Book: Tin Men

"Tin Men"

After political upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental disaster, the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of the United States determined to keep peace among nations waging a free-for-all battle for survival and supremacy.

But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zone around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. PFC Danny Kelso is one of these “Tin Men,” stationed with his fellow platoon members at a subterranean base in Germany, steering their cybernetic avatars through combat in the civil-war-ravaged streets of Syria. Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable–until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter-strike.

When anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology, Kelso and his comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped–their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk.

Now, with rocket-wielding “Bot Killers” gunning for them, and desperate members of the unit threatening to go rogue, it’s the worst possible time for the Tin Men to face their most crucial mission. But an economic summit is under terrorist attack, the U.S. president is running for his life, and the men and women of the 1st Remote Infantry Division must take the fight to the next level–if they want to be the last combatants standing, not the first of their kind to fall forever.

One bad book doesn’t spoil an author for me. Especially in the case of Christoper Golden, whose books I’ve been hunting down ever since I was introduced to him by the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer novels. So although I wasn’t completely sold on Snowblind, I still immediately picked up Tin Men when Fully Booked informed me that they finally received a copy.

And boy, am I glad I don’t give up on authors easily.

Tin Men is one of Christopher Golden’s best works to date, in my humble opinion, because it presents a post-apocalyptic scenario that might actually happen in the very near future. And the best part? Although there are no zombies, or ghouls, or other monsters? Golden still manages to horrify his readers. In the best way possible.

One of the things I keep a look out for when reading thrillers is the character deaths. I tend to like books better when the author doesn’t discriminate which character to kill. And Golden definitely doesn’t discriminate when he kills his characters, preferring to pick them off when their deaths serve to move the story forward–and not just to shock his readers. This makes the deaths, when they do come, stick. And you feel for the characters.

And you fear for the characters.

Because when it comes to horror, you shouldn’t be able to pick out who is safe from death. You should always be worried about the characters you’re following… The ones you’re enjoying.

I find that, with authors becoming more accessible through social media, many of them are becoming afraid of the backlash from killing off characters who readers might enjoy. This waters down their writing, because you can see in the writing how certain events were maneuvered to make sure certain characters make it out alive. Which is why I have more respect for authors who, while they are approachable online, don’t let their readers dictate where a story goes. Or whether a character survives or not.

There’s a reason why there’s a distinction between readers and writers. And while there’s nothing to stop you from being both, you’re also not supposed to meddle with the writing of something you read. Because readers get emotionally invested. And we let emotions dictate what we want the characters to do, or what we want to happen to them.

And I feel like I lost this train of thought.

Anyway. Going back to Tin Men. I love Christopher Golden’s foray into non-supernatural horror, and I would recommend it to anyone who can find a copy. Really. Read it, guys.

Do you need more convincing? Then why don’t you check out these other blogs that wrote about the book?
Kirkus Reviews
John D. Harvey
So I Pondered

Book: Assassin’s Code

"Assassin's Code"

When Joe Ledger and Echo Team rescue a group of American college kids held hostage in Iran, the Iranian government asks them to help find six nuclear bombs planted in the Mideast oil fields. These stolen WMDs will lead Joe and Echo Team into hidden vaults of forbidden knowledge, mass murder, betrayal, and a brotherhood of genetically engineered killers with a thirst for blood. Accompanied by the beautiful assassin called Violin, Joe follows a series of clues to find the Book of Shadows, which contains a horrifying truth that threatens to shatter his entire worldview. They say the truth will set you free… Not this time. The secrets of the assassin’s code could set the world ablaze.

I picked up Assassin’s Code because it was the fourth book off the Joe Ledger series of books. Which is a good thing. Because I don’t think I would’ve picked this book up based on the above synopsis.

Then again, out of the four Joe Ledger books I’ve read, I think this one is the weakest off the bunch. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s not up to par with his other books. Especially not with the Rot & Ruin series. After four adventures, I think I’m starting to feel some fatigue for the shenanigans that Joe Ledger and his Echo Team keeps getting into.

Or maybe it’s just this book.

Unlike in other Joe Ledger books, author Jonathan Maberry’s pacing for this story seems off. Maybe because there are way too many things going on, too many characters need to process things, too many plot threads are let loose in the wind. The result? Chaos.

Ultimately, when you read the book, that seems to be the intent. But for a reader looking for a break from real life? Chaos needs to be reigned in. Doled out in small doses. Chaos needs a little order, to be easier to take it in. And that’s what I found lacking in Assassin’s Code. Order.

I think it became harder to read when the book reached its second part. When the interludes began? I didn’t need the backgrounder. And, spoiler alert, the interludes are spelt out in the end. So there really wasn’t a point in writing the interludes.

And don’t get me started on the fake chapter enders. Where characters would discover something important–but it wouldn’t be revealed to the reader. It was frustrating. More than pushing me to move on to the next chapter, I kept having to put down the book to remind myself that it would be worth it in the end.

But was it?

I don’t know. On the one hand, I didn’t find the book bad. As I already mentioned before. It’s not bad. It’s just not as good. And when you’ve already shown readers how good you can be… Well, let’s just say I would be a little more wary when I pick up the next book off the Joe Ledger series.

Book: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

"From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant"

Meet Boyet Hernandez: Filipino Lothario. New York glamour junkie. Homeland Security patsy whose high-end fashion line has been brought low by a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Locked away indefinitely in America’s most notorious prison, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his life with this intimate confession, a dazzling swirl of soirees, runaways, and hipster romance that charts one small man’s pursuit of the big American dream–even as the present nightmare of detainment threatens his vital mojo.

I attended the launch for this book by accident. Okay, so I didn’t exactly attend. I was at the venue, browsing for new books to read. And I thought, From The Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant sounded insane. Imagine: a straight male fashion designer accused of being a terrorist? Of course I had to have a copy. Granted, it did take me months before I actually got around to reading it. The point is, I read it. And I think it’s genius.

Reading the novel was slow-going at first. Admittedly, it took me a while to adjust to the storytelling. It wasn’t enough that it was in first person, and that we were being fed information in increments, it was also being unraveled on a per-article basis. I had to put the book down a number of times because it was driving me nuts.

And then I got past the third “article,” and then I got used to the storytelling, and then I devoured the whole book.

Without further ado, here’s my reading of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant:

It is genius. Wait, I think I already said that. But it is. Alex Gilvarry married together two ideas that were so far apart in the spectrum of things and made it work. Fashion and terrorism, who knew it would work together so well? Well? Well, the Nazis did. Apparently.

But in the modern world? In a modern United States? Yeah, I can see how it can happen. And as Alex said in one of his interview, this book is the product of how he was seeing America after the events of 9-11. And what he saw was truly hair-raising. In a horrifying way, yes. But, also, because you can also empathize with the why.

Fear is a powerful agent in making people turn a blind eye to injustice. Fear bred by evil unknown. By evil that can look ordinary, or less-than-ordinary even. We turn a blind eye because we never know. We ask what if. In the book, one character talks about regrets. It’s better to live with a mistake than live with a regret.

And that’s the protagonist’s downfall. People are more willing to live with the mistake of serving a man injustice, than risk the small chance that the allegations are true: that this inconspicuous small man from the Philippines is an actual terrorist.

As Boy weaves his tales picked from memories, as a reader, you are taken for a ride to. Memories have a way of making us look better than we were at the time. And who is to say that the memoirs we are reading are as honest as they ought to be? Remembered past has a reputation of being inaccurate because we don’t really recall things the exact same way.

This gets addressed to by the character of Ahmed, the actual terrorist in the novel. He lies. But he sees his lies as truths, even though everyone can tell he’s lying. So it surprised when we find some of the things he says does turn out to be true!

I must say. For a book that I thought I wouldn’t finish, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant now holds a special place in my heart. Beside Rafe Bartholomew’s Pacific Rims.

Will it make you fall for its charms too? These guys sure did:
Popcorn Reads
Boston Bibliophile

Book: The King of Plagues

"The King of Plagues"

The horror is unlike anything he has ever seen. Driven by grief and rage, Joe Ledger rejoins the Department of Military Sciences and within hours is attacked by a hit-team of assassins. Sent on a suicide mission into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak, Joe and his team are being pushed over the edge.

To get to the bottom of this horror, Joe and the DMS must tear down the veils of deception surrounding them. What they uncover is something far more horrifying than nature or legend could have imagined. Millions will die unless Joe Ledger meets this powerful new enemy on their own terms, on their own ground. In this war, you fight terror with terror.

This is the best Joe Ledger book I’ve read so far, but I don’t think I would be reacting this way had I not read Patient Zero.

Oh, sure. I wasn’t very fond of Patient Zero, but it wasn’t so much because I didn’t like the book, as much as it was the fact that I thought Rot & Ruin was written better. And because they were by the same writer–well, I couldn’t help but compare.

Now, why do I say that The King of Plagues is best because I’ve already read Patient Zero? This time, it’s not because I’m comparing the two. Patient Zero is essential reading for you to truly enjoy reading The King of Plagues, because it sets up a couple of characters that play a big part in the events of this book.

If you’ve already read Patient Zero, you might already know who I’m talking about it. If you haven’t–well, I wouldn’t want to spoil your reading pleasure.

That said, I must say that Jonathan Maberry truly is a master of drama. And this is great because it sets him apart from other horror/action-thriller authors. Maberry knows how to make you care about characters, and he knows which buttons to press to make readers feel every hurt. Most importantly, he knows when to give readers a happy ending. Well, a happy enough ending.

But what I like about him best is the fact that the villains are human too. Well, have humanity.

Okay, maybe not all of the villains.

Basically, Maberry knows that morally ambiguous characters can exist in both sides of the spectrum: in the side of good, and in the side of evil. It helps ground his fictional world more into reality when he has characters who truly captures what it means to be human.

Even though some of them tend to be the more-than-human variety.

And putting down The King of Plagues, I think I’m a bigger Maberry fan than I was before.

Of course, to keep things in perspective, let’s see what other people have to say about the book:
The Fringe Magazine
SF Signal
Fantasy Book Critic

e-book: pandora’s succession

"pandora's succession" by russell brooksPANDORA’S SUCCESSION is an action thriller that centers on terrorism and biological warfare.

main character ridley fox is a cia operative who is on a revenge mission against the organization responsible for his fiancée’s death. that is, until he learns about their plan to market a biological weapon, “pandora,” that could wipe out the planet’s population. suddenly, ridley fox finds himself traveling all over the world to destroy “pandora” before it destroys the world.

PANDORA’S SUCCESSION is a good enough read. is it a page-turner? a little bit, yes. did it blow me away? no.

first things first: i am not the target market for this book. while i do read all kinds of books, i tend to shy away from action thrillers. why? because i don’t like the “one man in all the world” story lines. yes, i’m not a fan of james bond either. [though i do like the grittiness of the daniel craig bond movies.]

that said, i didn’t quite like the vendetta story arc that the main character was on. and throughout the book, i find myself asking over and over: why would the cia trust ridley fox to go on a mission against the organization responsible for his wife’s death?

the changes of perspective also got confusing somewhere along the way. while ridley fox is indeed the main character, we get other perspectives thrown into the novel along the way too. the perspective of a red shirt (a character who dies eventually), the perspectives of the antagonists, the perspective of the attractor/femme fatale, and more. while i don’t mind the femme fatale’s perspective so much, as it does add a little dimension to the story, i thought the story would’ve been more intriguing had the author cut out the other characters’ perspectives.

what the novel has working for it though is that the characters are actually fully realized. reading the novel, you know that these characters had lives before you started reading about it–and they’ll have their own lives after you stop reading about them. and that became a bit of a problem too, as there were instances when main character ridley fox makes references to things that happened before the events of the book.

there was one point, while reading the e-book, that i felt as if this would’ve have worked better as a movie script. action really doesn’t translate well to the printed page, but the author definitely gives his best shot in trying to convey the action of the novel.

if you’re interested in reading PANDORA’S SUCCESSION, it’s available at amazon.

if you want to read more about what other people think about the e-book, check out these links:
geeky girl reviews
blogcritics books
joseph robert lewis’s blog