Funny yet profound, Louis K. Lowy’s retro sci-fi novel “Die Laughing” is a real zinger. It’s got aliens, mobsters, and comedians – but it’s also got heart. Set in the 1950’s, comedian Sam E. Lakeside finds himself kidnapped by ET and to their royal leader, which just so happens to be a mobster. As a result, he’s all but forced into a plan that will rid the earth of all of its oil for these hungry aliens. Hmm, is a there a social commentary here, I’m not sure.
Ready for revenge after the murder of his manager and best friend, Sam enlists the help of a comic book writer and the mobster’s ex-girlfriend. They find themselves in New York City where Sam is faced with the moral quandary of either obtaining the success he’s always yearned for, or to save the world from obliteration. Tough choice.
It’s a light and fun read, mostly. Like I mentioned before, there are instances of commentary of the current oil crisis and mankind’s selfish tendencies. While it could have easily before preachy, Lowy pulls back and brings humour back into the story, injecting witty one liners and colorful situations that border on farce. It’s charming and enjoyable, and can be easily consumed by any avid reader.
There’s nothing like a really good, well-researched piece of fiction that has the possibility of actually happening. The author’s ability to create a human being’s reaction and behavioral changes to a cataclysmic event is key to the book being a success or a big ol’ flop. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a discourse on the human condition, it’s certainly a great opportunity to speculate.
Imagine this: a novel that has vampires and witches and monsters as its key characters who are suffering existential issues based on life’s struggles. Imagine if The Odd Couple starred witches or if Lucille ball were a sorceress who solved crimes on I Love Lucy? Is your mind blown yet?
Lennox Brown’s The Small Matter of the Death Cult of Katahdin, the first entry in The Shabby Realm series, is an explosive, enjoyable, creative debut of an author I’ve read in some time. Replete with excellent pacing, snappy dialogue, and a hilarious dynamic between a down on his luck vampire and his licensed witch wife, makes this book a fun, refreshing read.
The speculative fiction genre is a sneaky one. It tends to coalesce the ever-popular Science Fiction genre with fantasy and horror, often with an end result like a weird fusion of Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. New novelist Donald McEwing takes this all-encompassing genre and spins it to meet his own literary agenda as illustrated in his work Nouveau Haitiah.
The novel itself acts as a cerebral massage; though containing characters that have popped up in literature over time, they are bold and original in their intents and overarching plans. The main characters in “Haitiah” are a motley crew of sorts in terms of literary themes. There’s the strong heroine, the sucker who wants to stay young forever, and the witch. Each of the aforementioned jointly embark on the sordid quest of historical preservation and ultimate redemption. Along the way of these concurrent quests, McEwing masterfully documents the existence of an organic, exciting, and exotic world that is described in ways that enable the reader to envision its existence.
If I had to choose one word to describe Malay Upadhyay’s “Kalki Evian – The Ring of Khaoriphea” it would be ambitious. As we all know, ambition can either be successfully achieved or can fail miserably – but it’s the journey towards its attainment that is the most interesting.
Heavily ensconced in Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy plot conventions, “Ring” contains themes that are profound and timeless. The author has a keen sense of the importance of cause and effect as a central pattern in all life forms. What you put out there is what you get back. This notion is what befalls the central characters in the novel that must discover for themselves that righting one’s wrongs does not necessarily equate to a different end result.
In the same vein of The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series, J.A. George’s “Gifted” contains the central theme of a strong female character who has unbearable demands on her shoulders. The female hero in “Gifted” is Avery Gray, an inquisitive being who has been chosen for a unique kind of eminence, despite the fact that her young mind may not be able to see that being different is indeed what makes us great. As the title alludes to, Ava is gifted, and as such, is sent to live in a lone city where others of her kind dwell. It is here that her story truly begins.
She soon meets magical and ethereal beings and begins to grasp the gravity of her true enormity. The author introduces stock characters that assist Ava in her reluctant quest into the realization of her true potential. Among these is a love interest, a boy who aids Ava on her journey towards self-realization. Obviously the story cannot be all joys and giggles, and therefore the author has the endearing Ava bequeathed the task of saving this new city she calls home.
Before I opted to remove Sci-Fi from my review policy, I committed to reading A.K. Stone’s opus “Adam” – and I’m quite glad I did. Written for the adult reader but still appropriate for a younger audience, “Adam” is a sci-fi tome that attempts to modernize the genre, if that’s even possible. Can you modernize the future? If A.K. Stone’s writing is any indicator, it’s certainly a possibility.
With obvious inspirations from the Kubrick/Spielberg criminally underrated “A.I.” and Kubricks masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Stone spins a tale that possesses just enough genre conventions to satiate the needs of the seasoned sci-fi reader but also evokes humor to keep it a tad lighthearted. In my experience reviewing sci-fi works, authors tend to overly describe otherworldly locales and hybrid species that litter galaxies far, far away. While “Adam” has the requisite forward thinking mentality and coldness that the future apparently has, there’s still some heart lurking below the monochromatic surface.
Not to be confused as an instructional book to bring whilst camping, Sarah Sunday’s “How to Stop Wildfire” is strictly a taut sci-fi read that borrows heavily from the mythologies built by the greats such as J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. Replete with complicated narratives and a bounty of historical lore, Sunday has created a book that will perfectly assuage the lust of the world’s most loyal fantasy/sci-fi readers.
Sunday has created a world where humankind is confirmed as not the only kind of life in the known universe. Competing for survival alongside humans are thirty other races that collectively create the being knows as the Empire. A placement within this construct means potential eternal life, where anything is indeed possible, as demonstrated through Sunday’s propensity to document technological and supernatural frameworks. This is where the sci-fi comes in, and Sunday does a splendid job in iterating the subtle combination of science and, well, fiction.
The first in a proposed series of tales, J.D. Demers’ intricate “The Hunt Chronicles: Awakening” is clearly written for those fervent fans of The Walking Dead and World War Z. Set in the obligatory apocalyptic world that is ripe for the existence of zombies, the tone of the novel reflects more of a thriller than the standard gore-infused books that comprise the undead genre.
Not different than the world around him, the hero of this story, Christian Hunt, finds himself plagued with the illness that has befallen all of mankind. Interestingly, it is not the presence of zombies that poses danger in the new post-humanity world. Christian soon becomes aware that what has consumed humanity has not afflicted him, and this knowledge is both dangerous and life-saving.
First and foremost, I must concede that Jessica Dall’s “Off Book” is one of the most original and extraordinary narratives I have read in quite some time. Everything about the novel is so new and vivid that it’s fairly difficult for me to highlight what I liked best about it because it was sincerely all so special.
The story itself is a clever twist and commentary on the meaning of life and defining what one’s true purpose really is. Guised under the genre of sci fi/new adult/fantasy, the work itself reminded me of a modern day “Into the Woods” with its momentum and subversion of the definition of what writing is and how characters are developed.
Integrated with the mechanics of plot and structure and pace and other literary devices, the lead character, Eloise, is still awaiting her own assignment in a story despite her clear superior knowledge of what makes the quintessential character. In fact, if she isn’t placed in a story soon, she will fade away forever.