mean by a littler out there? Either she is;

1.) Totally off her rocker (I don't believe this but she seems to.)
2.) A little "off" (Totally possible)
3.) A sociopath who somehow manages to care about her family, if not anyone else (I'm thinking no, but some of Thena's thoughts about herself seem to tend in this direction)
4.) A hardcore pragmatist who  ignores humanistic concerns (This sort of works, but not really. She does act like her nuclear family and her in-laws. Also, her treatment of the boys in the story is both pragmatic and humanistic.)
or
5.) The only sane person left (This options scares the hell out of me. What she does works too well to be crazy, but if THIS is what sane looks like...)

Since Wonder Woman was my last review, let me say this as well: This is how you do an empowered female character. Thena is a take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred type who sees what needs to be done and does it. She won't take know for an answer and she survives things that would kill most people. Thena doesn't give up when she has a goal in mind, ever. She has the protective instinct in spades and she cannot be stopped when it comes to defending her own.

Thena has a child in the first few pages of the book and, while she doesn't think she will make a good mother, she actually does in her own fashion. I mean, I'm not sure that having an infant strapped to your chest during a firefight is all that great of an idea even if you can't find a babysitter but Thena manages to do it without getting either one of them killed so... It's all good... I guess? Right?

The supporting cast is also impressive.  Thena's husband Kit lives and breathes as much as if he were sitting next to you on the couch. The kids Thena and company end up saving come across as true to life as well.  I started out wanting to hate these kids but the time the story was over I wanted to adopt one.  (I'll admit that it didn't hurt that they had named themselves after famous fictional characters.  OK,  so maybe I'm a little testy about a story that includes a Christopher Robin but no Tigger but I'll get over it.)  Nat, Luce,  Simon all seem real. I could almost feel the stress these guys were going through myself.

The story itself has a relentless pace. I've heard it said that if an author feels their story becoming boring they should drop a mountain on their characters. Well, I'm guessing that Hoyt believes in pre-emptive strikes and that the Himalayas are missing a few peaks, because the hits keep coming and the action doesn't stop.

Part of why I like this story is because I love a good villain and Hoyt's Good Men are the type of person I can totally love to hate.  Anyone who would send down a plague to wipe out most of humanity in order to enslave the leftovers is worth killing.  What they do to the children in their care is quite frankly disgusting as well.  Hoyt has obviously taken great care in gifting us with people we can root against.  She's done a damn fine job. It's not often that an author can make me hate a group of characters badly enough to want to choke them all to death but Hoyt manages it with aplomb.

The technology in Darkship Revenge is either really cool or horrifying. Gene-engineered space plants that grow power pods that you can run a city with are sweet.  Characters fly around on anti-gravity powered brooms. Flying cars are everywhere. And of course,  the plio revolves around defeating a biological weapon that is devastating.

There is one facet of Darkship Revenge that drives me batshit insane.  Hoyt's characters shoot at each other with weapons called burners.  They're kind of a cross between a phaser pistol and a welding torch.  In and of itself that's okay.  The problem emerges with the unbelievable shooting skill her characters display under pressure.  I mean, the miracle head shots displayed in  The Walking Dead make me crazy but what these characters do with burners is at least an order of magnitude more difficult.  That being said,  it's called The Rule of Cool for a reason. All in all though,  this book kicked ass.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Brooms

Darkship Revenge
Sarah Hoyt
Baen,  2017

Darkship Revenge is available at the following link: