The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



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Review: Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla

Posted by Gilbert Stack on April 3, 2020 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats by Kat de Falla

Pea O’Neil and his middle schooler friends accidentally open a portal to another world while riding their BMX bikes at a local track. The result is an incursion by the flying mutant zombie rats of the title. The rats are not only hungry, they are infectious, and the boys take it on themselves to try and save Milwaukee from becoming zombie central. Fortunately, they have the assistance of an other-dimensional talking cat.


Let me say right up front that this is a fastmoving novel that is loads of fun. The characters are colorful and the plot hangs together well enough to keep the story pedaling furiously forward. So yes, it seems peculiar that a couple of dads would give their sons a crash course in fighting without asking pesky little questions like who do they plan to wage war against, but it all fits the good fun tone of the novel right up to the climatic ending.


If you like remembering the heroic fantasies you had when you were twelve, this is a great story. If you are twelve, this is the sort of tale that can inspire your own dreams. In short, there’s a lot of fun between these pages and I’d like to see what trouble these friends and their cat will get into next.


I received this book free from Audio Book Boom in exchange for an honest review.


Review: GEO by Kevin Miller

Posted by Gilbert Stack on April 2, 2020 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

GEO by Kevin Miller

Earth’s new space elevator has hit a snag on its very first trip to orbit. The elevator is stuck 22,000 miles up and no one can figure out how to get it down—and that’s just the beginning of the planet’s problems. With the CEO of the company trapped in the elevator, his number two man is forced to bring in Clarence Ackerman to help them trouble shoot the problem and get the elevator moving again. One problem, Ackerman designed the space elevator and the CEO stole it from him. Motivation might be a problem here.


GEO is a tightly plotted short story about betrayal, pain and vengeance. It’s fast paced and totally enthralling. It works really well as a short story, but I have to admit that there are a lot of avenues for expansion that I’d like to see Kevin Miller incorporate into a full-length novel.


I received this story free from Voracious Readers Only in exchange for an honest review.

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March to Other Worlds Day 31: Winterhaven by Gilbert M. Stack

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 31, 2020 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 31 Winterhaven by Gilbert M Stack

March has come and gone amazingly quickly and as I began with one of my fantasy series, I thought I’d end the journey with the other. Winterhaven has been a labor of love for me going back to my senior year in college. After about six years of tinkering with it, I finally wrote the first draft while I was researching my dissertation in England. That draft led to many more and more than twenty years later I finally finished it and wrote two sequels that have been my honor to share with all of you.


In its largest sense, Winterhaven is the story of the last outpost of the Ardenesse who rallied to the call of their God, Vapin, and left their world to wage The War of Night in their current land. They have had their share of victories, defeats and betrayals, but now, centuries later the descendants of those original men and women think that the great deeds of their world are confined to the long past Age of Heroes. In Winterhaven, they begin to find out that they are very wrong and if my heroes and heroines survive the struggles of the first few books they will realize that the fate of many worlds will ultimately depend on the strength and courage of the last descendants of the Ardenesse and their Duchy of Winterhaven.

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March to Other Worlds Day 30: Judgement's Tale: The Complete Omnibus by William L. Hahn

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 30, 2020 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 30: Judgement’s Tale: The Complete Omnibus

William L. Hahn sets all of his novels in his Lands of Hope, a fascinating collection of countries that are defined mostly by their respect for a set of nearly deific heroes who drove off the forces of Despair three thousand years earlier. That Despair still exists is a matter of faith for most, but in practice, as in modern life, many do not behave as if they believe that Despair could ever truly threaten them again. As everyone reading this will suspect, they are about to discover that they are wrong.


Judgement’s Tale is a towering work of fiction that reads much better as a complete work than it does in smaller installments. The story is built upon the consummate outsider, Solemn Judgement, a fascinating young man of deep convictions who may be the only person in the Lands of Hope who comes from outside both Hope and Despair. This unique status permits him to see the weaknesses in the lands around him that its long-term inhabitants are blind to. That blindness is the crack that the forces of Despair intend to exploit to reignite the millennia-old war and Solemn Judgement is the best “hope” to stop that from happening. Yet Solemn has major flaws that greatly hinder his efforts to awaken the population of Hope and that makes his tale endlessly fascinating.


I first encountered Solemn Judgement in Hahn’s Shards of Light series and absolutely loved the enigmatic character. But there are many more intriguing characters in this story—a prince struggling to keep to the path of honor and avoid a senseless war, a band of adventurers seeking their fortune through the extermination of evil, and an intriguing knight whose religious devotions mask a serious problem in the city of Conar. This is an impressive work of fantasy that deserves to be taken alongside the great tales of Donaldson and Jordan. You won’t regret reading it.


You can read my individual reviews of the novels that make up this omnibus here:


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March to Other Worlds Day 29: The Hunter and the Sorcerer by Chris L. Adams

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 29, 2020 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 29 The Hunter and the Sorcerer by Chris L. Adams

As the March nears its end, I’m excited to return to the works of Chris L. Adams. If you will recall back on Day 3, I spotlighted a Conan short story written by Adams which showcased his love for the pulp era of adventure stories. In his newest book, published just a few days ago, Adams takes that love of grand adventure stories and pours it into a short novel that plays homage to the old masters while producing a thoroughly modern tale.


Bru the Hunter’s whole life is falling apart. Gla, the worthless fire-feeder, has just tricked the tribe into thinking he killed Tysk, the mighty tiger, and now Bru’s love Oona is to be married to Gla. To make matters worse, when Bru objects, the tribe turns on him. Outcast, Bru doesn’t think things could possibly get worse, but he is about to discover just how wrong a hunter can be.


Kidnapped by an alien creature from an extraordinarily advanced society, Bru will be tortured into becoming something radically different than he began—an extraordinarily intelligent well-educated man. And that is where this story truly begins for to return to his people and the woman he loves, Bru is going to have to go head to head with the galaxy’s most advanced civilization. They haven’t got a chance!


I found a lot more in this novel than the simple adventure story I thought I was reading. So brace yourself! While there’s plenty of adventure, you’ll also find heaping helpings of culture clash, hypocrisy and prejudice, and ultimately you’ll be forced to think about what it means to be human.


I’d also like to point out that the multi-talented Adams painted the cover to this novel himself—but did the idea for the novel come first or the painting? With someone as creative as Adams, even he might not know the answer.

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March to Other Worlds Day 28: Team Newb by M. Helbig

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 28, 2020 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 28: Team Newb by M. Helbig

Here’s another example of the increasingly popular LitRPG subgenre. I think this sort of novel works best when it mixes its action in the game with events in the real world. Helbig has found a fairly unique way of handling this interaction by having his main character trying to find out why he was murdered—not to mention get justice for the crime.


Resolving this situation is not easy for Lucas because, let’s face it, he starts out as one really stupid player with no impulse control whatsoever. But as you would expect, he matures as the game is played which in practical terms means he gets smarter through a believable story arc. This shows up in his dealing with his murderer, but also in his interactions with other players in the game and in his ability to resolve the many problems he encounters in the game.


Other subplots also involve real world problems. One of the players is looking for his son who has been lost in the game while a different player has some strange interactions going on which appear to be connected to life outside of the digital realm. Lucas has to put a lot of the brain power he’s developing through playing into solving the mysteries that these two players bring to the game.


Which leads me to another place where Helbig excels. While he includes tons of damage counts and hit point checks in his prose, most of the important battles are not solved by in game skills but by clever tactics and problem solving. I suspect that if I were playing the game, this would annoy me, but as a reader it made for a much more enjoyable experience.


If you like LitRPGs and are looking for one that is both clever and humorous, you should give Team Newb a try. And if you prefer to read in audiobook format, you’re in for a very special treat, because Will Hahn has delivered another superbly theatrical performance.

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March to Other Worlds Day 27: Planetside by Michael Mammay

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 27, 2020 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 27 Planetside by Michael Mammay

Michael Mammay is staking out a reputation for constructing sophisticated mysteries that intertwine the interests of his futuristic military and the corporations that supply them with their hardware. His novel, Planetside, caught my interest from the very first pages and didn’t let it go until I’d read the final word. Colonel Carl Butler is getting ready to retire when his old friend and the second most powerful general in his branch of the military asks him to travel to the planet, Cappa, halfway across the galaxy to investigate the disappearance of an important politician’s son. It actually seems like a pretty straight forward assignment except that at Cappa, no one will cooperate with him. And Butler does need help. After all, the injured young man was evacuated from the battlefield by a shuttle but the hospital claims he never arrived and the shuttle pilots can’t be questioned because they are conveniently dead. As if that isn’t bad enough, all the records that might trace what happened have disappeared—and all of that is BEFORE the mystery gets complicated.


This is both a great story and a great mystery. Carl Butler is a superb character—an old colonel with a heroic past he won’t discuss and very little in the way of diplomatic skills. He’s a bulldog who won’t stop once he has a mission and yet he also has a peculiar sense of honor and duty that becomes very important to the resolution of the case.


Mammay plays fair with the reader throughout this book. I don’t say that just because I figured out the core of the mystery halfway through the novel. There are plenty of clues, many of them coming in the middle of shocking surprises. The ending was powerful, made total sense, and yet, I didn’t see it coming. Anyone who likes a good mystery will enjoy this novel.


Finally, narrator R.C. Bray, really enhances an already superb novel with his spot-on depiction of Butler’s voice—a totally credible aging colonel who lacks patience for most of the BS happening around him.

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March to Other Worlds Day 26: Optional Retirement Plan by Chris Porteau

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 26, 2020 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 26 Optional Retirement Plan by Chris Porteau

Optional Retirement Plan by Chris Porteau walks us into a different kind of world—the world of mental illness. Oh, it’s also a great sf adventure involving travel in the solar system, but that’s not what I found most intriguing about it. No, this is a novel about a hitman whose boss thinks he’s slipping into Alzheimer’s and wants to “permanently retire” him before he can spill any more of the company’s secrets. To make matters even worse, the hitman, Stacks Fischer, isn’t sure if he’s really sick. So while bounty hunters and corporate assassins are coming after him, he’s trying to figure out if he’s actually losing the ability to think the way he always has.


Stacks Fischer is a fascinating protagonist. He should not be likable, but he truly is. He should not be sympathetic, but you can’t help but feel for him as he struggles to find out what’s wrong with his mind. He has a code of honor and a sense of—well not justice, but something remarkably close to it that makes him easy to cheer for. It helps that narrator R.C. Bray has the perfect voice for Fischer, bringing his pain to life as he struggles to keep living for just a few more days.


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March to Other Worlds Day 25: The Singularity Trap by Dennis E. Taylor

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 25, 2020 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 25 The Singularity Trap by Dennis E Taylor

Dennis E. Taylor is probably best known for his Bobiverse trilogy (which rumor has it may get more novels) but I thought I’d take a look at one of his other sf adventures, The Singularity Trap, for our March 25th spotlight. This is a remarkable novel with a strange twist on first contact. The aliens arrived well before humanity existed, prepared a “gift” (the Singularity Trap of the title), and left again. The story picks up with the human mining crew who are going to discover the aliens’ parting present.


This is where the story moves into high gear and gets incredibly interesting. The alien gift begins to transform one of the mining crew members and threatens his ability to control his own mind and body. This naturally scares the authorities of his nation and heightens the tensions in a futuristic cold war. There are issues of strategic defense, human rights, and mob mentality to deal with. At the same time there is an extraordinary mystery to be uncovered—what are the aliens, what do they want, and why are they messing with our hero’s body?


As we move toward the finale of the novel, our hero must carefully outthink just about every side in the book as he struggles to find a path through the complex future maze that leads to the survival of humanity. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking, science fiction novel that took me in directions I never expected to go.


One again, narrator Ray Porter really shines as he brings the cast of this novel to life. He’s one of those narrators who really adds value to the books he reads by making each and every character distinct and vivid.


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March to Other Worlds Day 24: The Reaper of Iremia

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 24, 2020 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 24 The Reaper of Iremia by Kenneth Rocher

Marching back to fantasy, we have The Reaper of Iremia by Kenneth Rocher. It’s an action-packed fantasy novel set in a very modern-feeling city that seems to have been modeled on the medieval Italian city states. It’s got strong characters and an involved mystery with a lot of surprises. But the thing I liked the most about it was the big bad’s magic item. I don’t want to give away the coolest part of the plot, but this item was an extremely creative idea that I don’t remember coming across before in the hundreds (thousands?) of fantasy novels I’ve read. And it creates a truly fascinating problem for our heroes as they attempt to save the day.


So if you like mystery, mayhem, betrayal, action, a little vigilantism, all culminating in a fight to save everyone, you should take a look at The Reaper of Iremia.

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