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review 2015-11-17 21:25
Bad Dream Man By Forbes West

Forbes West achieved something with Bad Dream Man only a few writers will ever achieve in their lifetime. He single-handedly broke a publisher. Now that is something to be proud of, I´m sure. After reading Bad Dream Man I´m not really surprised they weren´t returning his calls anymore, and I really can´t blame them. Or that one Wondermentitian moved to Alaska to stick his head in the sand (metaphorically speaking), while the other bought a yacht to travel the world ... okay, my bad, that was someone else.

Back to Bad Dream Man... a few days short of publishing the book Wonderment announced they will close shop and that Apocalypse Weird is no more. The end of the world has to wait for another day, and that is just fine, as most/all ? authors will continue with their stories in one way or the other. Being a fan of the AW multiverse the dreaded feeling didn´t last all that long, as now I have something to look forward to even the original idea from their business angle didn´t work out. But I disgress. Anyway, after having read the ARC before what is now known as The Collapse, I figured, screw it. Alas, nothing´s lost here, Bad Dream Man will see the light of day in another form, in another time, and that is according to the story probably the only way it should be.

Until this very day I´m very fond of the memory when I wanted to strangle Forbes West for the very first time, that was after reading Medium Talent. There is just something about him that unleashes such feelings. I hated the book with passion, not really the book itself, but how it made me feel. And it was supposed to be this way. In comparison Bad Dream Man, and even this anti-comparison is a comparison, I know, left me less emotionally involved, more detached like a casual observer who sees the events unfolding. He still writes like a motherfucker on speed with all the highs and lows of a maniac, visceral, sensitive and when he is good he is very good. When he sucks balls, he sucks balls better than anyone, so there is that.

Bad Dream Man is a strange book, a very strange book. Different universes collide in rather un/subtle ways and they do so from one moment to the next. The Big Bang theory isn´t real anyway, you know? Wendy Wicker - see Medium Talent as this is not a standalone book but a continuation of The Dead Keys series and labelled as book 2.0 - and Martin Roth are "unstuck" in time, and different forms of their personas create different involvement in events, messy situations and identities. Roth finding himself as a low-level FBI employee on a hunt for Dillinger, which he assumes to be a false lead to discredit him when he doesn´t catch him, to him being a FBI big shot, or him being on the other side of the law as a feared and seeked bank robber; which Dillinger actually is, but not in this particular time and world. Sometimes those worlds mix themselves up as the world as we knew it is out of its angles. You can thank The Black Dragon for that. Also, nothing strange about it that Wendy Wicker already time travelled from the here and now (in Medium Talent) back into the days of 1934 where most of the story takes place.

Key West is still a dangerous zone, a permanent killing field, where everybody is on their own, and zombies, rogue vampires and a plenty of alien creatures roam the earth, or what is left of it, in search of even more destruction in some true apocalyptic fashion. There is some real physical effort to tear down the last of survivors to create a machine soundtrack of the one and only apocalypse. And the sound isn´t pretty. Buzzing helicopters and planes are like a military groove over the screams of people already dead and dying. The Key West is left to be rotten, a disorienting space where you either submit to the evil, break free or get broken. Where the dead and dying scream into a sonic world of non-existence.

Now with the second part I couldn´t follow Forbes West anymore, as the story turns from weird to truly bizarre. Never quite sure if he wanted to mock some old Sci-Fi classic movies (maybe) or if he is true and honest in this odd mission to outer space (probably). An other explanation might be that Forbes West is simply clinically insane (most likely), but this still needs to be confirmed.

Machine excess, android meat puppets, with mysthical and metaphysical pathways to a journey to destroy what should not be there but is waiting for billions of years already for the end to come. I´m not even sure if it is a moot point if Wendy Wicker indeed can succeed here.

Part II is a cyberpunkish dystopia of a world falling apart where one person tries to get a hold on realities, and to stop the evil. A one woman journey to herself and back to where she has family and friends, and at least in one of those worlds everyone´s alive and fine, and a life to live, devasting and unliveable as it may be. A coming of senses story though, when all common sense has left (almost) everyone.

And maybe this is the only way to write a story like that. Forget borders or boundaries or expectations, mash up, revisit the golden days with an retro-futuristic approach and welcome it with open arms, and see where it leads you. Good or bad or stuck in the middle of it where characters, stories and plot simply are.

One of the best thing for me was the rant by the ever so lovely Dr Midnite, a sort of an inside joke who gives out hints of what is happening all around the world where the main characters are cluessless about it. In some truly fascinating rant he shows that only Forbes West can write the real Dr Midnite, as he IS Dr Midnite. Granted, everyone who used the character in their books of the Apocalypse Weird gave some spice and flavor to him, but Forbes West being Forbes West brings him to life. Commie propaganda included, but that is to be expected.

Bad Dream Man is an epic undertaking of the good vs evil story, a transmission from the future, a screed of resistance when evil, true evil is unleashed on the human population. Or as Wendy Wicker puts it.

"Six millions Jews are scheduled to be exterminated in Europe. Millions of others are going to die in about in five years from a war started by Hitler, that brand new German Chancellor."

And that is the best of outcomes when Wicker, Roth and others can stop the evil from showing its true colors and take over ... everything, the world, and every single universe that happens to exist here. What a lovely world we live in, don´t we? But one thing Forbes West is not - cynical. It would have been too easy to give in to misanthrophy but he writes with passion and true felt belief there is hope for a better world.

Journals with diverse entries written by those "unstuck", which explain their own situations, are crucial to the plotline. Those journal entries prove to be that events are real, even those who wrote them can not always remember having written any of it or experienced those situations described due the disconnect with those different worlds colliding. Mix those with further journal entries later on by Hemingway himself, coz why not?, and you have a mind-boggling disconnect from what is real and what is a fever dream of unrealities, both true for the characters and for me the reader.

There is an inhuman terror in the story which urges us to fight back the evil, and to take back what is ours to begin with. Humanity.

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Bad Dream Man from the is no more publisher Wonderment, and I am one of three people or so who will ever have read this book.)

No rating, as I honestly have no idea how to rate a book which goes from post-apoc fiction to sci-fi and turns everything on its head while being an sort of but not quite emotional guilt trip of being alive with all its joys and sorrows. I´m also proud for not having told Forbes West to fuck off this time... oops. :) 


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review 2015-10-20 21:04
#apocalypseweird: The Seal Bearer by David Bruns
Apocalypse Weird: The Seal Bearer - David Bruns,Ellen Campbell

David Bruns learned his lesson well from his ongoing thriller writing days (minus his YA books), as every chapter is packed full with action. Almost too much for me, and I was feeling overwhelmed at times to keep track of all the adventures rained upon our heroes, Trent, Karma aka The Guardian ("Karma is a bitch" jokes are appropriate here) and Tuk-tuk, an eight year old boy-monk. An unusual boy with some unusual gifts and one who broke my heart. He is one of the sweetest characters in any of the Apocalypse Weird novels for sure.

Bruns is merciless with his characters, and does hardly give them any pause to breathe in some fresh air, take in the scenery of all those lovely places they visit (from Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand to the Himalayas), and challenges them constantly with more and more threats on their road to the mystical Shambala, the only place where they are really safe. He is not only merciless with his characters, but destroys the city-state of Singapore in a matter of minutes. Lives are lost in the millions, as an important part of the cleansing of the earth for evil, real evil to come to this world.

Trent, a self-made billionaire and CEO of an uber-successful video game company, is stranded in Singapore while trying to close a deal with the local government when martial law is declared and he, and friends/co-workers, are trapped with no way to go. Zombies! Why the dead have risen is unclear here, and especially why they are at this particular moment as agressive as much. Just the zombies are merely kindergardeners for what is to come. One moment lazily enjoying a sweet life of being wealthy and successful, the next thrown into the madness of a zombie uprising (and more), Trent´s life is nothing anymore what it once was.

General Naga, a minor character from E.E. Giorgi´s ´Immunity´, is the local villain. A drug lord, and the most evil of all men in the Golden Triangle, and a faithful devotee of He Who Will Come. As not to name it the ´Black Dragon´, since to name it is to give it power, and nobody wants to do that, right? General Naga and his army of foot soldiers are engaging Trent in a less than friendly manner, but General Naga is not the only one who Trent and his friends have to fear. Sea-monsters and tsunamis are as much out to capture him, as he is extremely valuable in the ever ongoing fight between good vs. evil. What Trent makes special, and why he was choosen to be The Seal Bearer ... some knots still needs to be tied to make sure.

Descriptions of the Black Hand weirdly enough reminded me of ISIS. Their whole demeanour, their flags, everything I have seen and am able to compare have a similar vibe to it. If coincidental or not, or if Bruns was indeed influenced in any way of their actions and painted the Black Hand deliberately that way based on what he may have observed himself via TV or the net, I cannot tell, and it is surely not my place to speculate about the origins of it. Take it as an off-description at best, misrepresentation at worst.

´The Seal Bearer´ is probably so far one of the oddest books in the Apocalypse Weird metaverse. Not that it twelve predecessors aren´t odd either (they are), but that is the most descriptive of all and explains a lot what so far was mostly hinted at. Which surprised me as the plans of the 88 and their foot soldiers, the Black Hand, are laid as open as never before. Which makes me think the End Game, and He Who Will Come, is way closer than I may have anticipated.

As the title already suggests, ´The Seal Bearer´, aka Trent, is surely one of the most important figures in the overall story line. A tattoo of a white dragon Trent wears on his chest is in fact more than only that, but a seal to another world. As usual Mike Corley´s beautiful cover already says very well what to expect from those characters, and who they are. It pays off to pay close attention to details as it captures the story marvelously.

While I am a huge fan of what Apocalypse Weird is, and looking forward to any and each new book, I am not fully convinced about what I have read. It is not so much the story or the characters, both are fascinating in their own rights, but that I am not much of a fan of the wild ride presented here, in the most general terms. It takes a lot to give in to the extremely fast paced action, and if there is a quiet moment in any of the chapters it is immediately destroyed with some big turn of events, a new threat hanging over their heads, a new evil to fight. Thriller fan that I am not ´The Seal Bearer´ is probably as much suited for any fan of Tom Clancy, military background inclusive, as it is for fans of The Walking Dead or any kind of apocalyptic novels. Zombies never die!

Bruns, however, writes with extreme clarity, and an fascinating eye for details of the city life of Singapore, or the nature Trent, Karma and Tuk-tuk are encountering on their way to Shambala. And I have to give him credit for making the most of the crackpot that is Dr. Midnite. While originally not one of Bruns´ own creations Dr. Midnite is as insane as always, and as I am convinced still the one to follow to understand fully what is going on in Apocalypse Weird.

(Full disclosure: I´ve received a free copy pre-publication of ´The Seal Bearer´ from the publisher, Wonderment).

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review 2015-06-10 20:11
#ApocalypseWeird The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers
Apocalypse Weird: The Bleak December (Winter Wasteland Book 1) - Kevin G. Summers,Ellen Campbell,Michael Corley

Eternal winter. Which has, at the start of summer, something slightly unhinged, especially when it´s getting warmer and warmer outside with every day. Unhinged is the world, every world, in Apocalypse Weird hence a more fitting date for The Bleak December but June I would think isn´t really possible.

I stay away from over the top comparisons to other writers which were made previously, like Stephen King, as I do believe Kevin G. Summers´ writing can stand on it´s own feet and doesn´t need to be compared to someone´s else. Even there is a bit of an inside joke running here with "This was like the first chapter of a Stephen King novel." This I can live with. At what Kevin G. Summers is really good at, is creating the feeling of paranoia in this small town setting, isolated and cut off from the world at large and small. Where wits and common sense is needed more than anything else. And Summers gives it to them.

Obviously I don´t know anything about the locals of the Granite State and their - what it seems - perma-mistrust against the flatlanders, and I don´t know how well Summers indeed captured it. I would think from observation aka reading The Bleak December pretty well. While it´s only one point of many it seems he got it right in terms of slang and behavior, which also at times added - for me personally - an additional layer of (in a positive way) confusion to it since I´m really unaware of speech patterns for example, and he doesn´t always follow the rules of written English here. I´m not complaining, coz this additional layer - and here I have to use the dreaded word "authenticity" - means there were alot to discover in terms of characterization, and the characters indeed come across as authentic to the choosen setting of New Hampshire. As far as I can tell anyway, which may or may not be an oxymoron.

As it is there are quite a few religious overtones to the story where a cult leader is whipping his followers into a frenzy to take control over Coos Country and New Hampshire, "with a new savior going to render Lord Jesus Christ. First comes darkness and then the light." And darkness literally falls upon everyone out of a sudden. The world (once more as it is custom) not only going blind, but dark. Even everyone is not completely true, since for example Luke, who was previously blind, can see now. The world has shifted, and another knot was tied.

The Bleak December moves along quite nicely, even I wouldn´t call it a thriller exactly, more along the lines of a character-infested novel where the location is (almost) as important as the events unfolding, where one can feel and see the woods, the dark, long roads and generally isolated area. Thanks to his descriptive ways of story-telling Summers creates an rather scary atmosphere. It sure is cold outside, but coffee the old fashioned way and maple syrup and candy might help. And maybe but only maybe someone should make sure the undead stay dead once in a while, but that´s just a suggestion on my part. Ignore me if you must, okaaay?, but ice demons are some scary, evil suckers.

The Bleak December is the first hillbilly Apocalypse Weird novel, something that could have been written by a hog farmer. And before someone gets his or her panties in a twist, Kevin G. Summers IS a hog farmer, raises chickens and grows his own food too. I would argue his - what I would expect even without really knowing - rather isolated farm lifestyle helps to shape his writing and views of the world in this particular form as it is. And it is good. Pretty damn good in fact, since Summers simply leads the way without being a case of the blind leading the blind. Instead he does what every good story teller does, he outlines and then sits back and leaves the narrative those who belong in the spotlight. The story itself as it needed to be told, and their characters with all their different strengths and weaknesses.

While I was already a fan of Apocalypse Weird (the ideas and concept) before the first book, The Red King, was even published, The Bleak December, is one that makes any new discovery set in it extremely exciting (again). That said, while I feel confident this won´t be the end of the world (yet), the world has become a little, actually a lot, colder once more. And that´s a good thing thanks to Kevin G. Summers.

(Legal disclaimer: I received a free pre-publication copy of The Bleak December by Kevin G. Summers from the publisher, Wonderment).

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review 2015-04-24 09:20
#ApocalypseWeird Genesis by Stefan Bolz
Genesis - Stefan Bolz

The first bad feeling I had was when Jack was introduced in the beginning and he meets our main protagonist Kasey. He is that tick too much All Smiles, the tick too helpful, the tick too cute. He basically screams future serial killer, yeap, that kind of guy. So nope, Jack and I weren´t off to a good start together.

Kasey spends the evening and night at the beach, partying and celebrating her birthday and high school graduation with her friends, and the newly met Jack. Drunk and exhausted they fall asleep on the beach. Those were the times when I wanted to bitch-slap Kasey, dont be silly, don´t do it, innocent as it may be. Le Sigh. Of course that´s what teenagers do, except me, I was never that kind of girl. Now stop laughing everyone, thanks. :-)

A mass suicide of thousands dolphins triggers the events that are to come, or rather those are the first event of this part of the world gone to hell (Long Island), and into darkness. Kasey and Jack try at first to help to bring the dolphins back into the water, but really there isn´t anything they could do, horrifying as it is. What follows is that basically everyone around is loosing their shit, and violence is in the air whereever they go. From cops killing to those they should protect, to suicide, or to a motorcycle gang that is not what it appears to be. Hell has come to earth in the form of a Black Ship, which only two people have seen. Kasey is one of them.

What I did like about Genesis is in this action-packed drama is any kind of action follows with an immediate reaction. It pays off that the story takes place in a short period of time only - in the course of 36 hours - , so everything has consquences that shows straight away, good and bad. Kasey is clearly dumbfounded, who wouldn´t when everything you know in your life is gone from one minute to the next?, while also being able to think straight, more often than not anyway. More like her survival instincts kicking in which makes her, despite all her flaws and wrong decisions, a strong character.

The survival here has less to do what is really happening in the world out there, sure that too, but what makes her keep going without going insane. How she deals with everything in her head is insofar the greatest strength of Genesis. Like when Jack is abducted by demons and her mission to rescue him is all she has on her mind. It takes a special sort of narrow-mindness and 100 % focus, both used positively here, to act like Kasey does.

The premise is clearly that of a shattered world, going from a sheltered childhood, minus the divorce of her parents, to finding herself plunged into the abyss. The illusion of a safe childhood are gone at Kasey´s 18th birthday, and there is nothing in the world that could ever bring it back. The emotions are intense, no denying, and thus I think Stefan Bolz captured the inner turmoil of a teenager´s life well.

What I didn´t like all that much is how the author insert himself here in the narrative with some kind of odd foreshadowing. I paraphrase, but I could not fully appreciate sentences like "that was Kasey´s first mistake" and similar. And where there is a first mistake there needs to be a second one. As if I don´t see that yes, indeed Kasey is panicking and does make mistakes that brings her closer to her life spiraling downwards. Strangely, or maybe not, it nevertheless fits to the story itself. Still it feels bit like talking down to me, as if there is some dumbed down version of an off-screen voice who tells me what´s going on even I see it myself.

Genesis is an entertaining read as a whole but in the end the YA approach of those apocalyptic events and myself weren´t that much of a good match. While the book itself clearly stands on its own feet, and I would think does well, everything after the mindfucker that was ´Medium Talent´ (by Forbes West) pales in comparison for me.

I keep thinking back to the characters and the plot, and after distancing myself for some days from it, I´m still not sure why I did not enjoy the story as much as I did with other Apocalypse Weird novels. The writing is good and poetic, the story captures everything from the life of a teenager to a world in horror, the character development is great, and still there is something nagging in my head that doesnt seem right to me. I don´t know, it is possible that the age gap, small as it may be (just eight years), is too big. For some reasons I could never fully relate to anything, and felt like an outsider simply reading a book. I know that sounds silly :-) While I´m more of an observer normally, never feel the need to "be" like a character I´m reading about, it makes it tricky for me in this case to *really* appreciate Genesis. Guess there is a reason why I never embraced YA. *shrugs*

It seems also impossible to read any novel in the AW world as a standalone, even they are, since there are connections that are easily missed. Chris Pourteau´s ´The Serenity Strain´ is referenced at least twice, and there might be a few others I overlooked, almost impossible to tell. Now that is something that makes me smile every single time, coz it shows how much of a bigger theme there is running in the background. I would think that Kasey will play in important rule in the future (due her White Dragon medaillion), as if she has it in her fate to be the heroine who saves the world. I could be wrong about this, obviously. And come to think of it, the black vs white seems that tad too obvious.

Also since Genesis is part of The White Dragon storyline, I could not help but think back to Eric Tozzi´s ´Phoenix Lights´ where he hints at the Black Dragon already. Things are coming together clearly, even the real apocalypse is still years away.

(Legal disclaimer: I received a free pre-publication ARC of Genesis by the publisher, Wonderment)

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review 2015-04-10 09:50
#ApocalypseWeird Medium Talent by Forbes West
Medium Talent - Forbes West

Medium Talent is insofar different than the other Apocalypse Weird novels that as a reader I am thrown into a world where everything is already unhinged. The main protagonist, Wendy Wicker, is a half-crazed captain of the Medium Talent, a rum smuggler and one of the few ladies out there on the sea. Those who survived, minus the undead who roam the Florida Keys, are under control by Supply Org, a sort of government, divided between Relief Zones and Depositories, depending where you fall.

There are layers upon layers upon layers, from zombies to Hemingway to Hoxhaists (and this is pure evil to include supporters of one of the most oppressive regimes the Communist era has seen), time travel and a back and forth between past and present, to an Apocalypse that already happened and were survivors have settled into a routine in an aftermath of a world that once was and is no more.

Also there is an extremely strong world-building when it comes to the Florida Keys. You can smell the sea, the beach, hear the noises in those dark, gloom nights. Scary, since it takes one into some rather depressing thoughts of ´all is lost´. What´s the use of it all, and as can be seen here, I am not the only one who felt that way.

"They just have something hit them hard, couldn´t cope, and decided to screw on the beach one last time before ending it all. You heard a lot of stories like that. Usually, the woman shot the man and then shot herself. I suppose that was ironic. Ladies were supposed to go first."

Like the ´let´s save women and children first in cases of an emergency on the sea´, I imagine, which is a rather nice and playful way to make a point. So no, the irony is not lost on me.

it is probably useful to read Medium Talent side by side with Hemingway at some point to make comparisons where Forbes West references to one of the giants of literature. I am sure I missed most of those since Hemingway and myself never really caught up with each other. He bored me out of my wits, so I totally understand, and accept, my bias in a negative way towards him.

Medium Talent must be a psychologist´s wet dream to untangle the (rather unhealthy) relationship between Wendy Wicker, Hemingway and Forbes West. I am sure this will said often by other readers of the book but there is no Medium Talent in sight. Right now, after finishing reading the book, and going after passages I highlighted and re-read, I am still uncertain how I really feel about it. It´s disturbing while pretty damn awesome too, but definitely not pretty. I don´t know if I can really deal with it on an emotional level. I feel overwhelmed, and almost as crazed as Wendy, a character I could not fully relate to, but accept how she turned out under those circumstances, like loosing a husband and daughter.

Essentially this is the most challenging book so far in the Apocalypse Weird world, and I have the feeling it will also be the most controversial one, insofar that it deals with the whole weird world from quite a different angle. The known factors are missing, while Forbes West spins a tale of possession with no redemption possible. It takes a lot of work too, the plot itself unveils rather slowly, there are characters who turn out quite differently that one gets the feeling they would, and their decisions made have an everlasting impact.

Wendy has to confront her demons, as I have to as a reader.

Medium Talent has this noir-esque 2edgy4u feeling, though. There are so many, maybe too many, mixed emotions right now in me that I don´t think I like this book. No, that´s not quite it. I don´t like the story coz it made me uneasy, delusioned and feeling off-balance. It disturbed my feel-good level of ... everything. So yeah, fuck you, Forbes West and thanks for the ride.

Also there is no reason to misquote Yeats. I cannot forgive that. No matter how artistic you think you are, you do not, under any circumstances, you do not misquote Yeats. Period. It is not cute or whatever, it´s stupid. Which is, and I am reasonably sure about that, a crime against humanity, and if not, it should be.

(Legal disclaimer: I received a free pre-publication ARC of Medium Talent by the publisher, Wonderment)

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