The field of zombie novels is crowded, but there is always room for fresh ideas and well-told stories. Ex-Heroes has both. Take your zombie apocalypse, add superheroes, and come away with a great story!Ex-Heroes is the story of a group of superheroes gathering what survivors remain in Los Angeles into a former Hollywood studio lot converted into a fortress. The story is told in shifting first-person perspective as well as jumping from the present to the past, shortly before and during the early stages of the zombie outbreak. As the first novel in a series, there is a lot of exposition and a lot of development of the characters, particularly the superheroes and their origins. Peter Clines manages this without sacrificing action and steadily moving forward to a very thrilling climax. The fights and battles are intense and exciting. The fact that the superheroes can die and worse yet, become zombies makes the danger feel real and adds to the excitement. On top of the typical pervasive zombie threat, there is an organized human threat of those who envy what the superheroes have in their fortress, The Mount, and want it for themselves. This adds another layer to the danger and gives the book a focus beyond the typical “kill all the zombies”. The heroes themselves are fascinating and their stories are easily as entertaining as the main plot.It’s amazing how much action and backstory is packed into a relatively short book. Ex-Heroes is a fun, fast and very exciting read. It creates a world that has room for many more stories in it, and I look forward to the next book. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book. Highly recommended.
I’ve long been a fan of James Rollins’ work, and his collaboration with Rebecca Cantrell on The Blood Gospel has produced one of his best books yet.Take a really interesting idea, add some great characters and a lot of action and you wind up with a very fun and entertaining book. This book has exoctic locales, from Israel to Italy and Germany to Russia, as well as events spanning from biblical times all the way to the present. I’ve enjoyed Rollins for his great action, which this book has, but the addition of the supernatural elements and greater depth of characterization here I have to attribute to Cantrell. It’s a collaboration that really seems to work. Rollins and Cantrell quickly boil the cast down to three central and engaging characters. Each has a backstory, parts of which are revealed as the novel progresses. Fascinating supporting characters are folded in throughout the story. There are a number of “whoa” moments as some of these characters and events are revealed.Part of the thrill of The Blood Gospel is the taking of events which most people are familiar with and putting a new interpretation on them which leads to chilling consequences if the heroes aren’t able to overcome them. The balancing act which is done so well here is to tell a thrilling story that keeps charging ahead, while also setting the stage for future books in the series with a world and characters that have so much left to explore. Rollins and Cantrell have created a huge world and reality to explore and I can’t wait to read more adventures in it. Highly recommended. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Prophet of Bones is an exciting thriller set in an alternate world where Darwin was discredited and the belief that the earth is only a few thousand years old persists into the 21st century. This is a fascinating premise and Ted Kosmatka really delivers with his sophomore effort.In a world where the best science believes the earth to only be a few thousand years old, a discovery that threatens that belief triggers a violent reaction that costs Paul Carlsson an eye and several other people their lives. Paul manages to smuggle out a genetic sample and some very powerful people want to make sure his discovery never sees the light of day.Kosmatka does a great job of creating atmosphere. While the pages move by swiftly, there is a pervading sense of tension and dread that oozes from the book. Dangerous experiments that mess with the genetic code are truly terrifying in the wrong hands. By setting the book in a world where Darwin was wrong, Kosmatka effectively highlights not only the threat that new discovery poses to the status quo, but to religion, politics and belief systems. Prophet of Bones is not a typical thriller. The hero is not a bull-in-the-china-shop type. He is physically imposing, but he is foremost a scientist and a man of conviction. Paul Carlsson is a very interesting character. He is layered and driven. I very much enjoyed Kosmatka’s first book, The Games, but Prophet of Bones is even better. The characters are more rounded and compelling, the monsters are just as terrifying, and the plotting is solid from beginning to end. This is a story that will entertain as well as make you think. Highly recommended.I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
The Night Ranger is the latest John Wells novel by Alex Berenson. Instead of Aghanistan and the Middle East, this time the action takes place in Africa, specifically Kenya and Somalia. Alex Berenson is one of the rare authors who seem to get better and better each time out. This book is exceptionally well-researched. I felt like I was in Africa. The complexities of both everyday life and the political situation in Africa were clearly conveyed while also being smoothly integrated into the story.John Wells is one of my favorite action characters. As it says in the book, “John Wells is awfully simple and awfully complicated.” He is not superhuman, bullets don’t bounce off him and he makes mistakes. He also makes choices that aren’t always the right or moral ones, but he questions those decisions himself and has to bear the consequences. He feels more “real” than just about any action character I can think of.Berenson also makes great use of Wells’ former CIA bosses (Shafer and Duto) and his complicated relationship with them and their complicated relationship with each other. The conversations between Shafer and Duto highlight the political considerations that take place and the dichotomy between loyalty and callousness. With limited page time, these characters are very well fleshed out. The plot and the action here are also top-notch. The plot moves forward steadily, punctuated with great action sequences combining both brute force and the latest in military technology. Berenson does a good job of conveying the limitations of both. You are left guessing as to what’s really going on and none of the characters are guaranteed to be safe. Some guesses may be right, but nothing is certain until the last page. Exciting plot and action with real depth both in the locale descriptions and the characters make for a page-turning thriller. Alex Berenson is at the top of my must-read list and The Night Ranger cements that status. Highly recommended.I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
The Leviathan Effect is a very interesting type of thriller. It has computer hacking, shadowy foreign agents, and weather control. The use of weather as a weapon is a truly frightening yet very believable concept. Mother nature as an implacable and capricious villain who may or may not be controllable by terrorists manages to keep the suspense ramping up throughout the novel.The characters of Homeland Security Secretary Catherine Blaine and ex-CIA agent Charles Mallory are exceptionally well-written. From the beginning, it is clear that James Lilliefors is a very good writer who knows how to write characters. Their actions feel realistic. At times it was almost maddening how slow they were to take action, yet at the same time, it was probably a more realistic portrayal of how someone would really act in those situations. Lilliefors also skillfully mixes a mystery of murdered scientists and journalists with a clear and growing threat to the United States in the form of a hurricane of unprecedented proportions. The merging of these storylines feels organic and well-plotted. The Leviathan Effect is a highly intelligent thriller with great plot, great characters and plenty of suspense. Lilliefors is a writer to watch and I look forward to his next book. Highly recommended.I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Phantom is the first Harry Hole and the first Jo Nesbo novel I’ve read. He lives up to the hype. Nordic crime fiction seems to share a sort of dark and moody atmosphere. Nesbo has that too, but he also has more action and intensity than some of the other Nordic novelists I’ve read. Having not read any Harry Hole books before, I felt I was able to pick up on the character and his background rather quickly. Reading earlier novels in the series would be helpful and perhaps enrich the experience, but it is not necessary to read them in order to enjoy this book..Harry Hole is an outstanding character. Dark, brooding, and trapped by his policeman nature that doesn’t allow him to pursue his own happiness. He recognizes that there are any number of choices along the way, but he always picks the one that drags him in deeper and leads him closer to the truth.Nesbo paints a grim and unforgiving picture of Oslo and particularly the drug scene there. Harry Hole’s outlook is nearly as dark. He knows he has a blind spot for Rakel and Oleg, the woman he left behind and her son, but he fights through it to find the truth behind the murder Oleg has been accused of. His own alcoholic past leaves him few friends among his former police colleagues upon whom he can rely. Where others are willing to accept easy answers, Harry keeps pushing, no matter the personal cost.Phantom is an intense book, and the last half of the book rushes at you with a series of twists and turns that keeps you guessing and a shocking ending that will stick with you long after you put the book down. Highly recommended.I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book
The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville is an action-filled alternative history thriller. The premise of a world where Hitler defeated the British at Dunkirk and divided up Africa between the Nazi’s and the British is very intriguing and not terribly difficult to imagine.This book is filled with a lot of action. Fast-paced, bloody, gory, no-holds-barred action. Sort of like Indiana Jones meets Rambo and it’s all directed by Quentin Tarantino. The descriptions of violence are uncompromising. There is an interesting plot of revenge and retribution on multiple levels. The character development is thin and emotions consist mostly of rage and regret. Double-crosses and secret plans that stretch across Africa and reach all the way back to Berlin and London keep the story interesting as the action moves across the continent leaving a trail of bodies and destruction behind.The action scenes are very well-written, if extremely graphic. The heroes can take an incredible amount of abuse and still keep ticking. The scenery and in fact the whole alternate world are vividly and cinematically described. If you like non-stop action and vivid descriptions of battle, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. More character depth and slightly more credulous actions may have taken this story to the next level, but all in all a fun and exciting read. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Truly laugh-out-loud funny books are too rare, but this is one of them. I was hooked from the first chapter and by the end of the second chapter I’d picked up a second copy to give to a friend so I could stop messaging her constantly about how funny this book is. This is a faux memoir about a cynical young writer who decides to write a best selling novel for one main reason: spite. The book is a cynical look at the publishing world mocking best-selling authors, publishers and reviewers. It smartly skewers all of them. It is impossible for me to walk through a bookstore without chuckling thinking about this book.Healy looks both at common literary devices as well as the calculations that may or may not (but probably do) occur in publishing houses, college literature departments as well as the minds of authors. Ironically, you can’t write a book this funny without being well-read and a pretty good writer yourself, which Healy clearly is. This is a book that should appeal to anyone, but is a must read for any lover of books. Highly recommended.
Excellent slow-boiler of a spy novel. While not depending on constant action, this book still manages to be a real page-turner. Well-written and fleshed out characters leave you constantly guessing as to motives and whether or not a double or triple-cross is brewing.Cummings also manages to paint various locales vividly so they feel like real and distinct places. Likewise, his description of the real tasks of spycraft, both exciting and mundane, add a level of sophistication to his work. The outcome never feels like a foregone conclusion and the fact that the characters aren’t infallible lends true suspense to the plot. The various plots are layered like an onion with the peeling back of each piece revealing something new. Even when everything is revealed, the outcome remains in doubt, almost to the last page.A Foreign Country is a cut above other spy novels, and Charles Cumming is clearly at the forefront of the next generation of great spy novelists. Highly recommended. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Project Nemesis is a throwback and homage to monster books and movies from years ago as well as a brand new direction for giant monsters, or Kaiju. Either way it is a lot of fun and a nice light entertaining read.Project Nemesis keeps the mix just about right. You’ve got enough character depth to keep you rooting for or against the heroes and villains along with the right amount of monster description and scenes of death, destruction and general rampage to keep the pages flying and the stakes increasing. The good guys are a little too good and nearly indestructible, and the bad guys a little too evil and indestructible, but that’s kind of the point. The goal here, I think, is not so much believability as plausibility. Robinson keeps the danger and the action ramping up throughout. The heroes, Hudson and Collins grow as well while they must stay ahead not only of the beast, but its creators. It all combines to keep the pages flying. This is escapist fun at its best.