Tag Archives: Insanity

Hayes, S. (2018) Harriet Walsh: Peace Force

Peace Force is a funny scifi action-comedy about poor Harriet Walsh who finds herself invited to become part of the planet Dismolle’s Peace Force.

As she skimmed the flowery sentences, Harriet realised she had been mistaken. The letter wasn’t a scam or a lottery, and it wasn’t asking for money. No, it seemed to be offering her job … and it wasn’t caring for the elderly.

Harriet was certainly correct in being sceptical of the job offer. Nothing is as she expected when she arrives at the address given. I could never decide if I should feel sorry for Harriet. On one hand, her job with the Peace Force saves her from becoming evicted. On the other hand, there’s Bernie, her senior officer. Bernie and Steve are the only ones working for the Peace Force when Harriet is hired. They serve on a planet whose inhabitants are mainly retirees. There is little crime to be found on the planet. Or at least there was until Harriet arrived at the station.

Peace Force is intended for 14+ audiences according to Amazon and I think that is a fair evaluation. Its comedy is of the farcical and slap-stick variety. The covers aren’t representative of the content although they are representative of the current fashion within scifi covers for female leads. The publishers get a big minus for that. Its blurb is honest and representative of the content.

This is the kind of lighthearted read that is not intended to impress or wow its public but rather divert from whatever life throws at you.

I really enjoyed Peace Force.

 

Kotzwinkle, William: Doctor Rat (1976)

Doctor Rat gives voice to the horrors of the laboratory as seen from the eyes of the lab-animals. Driven insane by the experiments performed on him, many of them without anaesthesia, Dr. Rat encourages the other animals to do their best to be supportive of the torture they experience.

“He’s sensitive chap and it was his exquisite sensitivity that caused him to dream up the item that’s become the latest rage here at the lab: the fabulous removal of the eggs from a female rat’s body—to the tail, to the ear, to the stomach. And for the past twenty-three days, he’s been grafting them to their eyeballs!”

In 2014 one of the Nobel Prizes handed out was for showing why our brain is a GPS system. Two of those who won that prize were May-Britt and Edvard Moser.

In this video, the Moser’s look like nice people. They cuddle the rats and talk about creating lesions on their brains. As far as labs go, this lab is far from the worst. However, this video does illustrate the human position as apex predators.

One argument for experiments like the ones in Dr. Rat or the ones in the labs at NTNU goes something like this “What about medical advancement and further knowledge about improving lives?” I don’t buy that argument at all even though I have benefited and benefit from animal and human experiments. There is no good argument for humans treating lab animals the way cats treat their victims.

I could not read Dr. Rat in one go. Some of the other stories I read can be as violent, but Kotzwinkle‘s writing dug his claws of horror and despair into my brain. In the end, there is a balancing event against the torturers (not only researchers) that in no way makes up for the terrible lives of these animals. Not that such treatment surprises, or even shocks, me. This is the way many humans treat other humans. After all, humans are both predator and prey in our genetic make-up.

“What are they doing to me, Doctor Rat?”

“Let me just check my notes… yes, here we are. You’ll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.”

While Dr. Rat is horror, it is also humour, humour of the darker kind, the kind I like. As satire, the story does its job of criticizing society’s proclivity towards violence.

Excellent story. Most definitively recommended.


Reviews:

Duncan, Dave: Paragon Lost (A Chronicle of the King’s Blades) (2002)

If you were a bodyguard, how far would you go to protect your charge? Would you allow yourself to be raped? How about teaching friendly nations how your own people fight? Could you live with watching the other side maim and kill others because you needed to get your charge to a certain place? To what extent would you be able to hide all of these abilities behind a cheerful, charming and helpful exterior? Hmmmm.

These were some of the more serious sides to the story of Paragon Lost. Perhaps it is a good thing magic made it geas-like for the Blades to use all of their abilities. Sometimes life might make it difficult to do what needs to be done in order to save the reputation of a nation or the secrets of a nation.

Once a Blade is bonded to their ward, with a sword through their heart, no less, they seem to become irresistible to their objects of interest. Beaumont would probably never have had any problems in that area. The guy is charming and intelligent – a dangerous combination. Oak resembles his chosen name. Solid, both of body and psyche. Arkell appears weak, almost invisible, but he is anything but. He is also the most learned of the trio.

All three have to make difficult choices on their way to pick up Princess Tasha with Lord Wassail. Wassail’s health is terrible. But Wassail has no higher wish than that to fulfill his monarch’s charges. The four of them have to make changes to plans, travel through extremely dangerous areas and try to leave those areas without being harmed.

There is humor, tension, despair and action in Paragon Lost. Dave Duncan takes us into his imagination and gives us a great romp. This is great entertainment, but not solely entertainment.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Paragon Lost can be found at Harper Collins


Translation:

German: Die Verlorene Klinge (Des Königs Klingen #4)


McManamon, Michael: Glory 1 (2013)

Glory

Glory is book one of a five book series. I see that number two is now out on the market.

We enter the world of Glory at the beginning of the Apocalypse. Let me tell you, Jackson was a surprise. He is the first person we meet who seems to be affected by what is striking people.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

By now, the words meant nothing to Jackson. He could only hear sounds coming out of the old man’s mouth. He didn’t know what they meant. The concept of language had left him moments ago.

He didn’t respond.

“Are you all right?” the man asked again. Slower this time.

Jackson continued to look at the old man, but still didn’t say anything.

He looked down at the fingers touching him. He could make out the white hair on the knuckles. Grabbed him. Squeezed him. He didn’t know why this old man was touching him, but he did know that he didn’t like it. He felt anger well up inside of him.

He looked up again at the old man. The old man was smiling his skewed smile, trying to make light of the situation and find out what was wrong. To Jackson, his face caused his anger to turn to rage.

The old man. Smiling. Looking. Staring.

Jackson roared.

Then he took his knife, grasped it tightly and stabbed it into the old man’s throat. The old man’s eyes opened wide with surprise. He tried to grab at the knife as Jackson pulled it away. Blood spurted from the wound and covered the table.

It’s bizarre. People seem to turn in the space of a few minutes. All comprehension of the meaning of words or other people’s actions seems to evaporate. Anger is the prevailing emotion they are left with. Without thought of pain, hunger or consequence they just attack. In that sense they are like zombies. Otherwise they are totally different. Alien infection or some kind of engineered disease were my first thoughts.

The prologue is tense. The whole novel is intense. McMananon writes incredibly well drawing the reader into his world and keeping us there.

What we get after the prologue is easy to imagine. A total collapse of society as we know it occurs. Those who are left “normal” discover they have to stick with each other. But sticking with some of the survivors might not be such a good option. Some of them are almost worse than the diseased in that they have “all of their faculties intact”. Good people remain good and not so good people remain pretty awful.

There is some explicit violence in Glory. Sexual violence is part of that violence. Thankfully, we also encounter samaritans. All of these actions were believable. The shock, anger, helplessness, courage, violence, friendship. All of them were perfectly believable. This is probably what would happen in this world if something like McManamon’s version of Apocalypse happened.

Would I recommend Glory to young adults. NO. Glory is just too dark. On the other hand, kids these days see a lot of violence and sex that I never did back when the dinosaurs lived. Maybe it is good for them to encounter it. I know the feelings portrayed by the sexual abuse victims were pretty much the way real life abuse victims experience them.

We were left with a cliff-hanger or maybe we were already falling off it. Shame on McMananon for sending us to the edge. Glory 1 is an excellent first novel and I very much encourage you to read it.


Carlon, Lee: The Dead God’s Shadow (The Bastard Cadre III) (2013)

The Dead God's Shadow1
Cover artist Lee Carlon

The Bastard Cadre serial just gets better and better. I think I am a sucker for the traditional Hero. I have to admit that I am a sucker for just about any type of character as long as they are well written.

One example of a well written character in The Dead God’s Shadow is the Death priest Avril has his gentle encounter with. Crazy or what? That is one dedicated priest. I don’t know if it is more fun to write about the “bad guys”, but in my head it must be. I cannot even say that the Death priest was a well-rounded character because he was utterly and completely boinkers. No more than some people out there, but still …

Obduron’s dad isn’t exactly a sweetheart either. I guess that in a world left as harsh as the one Avril lives in the term “survival of the strongest” does not necessarily mean that the strong are going to be nice. Probably quite the opposite in fact. Maybe it comes from holding power for as long as Valan has.

You must know by now that The Bastard Cadre is a post-apocalyptic tale. The land is  decimated and people struggle to hold on to life. Desertification seems to be huge in the area Avril travels through. Avril is one tough dude. He is like the Energizer bunny – just keeps on going and going and going. He retains a certain kind of innocence about him in spite of the many opportunities to turn into a cynic. I think he is the kind of person I would like to be.

I keep on wondering about those gods. Who exactly are they? They aren’t immortal and they certainly do not agree on matters. In fact they war against each other using humans to fight many of their battles. Right there we can tell that they aren’t very nice nor do they care about people. I feel like throwing a hissy-fit demanding to know right now what the rest of the story is. But authors are cruel people who like to keep their fans waiting and it seems Lee Carlon is no exception to that rule.

The Dead God’s Shadow is definitely dark and so is the humor. There is something so refreshing about dark humor that cannot be found anywhere else. Carlon is subtle about his points as well. They sort of sneak up on you (well, me).


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 146 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Clockwork Samurai; 1 edition (30 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU  S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E96LAMI

I was given a reviewer’s copy by Carlon. The only preferential treatment I am aware of giving is to read the novel ahead of others on my general to-read list.

Maxey, James: Bitterwood (2007)

Bitterwood
Cover art by James Maxey

Originally Bitterwood was meant to be a stand-alone novel. I guess sales must have been better than expected and therefore an invitation was extended to James Maxey to expand the tale with Dragonforge and Dragonseed. Due this expansion Maxey now has an edition of Bitterwood that brings the original story more in line with the two other novels. My review is based on the revised edition.

Bant Bitterwood’s mission in life is hunting dragons. Sent by the prophet Hezekiah he believes this is God’s will. Leaving the love of his life behind he sets out and 20 years pass in the turning of a page. While adored by many humans Bitterwood is despised and feared by the dragons who see him as the bad guy. Each story has two sides and we get to have a look at both of them in Maxey’s Bitterwood.

In this tale of action and fantasy set far into the future we see humans made into slaves and dragons more like ourselves than we might like to admit. Karma has bitten humans in their rear ends and shown them (if they only knew) that their meddling with genetics has consequences.

Early on we get to see remnants of previous technology on something that the dragons call the ghost lines. Here dragons fear for their lives for there is a very real danger of them being killed by what is within. Later on in Bitterwood we also come accross surprising pieces of technology. I think one of the reviews below reveals what that is but I shan’t.

Vendevorex (wizard dragon) is the most interesting character of the novel. Perhaps that is because his views correspond with my own in some respects. He is of the faction of dragons that believes that humans should be treated with some decency unlike his extremely feudal king Albekizan. Our own history of slavery and feudalism is reflected in this tale of dragon lords and human slaves. As our own stories tell us, rebellion is part of our past. But as with our history, the consequences of fighting the system can be devastating not only for the rebels.

Another character that I enjoyed a lot was Zanzeroth (tracker dragon). He is ambivalent when it comes to humans and their value. Age is catching up with him and he does not like it. Vanity is not only a human thing in this tale of dragons and humans.

Bitterwood is a good novel. It raises questions that ought to be raised and does so in a highly entertaining manner. Because of some of the reviews on the net I get the feeling my revised edition is quite different to the original. My recommendation is to get the revised edition of the novel.


Reviews:


  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris; 1 edition (2 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184416487X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844164875
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.6 x 4 cm

Hudson, T.J.: The House (Charred Earth) (2012)

The House
Cover design by T.J. Hudson

Strange that not more people seem to have read this novella. The House is a tale that could just as well have been a horror tale if Hudson had twisted it slightly. All of the elements were there.

The dream of eternal life and power to rule the world have been wonderful recipes for all kinds of stories, in this case a science fiction post-apocalyptic tale. I personally do not get why people would want to live forever, nor rule the world. Imagine the boredom and insanity you would probably end up dwelling within. Maybe the yearning for this dream is a form of insanity.

I like this part of T.J. Hudson’s tale. There is certainly an exploration of the lengths some people are willing to go to in order to obtain their desires for more, more, more.

Through Char and Charlotte we get to follow the measures taken to achieve the dream of immortality and complete power and the counter-measures needed to prevent that insanity.

For some reason the reader is warned about The House being written in British English. Does one actually need that warning? I get violence and sex, but British English. Maybe the author is just taking the piss.


Clement, J.A.: The Other Nereia (On Dark Shores) (2012)

Cover artwork based on a photo by Jeffrey van Rossum
J.A. Clement is the author for the novel The Other Nereia. The Other Nereia is book no 2 of the On Dark Shores serial. I see an omnibus of books no. 1 and no. 2 has been released.

I enjoyed The Other Nereia as much as I enjoyed The Lady. Clement kept her minor-tone throughout the novel. Flowing authors make my reading experience about as enjoyable as sinking under water. There is just something about feeling the water close over my head that makes my head so happy it wants to stay there forever. See what you did to me Ms. Clement.

In trying to run away Nereia woke a feeling of community in Scarlock that had been missing for quite a while. Mr. Copeland senses this and it stirs his paranoia and insanity even more. Poor Blakey (yes, I feel sorry for him and his mom) is left trying to make things less awful for the population. Poor Nereia is left with very few choices in what to do. Novel two is a terribly wonderful novel.

Having read as many books as I have, I still find myself caring for the characters and being able to dive into worlds created in another person’s mind. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Bevill, C.L.: Veiled Eyes (Lake People) (2010)

Cover art by C.L. Bevill

C.L. Bevill describes Veiled Eyes as a paranormal romance/suspense novel. This time I agree completely with the label.

Veiled Eyes is the first novel in the Lake People series. It is a stand-alone novel.

In Veiled Eyes we get to meet Anna St. Thais hitchhiking her way to her friend in New Orleans. You know the advice not to hitchhike? Well, Anna should have listened.

So, Anna gets kidnapped by a man with sadistic intentions and Anna is desperate to get away. Mr. Bad keeps Anna sedated in his semi. When she starts hearing someone calling her name she figures it is the result of the sedative she has been given.

Since this is a paranormal romance/suspense story, you know Anna is going to live. But her way from her kidnapper to there is a bit more uncertain seeing she ends up with a really closed group that does not like outsiders.

It is in this closed group that Anne meets Mr. Right. Of course, her relationship with Gabriel (mr right) is going to be rocky to begin with. Meeting Mr. Right does not mean that Anna’s mystery is solved/over. Weird things come her way adding to the suspense.

Bevill writes a really good mystery with plenty of crazy and questions that need answering. A good light read.

Bateman, Sonya: The Getaway (2010)

Cover designed by Andrew Bateman

I see The Getaway is listed as a paranormal romance story, but I feel that is kind of misleading. It seemed more like a thrillerish kind of story (kind of a thriller, but not quite).

Gavyn Donatti and his wife, Jazz, are going away for the week-end. On the way to their remote cabin, they end up getting lost and crash their car.

Jazz wakes up in a strange place where a guy called Seth tries to take care of her. Something seems really off about the whole situation, and something is.

The Getaway is a fun short-story about encountering craziness in unexpected places and how to deal with the nuts.

Briggs, Patricia: The Hurog duology

“The Five Kingdoms” by Michael Enzweiler

Patricia Briggs has written the Hurog duology. As you might have surmised from this blog she is quite a prolific writer. Her books fall into the light entertainment category. The Hurog duology’s version of the Briggsian world-creation is placed in a world reeking of the middle-ages with all of its dragons, shape-changers, magicians and various other people.

I absolutely loved the Danish covers. Wow, what a cool dragon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interpretation like that. And it fits with the dragon of the story. This is probably one of the better stories that Briggs has written. Ward is a wonderful character, caught in his own trap, yet never quite giving up hope.

DRAGON BONES (2002)

Danish cover by Bent Holm

Dragon Bones is a stand-alone novel. Its main character is Ward, heir to Hurog. What you need to know about Ward is that his dad was, to put it mildly, a monster. Child-, spouse and animal-abuse were his main hobbies. Until he had managed to damage Ward enough to affect his thinking, he saw Ward as his rival. So when he dies at the beginning of the book, it would be fair to say that Ward did not feel like grieving.

Unfortunately for Ward, the damage done to him had enabled him to pretend to be quite dense. Undoing other people’s perception of himself turns out to be more difficult than Ward would like. Discovering a damsel in distress and the secret of Hurog both play a part in enabling Ward to figure out how to show himself as someone to be trusted. This brings the king’s attention to the Hurog family, driven by his paranoia of the world being against him.

Ward comes across as a believable character. He clearly struggles with the long-term effects of his childhood. But in learning about Hurog’s very secret secret and some truths about the people around him, Ward manages to feel less alone in his struggles. One of the first things Ward must do in getting people to take him seriously is to prove himself a warrior, taking him and a small group accross the kingdom.

The story is told in first-person, through the eyes of Ward. This is part of what makes Ward such a real person, but it also shows us the world around him through his experiences. The people around him are clearly filtered through the life of Ward, making us care more for him and for the people around him. Dragon Bones is quite an enjoyable introduction to the world of Ward of Hurog.

DRAGON BLOOD (2002)

Danish cover by Bent Holm

While Dragon Bones is a stand-alone story,  Dragon Blood depends on the reader having some knowledge of the world. It continues the story of Ward, and in this case Tisala the rebel, and love of Ward. Neither book is a romance, something I quite enjoy. I’m weird like that. For some reason I both dislike romance in books and yet really enjoy it at times. Romance done the Hurog way is great.

The beginning of Dragon Blood is quite brutal. We come upon Tisala while she is being tortured for information about the rebellion that has been realized in the wake of Ward’s exploits in Dragon Bones. She escapes and runs to Hurog. This implicates Ward in the mind of the king and the king demands that Ward be committed for mental illness. All of this comes on top of Ward having to prove himself politically able to his little kingdom. One might say that Ward’s life has a bit more excitement than is good for a person’s health.

Hurog means dragon, and dragons are showing up on the door-steps of the kingdom once more. Dragons have played an important part in the whole kingdom’s past history, not only Hurog’s. Thankfully neither book is very graphic, enabling them to be read by a younger audience (not too young). Neither violence nor romance is explicit. Upon finishing the Hurog duology, I was left with a sense of wanting more.


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p>Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood are available as audiobook.

Nevill, Adam: Apartment 16 (Formerly known as “Down Here With the Rest of Us”) (2010)

Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill

Creepy! I think that’s the best description I can give of Apartment 16. I couldn’t read the whole thing because it was too creepy for an old lady. But if you enjoy horror, then this is the book for you.

The writing is excellent. Adam Nevill uses all of his writing tools with a gifted hand. It’s not often I get this creeped out by a novel, but this time the author won. You know the tight feeling you get in your chest when something is too freaky. Quite frankly, I was scared shitless.

Most likely it was Seth’s descent into madness and the experiences that brought him to that point that did me in. His experiences seem similar to the experiences that Apryl’s aunt Laura had when she slowly lost her grip on reality. Or perhaps it could be said that both Laura and Seth got to know a new kind of reality. Apryl’s experience with Apartment 16 at the very end of the book shows us that what went on with Apartment 16 was very real indeed.

Apryl has inherited an apartment in London. In her apartment block there is an apartment that is a bit off. But opening the door to that apartment would be unwise in the extreme. You see, this apartment is haunted, and it’s out to get you. If it catches you – well you know how it goes. You’d better not be caught and that leaves Apryl in a tighter and tighter spot as the novel progresses.

Enjoy.


Reviews:


Apartment 16 on Amazon UK


Haunted houses in London