|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 3, 2022 at 11:50 AM|
For the month of July, the four books of my The Unity series will be 99 cents apiece on Amazon. The books are:
Fugitive only 99 cents or free on Kindle Unlimited
Prisoner only 99 cents or free on Kindle Unlimited
Bride only 99 cents or free on Kindle Unlimited
Empyreal only 99 cents or free on Kindle Unlimited
Here’s what the series is all about:
An arranged marriage bridging two nations that loathe each other…A galaxy tumbling toward galactic recession and war…Jewel doesn’t want to be part of any of this, but she’s still the only person who can possibly avert an apocalypse on a galactic scale.
Armenium is the rarest, most valuable, resource in the galaxy, making faster-than-light travel possible. Its only known source is controlled by the militant Hegemony of Armen, a brutal and uncivilized people who maintain their monopoly through blunt force and intimidation. The ultrasophisticated, intensely capitalistic, Cartel Worlds, have built their fortunes refining and distributing the armenium for the Armenites, but the alliance between the two peoples is not a match made in heaven. The two cultures are vastly different, held tenuously together by marriage alliances between the leading Houses of Armen and the mightiest of the Cartels. Now a second source of armenium has been discovered, threatening the tenuous relationship between the two powers as forces within the hegemony fight over the implications of the find for themselves and their pseudo-religious Unity. For the Armenites have a far more intense relationship with the armenium than the rest of the galaxy could possibly understand. Now the future stability of all human space depends upon one young Cartelite woman’s ability to use her arranged marriage to penetrate the mysteries of the Hegemony and find a path that preserves the peace for everyone.
I hope you’ll give it a try!
Gilbert M. Stack
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 3, 2022 at 7:15 AM|
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: War of the Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman
All of the enjoyment in this novel is based on the idea of bringing Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger together in the same volume to deal with a crisis—in this case, H. G. Wells’ famous War of the Worlds. We get a little added joy when we see other characters from the two series (John Watson, Edward Malone, and Sir John Roxton) make appearances, although Malone’s is only as an author. It’s quite possible that a couple of the other characters were people I should have (but didn’t) recognize as well.
The novel opens with Holmes coming into possession of an unusual crystal which shows images of somewhere else. He brings it to Challenger and the two study it together, ultimately deducing that it shows Mars. They discover the life on Mars and are still watching when the invasion of earth is launched. The two then split into their own stories—both men taking it on themselves to observe the invaders to gain precious knowledge for the defense of the planet, before eventually teaming up again toward the end of the book.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel, although I didn’t feel like Sherlock Holmes quoting Keats seemed to be in character. (Perhaps I’m misremembering, it’s been a while since I’ve read original Holmes stories.) I also didn’t think that Holmes and Mrs. Hudson being longtime lovers was a plausible addition. I always thought of Doyle’s Holmes as pretty much asexual, but I guess reasonable people could come to different conclusions.
If you like the idea of mixing Holmes, Challenger, and Martians, you should definitely give this book a try.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 2, 2022 at 7:30 AM|
How 1954 Changed History by Michael Flamm
Some years seem to collect monumental events, and in this fascinating Great Courses book, Michael Flamm explores some truly world-shaking ones that occurred in 1954. This is the year of the Eisenhower presidency that the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to end de jure racial segregation in American schools in Brown v. Board of Education. It also saw a polio vaccine introduced and the birth of rock and roll. The French lost the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in modern day Vietnam setting in motion circumstances that would lead America to become militarily involved in that country. At the same time, Eisenhower decided to overthrow democracy in Guatemala under the dubious argument that this would somehow protect democracy in the United States. It was also the year that Joseph McCarthy fell, while at the same time, the U.S. moved to include the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” became the national motto, also as part of the anti-communist positioning of the country. Overall, it’s a very interesting snapshot of the U.S. in the middle of the twentieth century.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 1, 2022 at 7:40 AM|
Supermarket by Bobby Hall
I have mixed feelings about this novel. The first time I read it I put it down in the middle of chapter five planning to never finish it. But I hate to buy a book I don’t actually read so many months later I picked it up again. This second time, the book basically worked for me. It’s the story of Flynn, a young man desperately trying to put his life back together by finishing a novel. His girlfriend left him because of his inability to finish things and he has convinced himself that failure here means he’s destined to be a loser all of his life. His novel takes place in a supermarket, so he gets a job as a minimum wage “floater” hoping that working in an actual supermarket will help him complete his book.
Flynn is an untrustworthy narrator, something that the reader immediately begins to suspect when his best friend, Frank, is never around when anyone else is. Frank is a weird guy who is messing with Flynn’s life but Flynn never really does anything about it. He likes Frank, is fascinated by him, and believes he is critical to finishing his novel. But the reader recognizes very quickly that Frank exists only in Flynn’s head, making the reader wonder how many other things exist only in Flynn’s head. Part I ends with a predictable crisis leading to part two in an insane asylum where doctors try to help Flynn and the reader sees more signs that he is continuing to invent reality around him even while in recovery. (Again, keep your eye out for people who no one else ever talks to.)
Flynn has evidently spent two years in the insane asylum without actually ever taking his medications. This really bothered me. People on meds get bloodwork done all the time so that the doctors can analyze whether or not the meds need to be increased or decreased. The doctors would have known almost immediately that Flynn wasn’t taking his medications and done something about it. So this will cause you to wonder if even the insane asylum is a figment of Flynn’s imagination. This playing with reality is really the heart of the whole story and it continues to the last words of the book. It’s clever, but ultimately not particularly satisfying. I mean really, was Flynn even writing a book?
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 30, 2022 at 7:40 AM|
Destroyer 56 Encounter Group by Warren Murphy
Murphy is back with another Destroyer novel that sadly slips away from the highs of recent books. It begins with a plodding spoof of groups searching for UFOs but suddenly heats up when Remo gets hurt by a flying saucer. As readers of the series know, it’s very hard to hurt Remo so the stakes were suddenly real. To make matters even more concerning, Chiun believes that the alien Remo encountered may well represent the beings that gave Sinanju the sun source a thousand or more years earlier. (In Sinanju legend this is represented by a ring of fire descending from the heavens, but they do not know what the ring of fire was.) In his eagerness to learn more from the alien, Chiun joins his team and helps carry out his order to save the world by getting rid of America’s nuclear arsenal leaving Remo—never the sharpest knife in the drawer—to figure out what is really going on and save the nation again. The book is fun, but it’s not great.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 29, 2022 at 7:20 AM|
The Corps 3 Counterattack by W.E.B. Griffin
This novel is less tightly bound together than the previous two in the series as the U.S. moves into World War II and Griffin picks up many of the supporting cast members of the previous two novels and elevates them into primary roles. Disappointingly, Ken “Killer” McCoy and Malcom “Pick” Pickering have almost no role in the entire novel.
Counterattack chronicles the U.S.’s efforts to gear up in the Pacific campaign as the Japanese continue to set the tempo of the war. As this is a series about the marine corps, the navy is never the focus except for one officer, the former marine corporal turned shipping magnate turned naval officer, Captain Pickering (father of Pick Pickering from the earlier books). Pickering reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy and his function in this novel is to help us understand from an eagle eye view what is happening in the overall conduct of the Pacific War. He is our insight into MacArthur and the politics between the army and navy command structures.
Mostly, though, as he always does, Griffin gives us a grounds eye look at how things get done in the marine corps. We see the early marine parachutists training. We see the marine press corps trying to raise the country’s morale. We see men getting ready to go into harm’s way. We get an absolutely fascinating look at the Australian Coast Watchers—brave men and women who reported on Japanese movements at the literal risk of their lives. And all of this leads to the landing on Guadalcanal after Griffin has effortlessly shown the reader why the entire Pacific theater depends on preventing the Japanese from getting an airbase functioning on the island.
In many ways, this book appears to be setting up the rest of the series. It’s a little high on romantic drama, but mostly what it does is establish the characters whom I presume we will be following in the next novel. That being said, it is not a slow-moving story by any means. I’m very anxious to continue reading about the corps.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 28, 2022 at 7:05 AM|
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 16 Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
This novel convinced me that Laurell K. Hamilton is back on her game story wise. There were still way too many sex scenes which I frankly skimmed through, but the underlying plot and the continuing buildup of the multi-novel story-arc threat made the book well worth reading. The basic underlying plot is a family problem—Jason, werewolf friend of Anita, has learned his estranged father is dying and he’s been asked to come home—with a girlfriend—to make his peace with the old man. Dad and one of Jason’s sisters, for reasons that really make no sense when you consider that everyone in this town looks like each other (as I explain later in this review), is convinced Jason is gay and so making peace means proving his heterosexuality. As a storyline, that’s a more uncomfortable plot element today than it was when the book was written, but Jason is actually heterosexual so it is what it is.
By coincidence, Jason arrives in his hometown on the same weekend that one of his former high school classmates is getting married. This classmate happens to be the son of the governor of the state who is about to run for president of the United States on a family values ticket. The classmate is also a totally self-centered horse’s a** with a reputation for sleeping with anyone he can convince to lift her skirt. Oh, and the classmate has a twin brother who looks exactly like him and both look exactly like Jason. (The entire town started as a religious cult. The cult leader apparently impregnated just about every one of his female followers so most of the town’s population are cousins who closely resemble each other.) So Jason and Anita arriving in town is immediately a press event as it looks like the classmate is cheating on his fiancé. Things go down hill from there as the governor’s press agent tries to fix her problems by stirring up more trouble for Anita.
All of this makes for fascinating reading as Jason and Anita try and mostly fail to navigate this “mundane” problem. But there are supernatural problems to be dealt with as well. The world’s oldest vampire, the Mother of All Darkness, has been waking from her slumber for several books and she is fascinated with Anita’s necromancy. Anita, possibly because of the mother, has several types of lycanthropy in her—especially tiger which is the mother’s animal to call. And she starts messing with Anita’s tigers and drawing male tigers to her—giving us our first real glimpse into the cultish tiger clans which are clearly going to be a major problem for Anita in the future.
And none of that even touches upon the true crisis of the story, which I’m not going to give away except to say that Hamilton hints at what is coming quite fairly and so the reader has every chance to expect it.
This is a good one. The only thing really holding it back is too much onscreen sex.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 27, 2022 at 8:15 AM|
Thresher by Michael Cole
I’ve been a fan of shark stories since I first read Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry when I was still in elementary school. Now Peter Benchley’s Jaws stands as the benchmark against which all such stories are measured and Michael Cole’s Thresher holds up pretty well in this company. At its heart, it’s a story of a rogue fish terrorizing a community. It also has a law enforcement officer with a serious problem (not fear of the water this time, but an inability to come to grips with his wife’s death), shady politicians, and a couple of very likeable other characters—enough to make it quite probable that some of these people are going to get eaten by the titular shark.
The buildup is good. The shark is a terrible danger right from the beginning, coming off a little more like a megalodon than a great white, but this gets explained about midway through the story. In fact, in those early chapters, a lot more author energy is expended building up the cast than it is on the fish that attracted all the readers.
About midway through the novel, we find out that we are actually reading science fiction. The thresher, and what a great shark to build this story on because it hunts and fights very differently than a great white does, has consumed some experimental growth hormones that has radically boosted its size. The hormone has the additional effect of making the animal very aggressive. And since the government was involved in testing the growth hormone, a certain powerful politician wishes to cover up that his experiment has resulted in the deaths of a lot of people. So in addition to worrying about a man-eating predator wrecking boats in the nearby ocean, the heroes also have to fight a government coverup that is preventing news of the true extent of the danger to get out.
Now this is where the one seriously wrong turn that the author makes factors into the story. The heroes kill and capture a second fish that has been infected by the growth hormone—so they have evidence they can use to actually prove what is happening—but the scientist who made the discovery decides to use the dead fish as bait for the giant thresher. I hope I don’t have to dwell on how stupid this is. Not only does it dispose of badly needed evidence, every reader will instantly realize it puts some of the nicer characters in the story in serious risk.
That being said, the hunt for the shark and the climatic ending gave me all the thrills and excitement and satisfaction that I could have hoped for in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 26, 2022 at 8:20 AM|
Enter the Saint by Leslie Charteris
I’ve been wanting to read one of The Saint books since the movie came out some thirty years ago. I didn’t actually see the movie, but I remember that it looked interesting and Charteris’ series has a lot of books in it which promised a lot of entertainment if I liked it. So I finally acted on the impulse and while I wasn’t thrilled with the book, I wasn’t particularly disappointed either.
The Saint is a man who has dedicated his life to bringing criminals to justice, but not until he has bled them of significant financial resources first. He’s not greedy. He gives the money to charity. So he has a certain Robin Hood vibe to him.
I think the character can best be summed up by the word “attitude”. He has tons of it. No circumstance seems to discombobulate him. He loves putting on a disguise and he loves coming out in the open. He’s always ready for a fight whatever the odds. And he absolutely lives for the chance to make a criminal feel the shock of fear that comes from realizing he’s not actually in control of the situation.
So it was a fun book, but not so much that I feel compelled to run out and read the next one. If I happened upon one, I probably would, but if I wait thirty years to read the next one, that will be okay too.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on June 25, 2022 at 7:30 AM|
Sugar Grove Mysteries 1 Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett
I first stumbled across this book back in 2014 shortly after it came out and happily read it’s two sequels as they arrived. The setting is charming—a small New England town where not too much happens. The heroine is a member of a clearly wealthy family who—except for the fact that she’s the only one who works—doesn’t actually appear to live that high on the hog. Instead, the family seems to spend most of its time worrying that our heroine, Dani, a very diminutive 27-year-old, hasn’t gotten married yet. The rest of the time they spend worrying about whether grandpa can win the next pancake eating contest. In other words, it’s a very quiet little town which is about to be upset by the murder—at the pancake eating contest—of the town’s most hated citizen. The reason this affects our heroine is that the killer’s chosen murder weapon was a poisoned bottle of Dani’s maple syrup—her new business.
That maple syrup, by the way, is the reason I chose to read the book. I’ve been fascinated by the industry since reading John Ringo’s Live Free or Die (which is also the title of one of Jessie Crockett’s novels and how I accidentally discovered her) and I was happy to read a book that told me a bit about how the business works. So to clear her company of any suspicion that bad production methods led to the poisoning, Dani starts investigating the murder and learns that even more people hated the dead woman than she had first suspected.
Now, as mysteries go, this is a pretty good one. First the suspects are all identified and slowly we learn enough about them to figure out who did it. There are a couple of red herrings along the way, one of whom caught my interest, before everything is exposed in a very exciting ending. But that’s not all this book has to offer. There’s also a lot of family issues that seemed very realistic to me (including a miserably nasty sister). But the plot element that really makes this book stand out is an occurrence that releases a lot of exotic animals into the New England woods and gives Crockett a chance to show her sense of humor.
So this is a good novel which I enjoyed rereading, but there is one element that jars me throughout the story and that’s Crockett’s dialogue. It never quite feels natural and it’s just awkward enough to pull me out of the story occasionally and make me wonder if anyone (much less a whole town) could really speak this way. Now if this is actually an accurate rendition of speech in a small New England town, I offer my apologies. But it doesn’t feel authentic to me.