Monday, July 25, 2016

Guest Post by Darren Beyer - An Emerging Sub-Genre: Smart Science Fiction.

Most nights after I get into bed, I pick up whatever is my current novel and read to clear my mind of the stresses of the day. It tends to be a little too effective – usually after just a few pages, my eyes grow heavy and I’m forced to close the cover. A couple years ago, while searching for another science fiction novel to grace those few minutes each night, I came across Andy Weir’s The Martian. It seemed to have an interesting premise, was science fiction, and was getting good reviews. I was happy the day it arrived, as my previous book was now sitting on the shelf, and I needed something new to bring on my slumber. The Martian failed miserably to meet that need. When, on the first night of reading, the clock hit two, I had to force myself to put it down. It grabbed a hold of me from page one and wouldn’t let go. I finished it two nights later – so much for a good night’s sleep.
Science fiction novels tend to rely on action and the genre itself as a means to draw readers. The Martian is science fiction, but it differs from the norm. It is a novel first and science fiction second. It is every bit as engrossing a story as Robinson Crusoe – just in a science fiction setting. As such, it appeals to a wide variety of readers, including those who would have never otherwise even looked at the cover of a pure science fiction novel. People who had never shown interest in anything resembling a space ship, were drawn to theaters to watch the movie adaptation. The technology and science Weir depicts is nearly flawless. The challenges that must be overcome, real and relatable. The plot, the details, the ingenuity are what made The Martian so successful – the genre played a role, but the work as a whole appealed to everyone.
Last year I had the luck to fall into another novel from a first-time author. Like The Martian, this book had a science fiction theme to it, but it wasn’t what made it so appealing. It treated me to as detailed and interwoven plot as one could hope for. It brought in historic world events, science, and technology to tell a history of humanity that had never before been explored. The book was The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle. It was followed by two more enthralling installments: The Atlantis Plague and The Atlantis World. Even though the books have decidedly sci-fi components, Riddle bills them as techno thrillers. I like to call them, and The Martian, something else: smart science fiction.
Novels like The Martian and the Atlantis series rely on plot, theme, tempo, and realism to draw the reader in, versus attracting them simply because they belong to a genre the reader finds appealing. They have detailed back stories that draw on real history, science and technology to create believable worlds in which the reader can fall into. I’ve read a myriad of science fiction novels. They’ve painted wonderful pictures of far-off worlds, star ships, alien attacks and interstellar wars. As a fan of the genre, I’ve enjoyed the reads, but aside from providing those few minutes of escape each night, most left me with little else. In fact, aside from a select few like Dune, Ender’s Game, I Robot, 2001, and Ring World, I can’t even recite most of the titles I’ve read over the years.
Science fiction authors are now beginning to weave more stories that transcend the genre and attract a wider audience. This metamorphosis is taking place in film as well. Movies like Avatar and Interstellar are less about laser beams and explosions, and more about the story, science and character development. Certainly, no one can say this type of science fiction didn’t exist over the years – it’s been there from such greats as Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, and others . But it never made the leap to mainstream, primarily because the majority of works in the genre catered to the same old themes and diluted those that could have broader appeal. For the longest time I was happy reading those nameless novels, but now authors like Weir and Riddle have ruined it for me. Now I demand more from my reads. Now I demand smart science fiction.

Check out Darren Beyer's blog at

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Audio by Holly Black.

Title/Author: Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.

Read by: Christine Larkin.

Genre: YA, UF.

Publisher:  Little, Brown Young Readers.

Source: Library.

Synopsis:  Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist.  In them, quarantined  monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey.  The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret.  Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Midnyte Musings:
Holly Black does it again with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.  The story had me hooked from the first page (or rather disc).  It starts out strong,  is exciting and fast paced.  Although not a "light" book, as it delves in some deep issues, it is easy to read/listen to and enjoyable to follow.

There is mystery and Holly's signature twists.  Her characters drew me in immediately. All of them.  They are adventurous, human, monstrous, damaged and some are, at times, deceitful. I love the main character Tana.  She's kind of a badass and can be remote and distant, but there's a reason she has walls built up around her.  I especially loved how her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, perceived her.  I thought it was so interesting because Tana was presenting herself as one way and he took it as another.  Gavriel, the vampire that Tana saves is another intriguing character and there is so much more to him than what you see at first glance.  Also a character named Midnight.  What?  And guess what?  She's a blogger.  Not a book blogger, she blogs about vampires.

There is romance, but it is definitely not the main storyline, which is another reason I loved it.  And you could say there is a love triangle, but no, not really.  Maybe just the potential for there to be one.

I haven't read a Holly Black book in a while and you know how you sometimes get worried that an author may disappoint you when you read a new book?  Well Black's writing doesn't diminish.  Her style is compelling, her dialogue smart.  When she talked about a character's hair color being akin to a blue gum ball, by God, I wanted a blue gum ball!  The world building, the vampire mythology, the Dystopian atmosphere -- all are so unique and clever.

Narration: Fabulous.  I loved Christine Larkin's voice and would listen to anything she reads.  She brought Tana to life and is skilled and convincing in her portrayal of all the characters, yes even the male ones.

In a word - fabulous!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Excerpt from The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle.

Beyond Amityville

Outside Ed Warren’s office in Fairfield County, an old chapel clock ticked away the passing moments with quiet, mechanical precision. All else stood still. It was the middle of a cold, dark night in New England.
Inside the office, a brass lamp lit the desk where Ed Warren, a pensive, gray-haired man of fifty, sat working. Hundreds of books surrounded him, most bearing strange, arcane titles on the mysterious lore of demonology. Above the desk hung photographs of monks and grim-faced exorcists, standing with Ed Warren in abbey-like settings. For Ed, working in the still silence of night, it had been a wicked day—one that was not yet over.
Just before the hour, the clock movement came alive in a series of clicks and relays, finally churning up three somber, resonating bongs. At the third stroke, Ed looked up, listened into the darkness, then went back to writing. It was three o’clock in the morning, the true witching hour, the hour of the Antichrist. And now, unbeknownst to him, Ed Warren was on borrowed time.
Only hours before, Ed and Lorraine Warren had returned to their home in Connecticut after having been called in to investigate claims of a “haunted house” on Long Island’s south shore, in a pleasant residential suburb of New York City. In December 1975, the house had been purchased by George and Kathleen Lutz, who moved into it around Christmas of that year with their three young children. A year before the Lutzes bought the house, the eldest son of the previous owner murdered the six sleeping members of his family at 3:15 in the morning of November 13, 1974, with a .35 caliber rifle.* On January 15, 1976, the Lutzes fled from the house, contending that they had been victimized by manifest supernatural forces. It was a case that later came to be known as The Amityville Horror.
By the end of January 1976, the press had become fully aware of the Lutz family’s claim of a bizarre experience in the house, and promptly called experts into the case. The experts brought in were Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were consulted because, in professional circles, they are considered to be perhaps this country’s leading authorities on the subject of spirits and supernatural phenomena. Over the course of some three decades, Ed and Lorraine Warren have investigated over three thousand paranormal and supernatural disturbances.
The question the news media had essentially wanted answered was whether there was a “ghost” in the house at the time.
The answer the Warrens gave at the end of their three-day investigation, however, was something no one had bargained for. Indeed, their answer literally strained credulity.
“Yes,” the Warrens disclosed at the time, “in our judgment, there was a spirit that had plagued the Lutzes in the house. But,” they also concluded, no ghost was present.”
What did this paradoxical statement mean? Did this imply there were other kinds of spirits than ghosts?
Incredibly, the answer the Warrens gave was “Yes!”
“There are two types of spirits that are encountered in true haunting situations,” the Warrens explained on March 6, 1976. “One is human; the other, however, is inhuman. An inhuman spirit is something that has never walked the earth in human form.”
The Warrens’ sobering information was not merely well-intentioned speculation—because fully two weeks before, Ed and Lorraine Warren had been confronted by an inhuman spirit in their own home. The visitation happened to Ed first.

Ed Warren’s office is located in a small, cottage-sized building attached to the main house by a long enclosed passageway. As Ed sat working on preliminary details of the Amityville case that fateful February morning, the latch at the end of the passageway snapped open, followed by the percussive boom of the heavy wooden door. Footsteps then started toward the office.
Ed leaned back in his chair, waiting for Lorraine to enter with a much-needed cup of coffee.
“In here,” Ed Warren called out. Long moments passed, however, and she did not appear. “Lorraine?” Ed called out again, but there was no reply.
What he heard instead, building in the distance, was an eerie, howling wind. It was not the whistling of wind under the eaves, but rather the menacing roar of a distant cyclone. Goose flesh rose on his arms.
“Lorraine?” he asked forcefully. “Are you there?” But still there was no response.
As the ominous swirling sound built in power and intensity, Ed quickly thought back over the last few moments. It then occurred to him that he’d heard only three footsteps in the passageway—not the continuous tread of a person walking. Something was wrong!
Suddenly, the desk lamp dimmed to the strength of a candle flame. Then, abruptly, the temperature in the office plunged to that of a walk-in freezer. A rank, pungent smell of sulfur rose in the room.
Suspicious of the unnatural clamor, Ed Warren opened a desk drawer and withdrew a vial of holy water and a large wooden crucifix. He then got up and walked a few steps out of his office into the anteroom. As he did, there swirled out of the passageway a horrendous, conical whirlwind.
Pointed at the bottom, broad at the top, the thing was blacker than the natural blackness of night. Far larger than a man, the swirling black mass moved into the dimly lit room and drifted slowly to Ed’s left side and came to a halt some ten feet away. As Ed watched, it appeared to grow even denser and blacker than it was before! Indeed, within the swirl, he could see that something was beginning to take shape. An entity was beginning to manifest in physical form!
As a demonologist, Ed Warren knew he had to act quickly, to take the initiative before this fearsome black mass transformed itself into something even more forbidding and dangerous.
Holding the cross toward what was now rapidly changing into a macabre hooded spectre, Ed Warren stepped forward. The moment he did, however, the entity moved defiantly toward him!
Ed stopped and stood his ground as the form slowly drifted forward. When the swirling black mass was no more than a few feet away, Ed methodically, and with absolute determination, showered the thing in the sign of the cross with the contents of the holy water vial. Then he spoke the ancient command: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave!”
For eternal seconds the black mass stayed motionless, no more than a foot away from the cross.  Then, slowly, it began to back off - though not before giving Ed a clear vision of himself and Lorraine involved in a potentially deadly automobile accident along a highway.  With that, the entity, withdrew into the passageway from whence it came. 
An enormous sense of relief came over Ed Warren as he stood, sweating profusely, in the freezing cold room.  Yet as he attempted to collect his thoughts, the vicious snarl of fighting animals suddenly erupted outside the house.  Immediately, Ed realized there were no animals fighting:  the visitation was still in progress.  The entity had simply moved upstairs to attack Lorraine!
Avoiding the passageway, Ed flung open the side door to the office and ran up the back steps of the house.

He would be too late. 

All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission of Graymalkin Media (Reprint edition).

* The New York Times, November 15, 1974.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...