Category Archives: Speculative Fiction

Blood Tells True (Vampires of the Plains) by Alan Ryker

Blood Tells True by Alan Ryker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alan Ryker has become one of my all time favorite authors. His characters are some of the more ‘realistic’ people I’ve ever read. The people he writes about make sense to me given the circumstances they are faced with, as well as the type of life they have lived.
The fact that Alan Ryker writes Horror, Speculative Fiction and Urban Fantasy adds to my enjoyment all the more.

Blood Tells True is the continuing story of Jessica Harris, first introduced to us in Burden Kansas, a most brilliant “Vampire-Western” that propelled Alan into my “Authors Are Rock Stars Hall of Fame”.
Jessica has lost her entire family to vampires. At just seventeen she has assumed the role of avenger and protector to a community which shuns her and is unaware that vampires exist. She has become hard, as hard as her uncle had been when he confronted these creatures. As hard as he had been in life. A loner with a brittle disposition that kept the small community at arms length and just as suspicious of him as they now are of Jessica.

Positive that Jessica was in some way involved with the tragedy that befell her family, even the seedy element in town are speculating. When a drug dealer with a grudge comes to town he vows to eliminate Jessica as a possible threat to him and his dealings.

What follows is a series of actions taken by this dealer and Jessica herself that threatens even more lives and Jessica knows that she is the only one that can stop the inevitable carnage.

The vampires are ugly, animalistic, and brutal. They are unorganized and avoid other vampires. They do not seek out high school girls to seduce nor do they ‘blend’ in with society to amass wealth and be thought of as handsome, beautiful and mysterious. They are freaks, monsters and without conscience.

Jessica is not a cute and curvacious coed who finds herself developing super strength and paranormal powers in which to fulfill a romantic destiny. Instead she is angry, guilt-ridden and obsessed with the slaughter of these creatures and is becoming sadistic as she begins to enjoy the challenge and thrill of the kill.

Blood Tells True is an all out showdown at sundown between a girl and a pack of remorseless monsters. Clint Eastwood with a ponytail versus vamps who do not shop at Old Navy, unless the salesgirl smells good.

Book Summary: One year ago, vampires killed Jessica Harris’s entire family, compelling her to become a vampire hunter in order to protect the small farming community that hates her.

Six months ago, a meth dealer put a price on Jessica’s head.

Two days ago, a hit-gone-wrong released a vampire more powerful than Jessica has ever known. A vampire she created.

Today, in pursuing her monster across the Kansas prairie, Jessica uncovered a conspiracy that threatens to wipe an entire town out of existence.

Tonight, she fights.

In his gritty Vampires of the Plains series, Alan Ryker takes vampires out of the cities and places them on the sun-bleached western prairie. Blood Tells True continues the Harris family saga begun in Burden Kansas, but is a complete tale that can be enjoyed on its own.

Review for Burden Kansas:…

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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Horror, Speculative Fiction


Dark Steps by Martin Pond

Dark StepsDark Steps by Martin Pond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Martin Pond’s collection of short stories begins with Waiting Room. A young boy told he must face a coming-of-age test that all face yet no one talks about. No one in his school knows what this test is or why everyone has to take it but everyone knows how important it is. Martin Pond puts the reader in the waiting room with him. We sit next to him as he is ushered into a small room, all white, and waits for his test to begin. The musings of this boy combined with the dystopian atmosphere Pond creates very quickly put me in a state of suspense. I dreaded the outcome of this story but couldn’t read it fast enough.

Dream Feed, the second in the collection feeds on every parents worst nightmare. Throw in the creepy feeling of the paranormal and you wont use a baby monitor ever again.

Each story that follows is just as compelling and I enjoyed every one. My attention was captured and I appreciated each twist and turn Martin Pond took me through. I have not had a story with so few words have so huge of an impact before. Every story felt full, well rounded and complete despite their length. Pond uses words more efficiently than anyone I have ever read. I did not feel cheated when the story ended so quickly.

Each story puts its character into a dire situation and begs the question, what are you gonna do now?

Here is the summary:A teenage boy waits to take a sinister test he may or may not pass; a new father hears a strange voice on his daughter’s baby monitor; a poisoner’s best-laid plans go terribly astray; an enigmatic man gets as close to death as he can; a young boy wonders why Christmas just doesn’t feel right this year; after the year from hell, a man is driven to extreme measures; a dying man reveals a black secret to his son; and, after four years in limbo, a man’s life starts to unravel…

Martin Pond is brilliant and I cannot imagine a full length novel from him that would not blow my mind. I highly recommend Dark Steps to anyone who enjoys a twisted tale!

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Transmat World by Glen Hendrix

Transmat WorldTransmat World by Glen Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so impressed with this novel. As far as I know, and I have checked, this is a debut novel from Glen Hendrix. I have to stress DEBUT before I proceed with the review because it will start to sound as if I am reviewing a well established Science Fiction writer. There is a tendency for reviewers to give overly optimistic review ratings because it is so very hard to give a lukewarm one to a writer you have been corresponding with. I do not do this even though it is very stressful for me. I shudder when an author reads a review I have written but I have to be honest in my opinion.

Having said all of that….Glen Hendrix is STELLAR! Glen Hendrix is my new best friend! I am now the official Glen Hendrix fan club President whether he likes it or not! OK, OK, review time….

Transmat World opens in Jakarta, 2045 A.D. Daniel Fulbright, a businessman is wrapping things up and getting ready to leave his hotel room for the airport. The world has been made aware of an asteroid that will pass close to Earth but will not strike and since this has happened many times before it is basically ignored. Daniel sees the asteroid skipping across the sky then a blinding flash which immediately tells Daniel that this asteroid did not miss. What ensues is a very realistic and frightening race for Daniel and a few others he has rescued to get to a safe haven Daniel thinks will survive the devastation the impact will cause. You are completely immersed in this scene. Glen Hendrix understands the consequences of this type of disaster and he uses that knowledge to great success. I was left reeling.
Much to my surprise, we are then taken into the future of Earth and it’s recovery from the asteroid. More importantly, we are introduced to Vince Miller as a college student and his brilliant father who invents a teleportation technology called Transmat. This amazing technology can do wonderful things for all types of applications but it also results in the downfall of any transportation business as well as others and eventually a crash of the world market. Vince and especially his father become hated but Transmat technology is bigger than any hate and Vince goes on to lead the company to even higher success including his dream to use Transmat to explore space and eventually find sentient life there.

Then the author sends us back hundreds of thousands of years into the past and millions of light-years from Earth to another society which is somewhat more advanced than us but a more brutal society geared towards the hunt of lesser species on their planet. Among these people, the Kolpak, is a hunter who has become bored with his prey and commissions a robot to be made to challenge him. Through a series of events, this robot has unintentionally been given freewill and the intelligence of it’s creator. It gives itself a name, Maxlux, and decides it’s his duty to stop all higher life forms that kill those less than them. Then Maxlux builds a ship, a really big one and decides to travel the universe in search of more civilizations to stop and Earth is in his path.

In Transmat World, Glen Hendrix creates a civilization of robots that are human-like with their intelligence and emotions. You follow them and their struggle to free themselves from Maxlux and his mission. You also see the history of Earth evolve as the leader of the freed robots tries to prepare our civilization to combat Maxlux. It is fascinating and very personal. In spite of it’s far reaching timeline this book draws you in to the lives of human and robot alike. I became completely invested in the characters. More importantly, there is a lot of hard science in this story but Glen Hendrix made it approachable and completely interesting.

There is no way I can do this book justice with my limited writing skills. I can not stress enough how epic this novel truly is. I can compare it to the likes of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle with their brilliant books The Mote in God’s Eye and Lucifer’s Hammer which is the highest praise I can give.

Transmat World has been added to my all-time favorite books right alongside of those works of Niven and Pournelle. I cannot recommend this story enough.

Here is the book summary: Nine hundred thousand years ago in a galaxy right next door–the Greater Magellanic Cloud–an artificial intelligence is created to be a hunter’s prey. An accident produces a maniacal machine that destroys the civilization that created it and proclaims itself the Prime Mechanical and Supreme Arbiter of Known and Unknown Existence. With a space ship the size of the orbit of Mercury and an army of strikemechs, it prowls the Milky Way for sentient organics.

In the year 2045, the asteroid Isadora strikes off the west coast of Java, killing billions. Post-Hit Earth comes to realize the capricious nature of the cosmic weather forecast and begins to plan accordingly. Just when things are looking up, along comes Transmat (the first teleportation device) and the world’s economy collapses. The inventor is assassinated, leaving his son, Vince, to deal with a planet that hates him and a fast-approaching Supreme Arbiter.

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Mind Melding by Malissa M. Kent

Mind MeldingMind Melding by M. M. Kent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Summary: Convicted criminals are no longer sent to prison as a lost cause…they’re offered rehabilitation into normal society. Inmates are allowed to enter the mind of a civilian for a few days, to observe that person’s life and understand how the thought processes of a normal, non-criminally inclined person work. Indira is a convicted bank robber, and has been in the program since its inception. She knows its limitations better than the researchers themselves. They think their experiment offers no danger of contamination–or full-out mind melding. Her only way to escape from prison is to prove them wrong.

I do not read many short stories because I am greedy for a good story to last as long as possible. Having said that, let me say that I was more than a little bit unsure on how to review this short story. I have read Anthologies and such and was able to base most of my review on the whole of the work but Mind Melding is only 4000 words. Would I be able to write a review to do it justice?

The answer is yes. Yes, Mind Melding is a short read but it is clever. Clever and interesting. It immerses you into a surreal world and culture where rehabilitation for criminals has become an invasive look into the lives of people who do not commit crimes. Mind Melding also raises issues concerning any agency having the right to use people unknowingly in order to deal with a criminal mind. I also found the arrogance of the programs researchers to be amusing. Engineers once said the Titanic was unsinkable and look how well that turned out.

I am looking forward to more from Melissa M. Kent. 4000 words is not a huge amount of content to develop a compelling story that readers will remember but Ms. Kent does it easily. I can’t wait to read a full novel from her, i’m thinking it will be brilliant.

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Sue’s Fingerprint by Andrew D. Carlson

Sue's FingerprintSue’s Fingerprint by Andrew D. Carlson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

Book Summary:A gel-like substance is suddenly discovered across the country. Ted Stevens, a Director in the Department of Homeland Security, is assigned to investigate. He enlists the help of scientists at a government laboratory to analyze the ‘goo’. They discover the substance was sent to Earth and has unique properties; it can clone animals. Ted soon learns the substance can also clone humans.

Sue is the first of eleven new people cloned from the alien substance. She and the others are contained by Ted on an abandoned military base. While there, the clones receive a message. Sue decides she must deliver it, and one morning they find she’s gone.

During the recovery of Sue, Ted learns of the clones’ message and begins to understand their true intentions. He needs to know more about the clones, so he collects samples for DNA fingerprint testing. The fate of the new people will be decided by the results from Ted’s friends at the laboratory.

This type of story is my favorite type of Science Fiction. An event that produces extraordinary results which could prove disasterous. A team of scientists experimenting, speculating and debating the purpose of the event and the government trying to conceal and control it. In the case of Sue’s Fingerprint, the presence of the clones poses the obvious risk of panic. The unknown is an automatic enemy and the people closest to these clones are rightfully wary however, with time, they cannot see anything other than human behavior and emotion from them.

The story becomes a type of analogy to human rights. Rights of the innocent. In the case of the clones, are they genetically different from their original counterpart? If not, then do we have the right to lock them up and treat them as the enemy?

I have to give the concept of this story a 4+ star rating. The 3.5 star final rating is due to the lack of complexity in some of the characters. I also found the telling of the story to be a bit simplistic as well.

Having said that, I have worked with several people in the scientific community. Oftentimes these men and women tend to dumb things down a bit for us regular folk. Andrew D. Carlson has an extensive background in science and there is a possibility that that is the case.

In conclusion I like where Mr. Carlson is going. This is his debut novel, there was meat in the story. I am going to be watching him because I have a feeling he is going to be one of my favorites.

I recommend this to all fictions lovers, science and other!

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Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors by Benjamin X. Wretlind

Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with ScissorsCastles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors by Benjamin X. Wretlind
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Speculative Fiction….
I love Horror….
I LOVED this book!

I want to talk about how I felt when I started this last night.
I watched in empathy as nine year old Maggie hid in terror of a storm. Her small frame under the sink trying to protect herself. Her alcoholic mother, jeering and deriding her for her weakness. Her grandmother having a zen moment on the porch as Maggie cries.
Maggie is telling me about her life, not complaining of her circumstances but showing me the wonder in a child’s imagination.
Maggie tells me how her grandmother loves her. She makes sure Maggie eats and is clothed and is protected. Maggie talks to me about the trailer park she lives in and the desolate desert which surrounds it giving Maggie ideas of adventure and mystery and discovery.
Through Maggie, we witness her grandmother teach Maggie about the voices in the storm. The way God uses these storms to clean up the messes that people make. Messes like the ones Maggie’s mother makes with the bad men she brings home. Maggie knows, from her grandmother, that everything she suffers is another brick added to her castle in Heaven. If she makes sure she cleans her own messes then her castle will be large and wondrous, a castle where only good girls go….

I was enchanted by Maggie and the way she accepted her life with such grace. The writing in this story is so clean and fresh. I was completely focused on Maggie and her life.

Then…. Benjamin X. Wretlind lifted his big-booted foot back and kicked my ass into my skull. Right in to my skull.

Here is the book summary:When Maggie was six, she hid from desert storms under the sink where the Comet and Windex were kept. Now twenty, she welcomes the storms. Maggie has been abused, torn apart by the sins of others and constantly feels as if she is living on the verge of some grand epiphany. Then again, she may just be insane. Maggie doesn’t know if the four bodies she dismembered and placed inside a rusted Volkswagen Bus are the only bricks left to her castle in the sky, but she hopes you’ll understand if they’re not. Castles is Maggie’s story, a literary horror novel about love and redemption, belief and revenge and what brings a person to madness. Set in a nameless desert in a nameless town, it is the view into the life of a young woman who wonders if madness is really mad.

Do not assume anything when you read this book and if you have any love in you for speculative-horror fiction; you must read this.
Mr. Wretlind is asking us a question; What is madness? After reading this I have come up with more than a few answers and a whole lot of questions. None of which I will share with you my friends. I promise after reading Castles you will have your own.

Benjamin X. Wretlind is a serious talent and a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to getting the boot while reading further work from him. Grab a copy of this story and watch your ass!

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The Other Room by James Everington

The Other RoomThe Other Room by James Everington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Summary: The Other Room is a collection of weird horror fiction, containing twelve stories of the uncanny and the surreal.

A naive student finds that his crumbling bedsit can be as haunted as any Gothic mansion.

A man stumbles across another world which is the mirror image of his own.

A young woman who everyone thinks is beautiful wonders why, given what she sees in the mirror each morning.

Influenced by writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman these tales, like all good horror stories, are as much about the psychology of the protagonist as the fate that awaits them.

The Other Room contains both new and previously published stories that will challenge your conceptions of horror and literary fiction.

The Other Room is brain candy. Each story challenges you as you try to guess what is really going on. The first story, which shares the title of this collection, was reminiscent of The Twilight Zone complete with the feeling that things aren’t right in a very bad way. I found myself trying to trump the author and predict the ending. Didn’t work.

I read on to the second story, it had a different feel altogether. A sense of impending doom with no obvious reason why. I found that with each story, James Everington created an atmosphere of expectancy and uncertainty. More importantly, James Everington involves the reader by insisting they draw their own conclusions at the story’s end. I spent time digesting the story, pondering the implications of what the characters experienced. To me, this made The Other Room brilliant. There is nothing I like more than for the story to continue on it’s own after the last word is written.

Although this collection of short stories is described as Horror Fiction, I think Speculative Fiction is a perfect fit as well.

My new goal in life is to read a full length novel written by Mr. Everington. I know the experience will be with me for a long time.

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