Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bloodstar: Star Corpsman, book 1 (Harper Voyager), by Ian Douglas

Before we get this under way, it is definitely worth warning you that I am not in any way a fan of either Hard or Military Sci-Fi. As far as I am concerned, they both tend to be overloaded with information that gets in the way of the story, instead of aiding it. I know that there are people out there who are highly interested in the intricacies of propulsion units and methodology as well as tactical data, but I am not one of those. I want the story itself and any information pertinent to that story or an understanding of its characters and the world they live in but anything more bores me. Please keep that in mind as it is something that highly flavors this review.

Way off in the far-flung future, people have begun colonizing the stars. One of those colonies, Bloodworld, was founded by a group whose desire to suffer for the sins of humanity found an ideal home on its brutal terrain. They’ve lived there for decades, alone and isolated and content with both. However, a war-bound race of aliens, the Qesh, have found them. Not only is their own safety at stake, but the security of Earth and any other human colonies. Enter space marines and combat galore.

Let’s start off with the good things here: I very much enjoyed seeing war from the point of view of a Corpsman (the closest layman's term would be a field medic, but it would not be entirely accurate), someone whose primary concern is healing over harming. This alone tossed much of the over the top, “we kick ass” attitude out the window. And, Ian presents us with a much more likely view of humanity’s early forays into space: tentative and frightful. This is a future where humanity knows that they are outnumbered and outgunned by older, larger and more strategically powerful races in space and are doing everything they can to stay below the radar. The main character is well developed and there isn’t the usual good versus evil delineation so much as a concern for the people he is with.

All of these things are great. I loved the story itself. When I  got to read it.

Unfortunately, most of the time was spent buried under paragraphs and piles of text dedicated to the history of Corpsmen. The changes in medical engineering. Every detail of how each specific bit of nano-technology worked. The operating principles of the weapons systems. Military tactics out the wasoo. Over 150 pages had passed before Bloodworld was reached it still took a bit of discussion of nano-flage and nano-grown encampments before much else occurred.

I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the story at the heart of this novel, but I could not find it in myself to enjoy the novel as a whole.

Buy it here

Reviewed by Anton Cancre

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Necrotic Tissue magazines as well as THE GHOST IS THE MACHINE, a steampunk ghost anthology by Permuted Press, and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at No, he won't babysit your pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Welcome To Moon Hill (Moon Hill) by Anthony J. Rapino

Welcome To Moon Hill is an intriguing collection of short fiction based in the mythic town of Moon Hill. The alluring stories that comprise the collection are unique as the town itself: dark, suspenseful, and most of all, enticing. The author gives us well-written, tightly-woven stories that touch upon myriads of emotions. Stand outs are:

From Your Body They Rise”, is a surreal and haunting tale of curiosity and the wonderment of discovery. Alan discovers a peculiar “plant” that would make him a legend in science, and re-define physics. As the journey grows, so do the stakes. With a suspense that is palpable, the author weaves the reader into the tale white-knuckled, with effortless grace and ease. 
Hair of The Dog”, Poor, John. Some guys just can’t get a break. He gets the courage up to ask the girl at the local coffee shop out, and she rejects him. A bit worse, actually. She simply states that he is “dark and depressing.” He walks out and goes in search of another java-joint. However, his options may be limited. This one is short, sweet and best of all, hilarious. 
And The Drums Went Thump Thump Thump”, is a somber, heart-felt tale of the struggles single parents face. John is trying his best with his teenage, death-metal loving daughter, Ashley. John decides to open a door into her world, her life. Perhaps with some renewed insight, he can understand her gruff exterior. A pair of street thugs would like to do the same as well. Can John put the bottle down and finally stand up?
Struck By Golden Lightning”, Ewan has the mind of a child. Despite some of his neighbors understanding this, others are more reluctant to have their children play with him. This touching, fantastical tale explores family, friends—tolerance vs. intolerance—and the belief that anything is possible. Soon, perhaps, everyone will see just how special Ewan actually is. 
There are a lot of books and collections that have a foreboding town, or dwelling where bad things happen. It is a tradition and staple in horror that we all love. However, Welcome to Moon Hill shines with tales that horrify, yet hook our imaginations in a unique way as well. We find ourselves standing in synch with these characters that are on the brink of new worlds and answers, or oblivion and its sweet embrace. But for the life of us, our curiosity always gets the best of us…no matter the outcome. 

To learn more about the author, please visit his website.

Reviewed by Ben Eads
Ben Eads is a dark fiction author of short stories and longer fiction. His work tends to represent modern horror coupled with what he likes to call: “Imagination-tickling elements”. Ben is also a huge fan of dark fiction and dark movies. At the age of ten he wrote his first story. Taking writing seriously in early 2008, Ben Eads has published numerous short dark fiction stories in various magazines, anthologies, and E-Zines.
You can find him here.