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Website Relaunch!

If you’ve been following along with me here at WordPress, you may want to update your bookmarks ASAP!

I’ve moved over to Squarespace, however the domain name, http://michaelpatrickhicks.com, remains the same.

This will be the final blog entry here on WordPress, but I will continue reviewing books and posting updates on my new site. You can also follow my reviews at Goodreads, or keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully this will be a fairly seamless transition from one site to the next, and I hope you’ll follow along with me!

Website Relaunch!

Review: Everything Belongs To The Future by Laurie Penny

Review:

everything-belongs-to-the-future

For me, science fiction is at its best when it tells an allegorical story reflecting on issues of the present day, and this is what makes Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs To The Future such a strong work.

In 2098, scientists have created a Fountain of Youth in a little blue pill. This creates a gerotocracy that only further divides the haves from the have-nots, as the pill is marketed to the rich, and priced so only the wealthy have access. A small group of idealistic youths with aspirations of political revolution attempt to undermine this disparity and create a modified version of the drug, appropriately named a Time Bomb, to undermine the quest for longevity.

A writer on social justice, feminism, and gender issues, journalist Laurie Penny brings all of these topics to bear in her science fiction debut (Penny has written several non-fiction titles, including 2014’s Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies, and Revolution). Her vision of England at the turn of the next century is highly recognizable, but subtly shaded with the repercussions of present-day issues (certain segments of England, for instance, are underwater thanks to many of our Old White Man politicians ignoring climate change and its now-unstoppable effects on future generations). There’s plenty of justifiable anger simmering in this book’s plot, as well, and while the character’s motives are nicely gray their final solution is anything but.

Everything Belongs To The Future is richly political and frighteningly dark, but there’s also a certain honesty to it’s ‘what if’ nature that I appreciate. It’s better to have a bitter truth than a comforting lie, in my opinion, and this title certainly hits on several unsavory truths about mankind, ambition, and greed.

[I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy Everything Belongs To The Future At Amazon

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MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1481612/review-everything-belongs-to-the-future-by-laurie-penny

Review: Everything Belongs To The Future by Laurie Penny

Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review:

dispatcher

My original The Dispatcher audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

 

John Scalzi is an author that’s been in my to-read pile for a while, but I somehow have been unable to get around to reading his work. Thankfully, he and Audible teamed up to produceThe Dispatcher, an audiobook that runs a bit shy of two and a half hours, and which fit nicely into my daily commute.

Scalzi presents a world much like our own in The Dispatcher, with one crucial difference – people who are murdered or who die of unnatural causes automatically come back to life. Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher. His job is to intervene in a moment of crisis. Say somebody gets hit by a car or is about to die on the operating table. Tony’s job is to kill them in a humane fashion so they can come back to life and get another chance. There are loopholes, of course, because aren’t there always? And some of these loopholes are what drags Tony into a police investigation of another Dispatcher who has gone missing.

This premise of a world where murder is largely impossible is certainly an intriguing one, and it makes for a highly effective, attention-grabbing MacGuffin. While the mystical or theological elements undergirding the premise are inexplicable and unexplained, the effect this odd, new state of being has on the world and daily life is well rendered.

The investigation into the missing Dispatcher is well written, and poses plenty of questions, most of which the author approaches directly and satisfactorily. The real star, though, is Zachary Quinto’s narration. Although he’s best known for his roles in Star Trek and Heroes, this dude can truly and utterly perform a book reading in spectacular fashion. He inhabits the role of Valdez nicely, and demonstrates a wide range of voice talent in tackling the other characters, as well. While the story alone is great, Quinto elevates the material to the next level with his narration. As expected from Audible Studios, the sound quality and production values are top-notch.

The Dispatcher is free through Audible until Nov. 2, 2016, making this a very low-risk investment if you act fast, and one that presents wonderful returns for the price. On his blog, Scalzi noted this freebie is a thank you to his and Audible’s audience, as well as a nice enticement to draw in new readers and listeners. As someone who falls into this latter category, The Dispatcher is certainly a terrific incentive to lure me deeper into Scalzi’s backlist. I may even have to reshuffle a few commitments so I can get one or two more of his titles in before year’s end.

 

Buy The Dispatcher At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1480594/review-the-dispatcher-by-john-scalzi

Review: The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

Review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Review:

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With Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw gives an old-school PI story a cool Lovecraftian update. There’s plenty of old-school gumshoe narration (although the story is firmly present-day), along with a heaping dose of ancient gods and gritty mysticism. If this turns out to be the first in a series it is one I’ll happily return to.

PI Joe Persons takes on what should be a simple job from an eleven-year-old client: kill the boy’s abusive step-father, McKinsey. The appropriately-named Persons (you’ll find out why!), naturally, gets more than he bargains for. McKinsey is a meat-suit for something ancient, see, and Persons is being warned off the case by some dame, but he’s a dog with a bone now and serious things are afoot, see?

Mostly, I dug the heck out of Hammers on Bone and the way Khaw played with classic private eye tropes in a way that felt fresh with its sleek infusion of horror. Khaw has a terrific voice and can turn a phrase rather nicely, and her writing and cool style have me eager to check out her other stories, notably Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef, but also whatever else she publishes along the way. Joe Person’s is a neatly complicated sort, for multiple reasons that I should not actually discuss, and the climax was solidly creepy, gross, and violent. And, jeez, check out that cover illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love – it’s beautiful and speaks wonderfully toward the story within.

My only real complaint concerns the novella’s brevity. There’s a lot of story brewing under the surface of Persons narration that, since this is first person point of view, neither he nor readers are privy to. Khaw nails the sense of epic scope surrounding Persons’ case, and I wanted more. By book’s end, the plot grew a bit muddied and obscured with some last-minute dangling threads – but, again, if this turns out to not be a standalone title, this niggling detail could resolve itself. Given the nature of Persons and Khaw’s impressive writing, I’m certainly game for more and she’s definitely an author to watch out for.

[I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy Hammers on Bone At Amazon

Original post:
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Review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

Review: Extinction Aftermath (Extinction Cycle Book 6) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Review:

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Odds are, if you’re reading a review of this sixth installment in Nick Smith’s popular Extinction Cycle series, you’re already a fan and I won’t be able to tell you much you don’t already know. If you’ve not yet picked up any of these books, and provided that military horror thriller creature features are your bag, then you’ll want to stop here and proceed directly to the first book in this series, Extinction Horizon.

Extinction Aftermath picks up in the months following Extinction End, and Team Ghost, now under the leadership of Master Sergeant Joe “Fitz” Fitzsimmons, is preparing to invade Europe in an effort to quell the Variant threat overseas. Back at home, Reed Beckham is settling into civilian life with the very pregnant Dr. Kate Lovato, and President Ringgold is trying to stitch America back together through a series of Safe Zone Territories. Needless to say, everything goes to hell in a handbasket, and pretty darn quickly, too.

For my money, Aftermath just might be the best EC book yet, which says quite a bit about Smith’s growth as an author and thriller writer. This title hits a few sweet spots that I’ve been waiting for the series to tackle, particularly taking the war to Europe (we get plenty of well-staged action scenes in France) and the introduction of some quite interesting mutations on the Variant side of things. The cover gives you a good hint of what one such mutation Smith’s introduces is, but there’s a few others that are pretty spiffy.

More intriguing, though, is the sense of scope Aftermath possesses. Now that the war against the Variants has gone global, there’s a great sense of sprawling epicness to the story, with the action taking us from the shores of France, back home to Plum Island, Florida, and a few other locales. And the new threat facing America serves to heighten and propel the threats abroad to dangerous levels, while also raising the stakes for our series heroes considerably.

My only real complaint with Aftermath is the lack of resolution. Nearly every plot thread ends on a cliff-hanger, some bigger than others, making this book merely a prelude to the next novel, Extinction War. On the other hand, it’s not like I wasn’t going to continue on with this series regardless. Even if everything had been neatly wrapped up, I’d still be plunking down the cash for whatever Smith has lined up next. From the looks of it, Book 7 should certainly be a doozy.

 

Buy Extinction Aftermath At Amazon

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Review: Extinction Aftermath (Extinction Cycle Book 6) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Review: Pressure by Jeff Strand (audiobook)

Review:

pressure

My original Pressure audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Pressure can be defined as the exertion of force upon something by something else, as well mental or physical distress. Either definition is appropriate for Jeff Strand’s aptly titled suspense thriller, Pressure. At its core, this a story of two forces impacting one another, forcefully and violently, and the result is a hefty dose of distress.

Alex and Darren are two boarding school brats, their friendship cemented by a late-night excursion into the woods behind a strip club, where they hide out and hope to catch sight of the action inside. Darren, though, has a secret, and once Alex and their schoolmates discover Darren’s morbid fascinations nothing is the same. What follows is a decades-long story of friendship, adversarial rivalry, and gruesome deeds that can only leave one of them alive.

Strand does a terrific job building his characters, giving them enough dimension and subtle shadings to make them relateable, even if you don’t particularly want to relate to them. And although Darren’s actions are often outside the din of understanding, you at least get what motivates him, even if the results are terribly aberrant. Alex is a solid every-man character caught up in a situation beyond his control and struggling to cope, struggling to make sense, and, mostly, struggling to find a solution to the problem that is Darren. The first-person viewpoint Strand uses allows us to see the world from Alex’s point of view, and while the story itself is pretty pitch-black, Strand, via Alex, is able to interject enough levity and enduring positivity to keep Pressure from collapsing under its own misery.

Pressure is narrated by Scott Thomas, whose voice talents I greatly enjoyed in a prior Strand title, Wolf Hunt. Here, Thomas exhibits a nice a range and listeners are unlikely to confuse characters during stretches of dialogue. While the story belongs to Alex, Thomas injects plenty of different voices and speech styles to mark the other characters that inhabit Pressure. Soundwise, this is a cleanly narrated book, with terrific production quality and no technical issues to speak of.

Clocking in at seven hours, Pressure is a solid psychological suspense thriller with dashes of Strand’s typical wry humor, and packed with plenty of history between the central antagonist and his nemesis. It’s entertaining, occasionally bleak, but highly worthy of attention. Between the two works I’ve listened to that Strand and Thomas have collaborated on, I think it’s fair to say they make quite a good team. As long as Strand keeps writing, and Thomas keeps giving a voice to those words, I’ll be listening.

[Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com.]

 

Buy Pressure At Amazon

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Review: Pressure by Jeff Strand (audiobook)

Review: Bite by K.S. Merbeth (audiobook)

Review:

bite-audio

My original Bite audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Bite, a post-apocalyptic offering from new author K.S. Merbeth, comes with a neat little hook with its focus on cannibal wasteland scavengers and killers, but I would have enjoyed a little more meat on the bone.

Kid, a young woman hitchhiking her way through the irradiated ruins of Australia, accepts a ride, only to learn she’s bit off way more than she can chew. In short order, she soon finds herself a part of the gang and on the run from various forces, many of whom, unsurprisingly, don’t look to kindly at having cannibals in their midst.

The premise alone is a huge part of the draw in Bite, and I appreciated Merbeth’s wasteland saga’s focus on a group of people who are, quite arguably, the bad guys. Kid quickly makes friends with these ne’er-do-wells, led by Wolf, a dread-locked survivor with a knack for pulling off scores by the seat of his pants, and they all soon find their survival linked to one another. Dolly, a blue-haired tough, is an easy standout for fan-favorite of the bunch, with her quiet ways and easy violence making her an unsettling sort, but also an attention-grabbing mystery.

My biggest hurdle in Bite, unfortunately, was the main character herself, Kid. I prefer my female heroines to have a bit more agency, and felt that Kid too often fell into role of victim who needs saving. Granted, this is a sort of hero’s journey and she grows and adapts as the story progresses, but frankly I found it a be too unbelievable that this wasteland survivor would so freaking useless at the outset. She doesn’t know how to fire a gun or use a knife, she’s of little use in hand-to-hand fights, and despite this being an action-heavy book she spends too much time in hiding or waiting to be rescued. The first half of the book felt repetitive with its focus on members of the gang getting captured, followed by thwarted rescue attempts, and then their eventual escape only to again find themselves captured by different people in a different setting. By the time Merbeth gets around to explaining why Kid lacks any sort of adeptness or situational awareness, it feels too little too late. And, although Kid eventually levels-up, I think there were better options than starting her off as a nearly-constant damsel in distress.

Tonally, the narrative strikes an uneasy balance between serious and aloof. At times, this felt like a Young Adult title trying too hard to be a foul-mouthed, adult actioneer, and characters like The Queen only served to amplify this imbalance. The Queen is shrill and loud-mouthed, but is mostly a caricature reduced to exclaiming things like “Get them!” in lieu of villainous depth.

Narrator Stephanie Willis inhabits the role of Kid nice and smoothly, and she does a fairly good job with the reading of Bite. In my purely subjective opinion, though I found some of her male voices, particularly Wolf’s, to be a little too over-the-top for my ears, and The Queen was gratingly cartoonish, but I’ll chalk some of that role up to the writing itself. Her delivery of Tank’s and Pretty Boy’s lines, though, were well-handled and far more realistic. The voices Willis adopted for the other female voices were nicely differentiated, and she helps give a character like Dolly a certain charm that might otherwise be lost in reading the text. Bite is certainly well-produced, as one should expect of a major publisher like Hachette, and the sound quality is even and comes through cleanly with nary a hiccup.

Mostly, I enjoyed Bite, but found it a touch too uneven to really satisfy. It does recall a bit of the charm from other post-apocalyptic wasteland adventures, like the Mad Max films and the Fallout video games, and I am at least curious enough to see what this cast of characters get up to next, particularly Kid, who exhibits a lot of promise by book’s end. Besides, who doesn’t want more irradiated cannibals in their life?

[Audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com.]

 

Buy Bite At Amazon

Original post:
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Review: Bite by K.S. Merbeth (audiobook)