Book Review: Death Warmed Over

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Death Warmed Over (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI Book 1) by Kevin J. Anderson

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Ever since the Big Uneasy unleashed vampires, werewolves, and other undead denizens on the world, it’s been hell being a detective—especially for zombie PI Dan Chambeaux. Taking on the creepiest of cases in the Unnatural Quarter with a human lawyer for a partner and a ghost for a girlfriend, Chambeaux redefines “dead on arrival.” But just because he was murdered doesn’t mean he’d leave his clients in the lurch. Besides, zombies are so good at lurching.

Now he’s back from the dead and back in business—with a caseload that’s downright unnatural. A resurrected mummy is suing the museum that put him on display. Two witches, victims of a curse gone terribly wrong, seek restitution from a publisher for not using “spell check” on its magical tomes. And he’s got to figure out a very personal question: who killed him?

For Dan Chambeaux, it’s all in a day’s work. (Still, does everybody have to call him “Shamble”?) Funny, fresh, and irresistible, this cadaverous caper puts the PI in RIP … with a vengeance.

 

MY REVIEW

A typical urban fantasy detective – the twist on this one is the PI is a Zombie and one of his cases is investigating his own death.

What I loved about the story: This PI doesn’t work just one case, but a dozen cases at a time. He isn’t a down-and-out Noir PI trying to climb into or out of a bottle. He just happens to have been killed recently. Other than that, he has a good set of friends, a solid job, and a smart girlfriend. Unlife promises to be as good as living had been.

With the dozen or so cases, Mr. Anderson doesn’t need to create false trails and red herrings. There is so much going on, of course Dan Chambeaux has a time uncovering the big bad’s case since he also has to work on all the other cases which pay the bills. I think this particular aspect of the story is more real than most detective stories I have read.

What I didn’t like about the story: Several times the author repeats information from the chapter before. About 1/6th of the book is repeats. Now in order to do the investigation, the PI does have to review the evidence to see if he is missing anything. Sometimes going over the information with friends lets him see the problem from a different perspective. If I was editing the book, I would recommend cutting about half of the repeats.

The chapter endings usually complete a mini-story within one of the PI’s cases, which makes picking up and putting down the book easy. If you read about 2 to 3 chapters at a time during a commute or between errands, the repeats may not bother you at all. I tend to swallow books whole – in this case I bought and finished the book the same day.

Overall a good story and solid start to a new series. Also works fine as a stand-alone.

Book Review: Ice Forged

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Below is my the second Apocalypse Fantasy novel book review this year. (Click here to see the other: Shattering the Ley). I guess the end-of-the-world no longer applies to just the Young Adult (YA) sci-fi and horror genres.

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

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Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, as the world’s magic runs wild, McFadden and the people of Velant must fight to survive and decide their fate …

From Gail Z. Martin, author of the beloved series THE CHRONICLES OF THE NECROMANCER and THE FALLEN KINGS CYCLE, comes a new fantasy adventure for the ages.
Welcome to the end of the world.
Welcome to the beginning of THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA.

MY REVIEW

Brought during a Kindle sale to kickstart the advance copies of Gail Martin’s next book of the series.

I normally don’t buy High Fantasy, disliking the formulaic approach of the quest – gather the friends – travel the lands – etc. Somehow an author writing High Fantasy never quite makes the world or situation real to me, but the world-building aspects of a magical planet suddenly have magic no longer working the way it should intrigued me. I’ve met Ms. Martin at conventions and the price was right so I decided to go for it.

The first book of The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga focuses on the death of magic and the immediate consequence following. The magic system is just unique enough and is tied to why magic can go from tame and usable in every day life (better tasting beer, a tweak to keep pests out of crops, major magic to use in wars) to a feral, dangerous force roaming the countryside, more ferocious and hungry than any monster.

I liked the Siberian-style prison colony, but wished the continental magic countries and their politics were a little less generic. The world-building fell just a breath below the intriguing I was hoping for. On the other hand, this was the first book of a series. The author needed to define the world, the characters AND the situation. I look forward to book two to see if world becomes uniquely its own as the medieval magical apocalypse continues.

As for the story itself, again just shy of being really good. It just didn’t pull me in all the way, but then I am not a fan of High Fantasy so I am not the best judge success or failure in this genre. Some bits are repetitive, but just enough so that if you need to put down this 600-page tome for a day or two (such as for going to work), you can slip into the story again without flipping back.

The ending is anti-climatic. Some other reviewers thought this was a down-point. I, for one, was happy not to see a big final battle that needed to get bigger and badder with each continuing book of the series. This book is about failure: moral good being punished for doing the right thing the wrong way, a good kingdom falling to a bad kingdom because it obeyed the rules of right, a prison at the end of the world overturned by its convicts – and the convicts discovering they still needed to do everything their keepers made them do, coming home in triumph and discovering there is no home left, and finding all the clues they need but still unable to pull things off. Of course the final scene will close in failure; but it sets up the possibility of success for the next book.

A book I look forward to.

Book Review: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

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Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

 

MY REVIEW

I laughed and laughed from preface where the author describes her reaction to producing a runaway best seller on punctuation to the final chapter describing how writing is changing from print to Internet medium leading to a flash on the Punctuation Murderer. Verily, I giggled, cackled, chortled, snickered, and tittered like a fiend: while she is not a disciple of the Oxford Comma, I will forgive her the heresy for the rest of her punctuation doctrine is sound.

You should seek out and read this book. Discover how the words “best seller” can and should be bestowed on a grammar book.

If the mene “I like cooking my family and my pets. – Use commas, don’t be a psycho.” tickles your fancy, this is the book for you. 

Note: Uses British grammar rules, not American.

Book Review: Old Nathan

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Old Nathan by David Drake

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FIFTH YEARS AFTER THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, MAGIC IS LOOSE IN THE BACKWOODS

The forces of evil are poised to prey on the folk of the hamlets and hollows: witches, demons, and red-handed men—but first they’ll have to overcome Old Nathan the Wizard.

He doesn’t claim much for his magical powers, but they’re real enough for what they are—and besides, he hasn’t forgotten how to use his long flintlock rifle ….

Enter the gritty, realistic world of Old Nathan, a backwoodsman who talks to animals and says he’ll face The Devil himself-and who in the end will have to face The Devil in very fact.

 

MY REVIEW

Old Nathan by David Drake is a collection of stories about a cunning (witchy) man located in the Carolinas about fifty years after the revolutionary war strung together in a novel-type package but easily read separately. Old Nathan is the person a body goes to when you’ve dun run out of all other options. His price is high. Mostly swallowing yer pride but he do speak to animals and does strange things, and maybe in league with the Devil.

The writing is in the dialect language of the space-time. The stories themselves are getting long-in-the-tooth; not enough for a modern high-speed cellphone addict to identify with. A different time and place, slower and more magic. Back with the things in the woods didn’t take selfies with intruders, they ate ’em.

I enjoyed the magic not being wiz-bang wizard robes and lightning bolts. Farseeing was done with wellwater; ghosts were dealt with by feeding them ashcakes cooked in the hearth. Old Nathan is creepy powerful in that he not only does the minor hedge magic, but goes beyond, into the shadow realms opened at twilight, into places which bend the mind and create madness. 

He is old enough and lived through the war that death holds little fear over him. He is too slow and tired to run far from things people in their right minds should run from. And so the things in the night become curious since he isn’t running or scared, and in their curiosity the teethy things become vulnerable. Not greatly vulnerable – they still be hungry, with great claws and teeth, but sometimes the second pause of “what is this different thing” gives Old Nathan the moment he needs to live. It worked for him so far, but in each story the question is “is this time when the beast will be faster then cunning?”

I wrote the review after the third story but have finished the rest. Again, the stories may not be enjoyed very much longer just because living in one-room houses, drawing from wells, and needing horses to get to your nearest neighbor are becoming things of ancient history. 

Is the cunning man always cunning enough, or does he need to run from the danger in some of the stories? Well that would be tellin’. 

If this your cup of tea, you should read it. – The book is offered for free on Kindle, so take the chance.

Book Review: I, Zombie

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* Someone is Murdering the Dead. *

I, Zombie by Doris Piserchia under the pen name of Curtis Shelby

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When the girl from the asylum drowned in the lake that night, she thought it was the end of her life, but she was wrong.

With robots at fifty thousand dollars a unit, it was far more economical to use corpse labour – all it took was a two-thousand dollar animating pack in the brain, and a zombie worker, under the direction of a helmeted controller, could do just about anything except think.

Or so everyone said. But in the zombie dorms at night, with only the walking dead for roommates, things were not as they should have been. The girl from the asylum seemed to have more mental ability, not less, and someone was trying to kill her. Kill a dead girl?

Maybe there was more to heaven than an afterlife of manual labour in the company of a bunch of stiffs!

 

MY REVIEW

One of my favorite books of all time, I don’t know how many times I have read it. Picked it up back when it was first released in 1982 at an airport to keep from getting bored on a plane. (now available on kindle – yeah! … because my original paperback is Beat Up(tm).)

Interesting psychological study. Pretty cool worldbuilding with the Frogs and the Zombies (deceased humans with brain packs to work them). Actually excellent worldbuilding, the layers to the Zombies and the world trying to translate that over to the mentally disturbed. Layers upon layers with the brain pack technology and the Frog culture.

Then the action adventure with fights in front of a furnace and problem-solving mysteries with someone murdering the dead and the ice world melting, keeps everything moving at a fast pace.

This book is one of my happy places.

NOTE: Curt Selby is the pen name of Doris Piserchia, so “Curt Shelby” appears on the cover but you will now find the book under Doris Pierchia’s real name for the kindle.