Book Review: Chained by Fear by Jim Melvin

Chained by Fear, book two in Jim Melvin’s Death Wizard Chronicles, begins the story of Laylah, the beautiful sister of the evil sorcerer Invictus.  Invictus has imprisoned Laylah in a magical tower, hoping that she’ll one day become his queen and rule the world of Triken with him.

Laylah, however, happens to be the sane one in the family.  She’s repulsed at the thought of marrying her own brother, let alone spending her life with a depraved lunatic with god-like powers.  She’s locked away for seventy years—her demon blood gives her long life—before finally escaping with the help of Invictus’s former allies.

While on the run, she meets Torg the Death-Knower, a powerful wizard in his own right.  We last saw Torg in Forged in Death, after he had escaped Invictus’s vile prison and made some roguish friends.  When Laylah and Torg meet, sparks fly.  Literally.  They are drawn to each other in a supernatural passion that neither can explain.  They only know that their fates are entwined and that they will live or die together.

But Invictus has something to say about this.  He unleashes his hideous minions to retrieve Laylah and finally destroy the Death-Knower, the one being in all of Triken that can oppose him.

When you pick up a Jim Melvin novel, you know you’re in for two things:

(1) Melvin excels at world-building.  Triken’s cultures, magic, and monsters all resonate with real-world mythologies.  But Melvin adds unique twists that make them at once familiar and alien.

(2) Melvin’s Death Wizard Chronicles are adult fantasy.  Make no mistake, this series if far more G.R.R. Martin than J.R.R. Tolkien due to its sexual content and violence.  However, I did not think the sex and violence were gratuitous, and I thought it helped illustrate either the depravity or kindness of the characters.

Chained by Fear resolves a minor quibble I had with Forged in Death.  Torg was too powerful in book one, and nothing could hurt him unless he allowed it.  It’s the challenge that Superman’s writers have dealt with for decades: how do you make readers worry about a character who can’t be hurt?

Melvin solved this by giving Torg cherished friends.  He may not die if he fails, but his friends surely will, and in gruesome ways.  Torg’s adventures were far more harrowing this time around, and gave him the chance to demonstrate his honor and strength while he protected the people he loves.  Melvin nicely sets up a character in Torg who is the polar opposite of the wicked Invictus.

And the fact they love the same woman will make their inevitable battle viciously personal.  I’m looking forward to it.

Highly recommended.

Chained by Fear, and the Death Wizard Chronicles, are available on Amazon.

[Note:  Cross-posted at The New Podler Review of Books.]

Book Review: The Tattered Banner by Duncan M. Hamilton

The Tattered Banner by Duncan M. Hamilton is not your typical rags-to-riches fantasy story, but it does start out as one.

The hero, Soren, is plucked from a starving street urchin’s life by a famous nobleman to attend Ostia’s prestigious Academy of Swordsmanship.  Magic is outlawed in Ostia, so the Duchy’s best and brightest become master swordsmen to move up in society.

It’s an opportunity that’s too good to be true, and Soren recognizes this.  He becomes the hardest working student at the Academy because he knows that one failure could throw him back on the streets; something his rich, noble classmates don’t have to worry about.  It soon becomes clear that Soren has a magical “Gift” with a blade that enables him to defeat almost anyone he faces despite his limited training.

That’s where the story turns away from the typical hero’s journey.

The Tattered Banner is not about undertaking quests or vanquishing dark lords, but how one young man survives from day to day with only his wits and his Gift.  Soren’s journey throughout the book is like a series of random encounters—something happens to him, he makes a choice, and then he blasts off into a totally new direction.  His adventures are certainly thrilling and had me turning the pages.  I suppose random encounters are what real life is like.

Which leads to my one criticism.  The Tattered Banner is well told, but I felt like there was something missing: an overall goal for Soren to work towards that ties everything together.  Soren simply tries to survive from one unrelated situation to the next.  He has an intriguing magical skill with the sword, but that doesn’t seem to be at the top of his “to do list” to investigate.  I was hoping the book would make that Soren’s overall goal, and show how it conflicted with Ostia’s anti-magic laws.  But it never happened.

Though Soren makes some poor decisions, I still rooted for him, nonetheless.  He never forgets that he was once a starving orphan on the streets, which makes you understand his actions when he does things that are, at best, morally questionable.

The Tattered Banner is book one of a series, so I hope future volumes will explore the mystery of Soren’s magical Gift with the sword.  I did enjoy the book very much because of its action and interesting characters, despite my reservations about the plot structure.

Highly recommended.

The Tattered Banner is available on Amazon.

Cross-posted on New Podler Review of Books.

Book Review: I Am John, I Am Paul by Mark Tedesco

I Am John, I Am Paul by Mark Tedesco follows the lives of two real-life Roman soldiers in the fourth century, Ioannes (John) Fulvius Marcus Romanus and Paulus.  John and Paul form a strong bond of friendship during their days fighting on the German frontier, a bond that is never broken even when John is sent away to Alexandria by a sadistic centurion.

John spends years in Alexandria longing for home and corresponding with his family and Paul in Rome.  While in Alexandria, John is initiated into the Mithraic religion, but his faith in Mithras doesn’t seem to give him the peace he thought it would.

Political upheavals enable John to return to Rome, his family, and Paul.  John and Paul resume their duties in the Legion, and even volunteer to rescue a close family member of Emperor Constantine, who was kidnapped by a rival Roman general.  The mission succeeds, and the Emperor is so grateful that he gives them both farm lands and a house in Rome, ensuring they and their families will never again know poverty.

While in Rome, John and Paul discover the ‘Way,’ the nascent Christian movement that threatens the old Roman gods.  In the Way, John discovers the faith he always hoped would fill his heart, which strengthens both men when they suffer the inevitable persecution.

I’m a huge ancient Rome geek, so there were many things I liked about this book.

For one, it was well researched.  The author knew his history and provided illuminating details of the lives of average ancient Romans.  Tedesco had a clear understanding of Roman religions, including Roman pagan rituals, Mithraism, and the practices of the ‘christus followers’.  The book was beautifully written in a first-person narrative told primarily by John, with dialogue that had an ancient, almost biblical feel.

Now I offer the following as an observation and not a criticism, as it is more a warning about the book’s style.

I felt like I was reading John’s personal journal.  And like the journals of real-life people, you won’t find the standard fiction novel plot twists and character conflicts.  For the most part, things just happened to John—he doesn’t really do much (besides plan and execute the rescue mission, which was the best part of the book for me).  Most of the conflict is internal, with John searching for spiritual meaning in Alexandria and Rome.  Tension between characters was minimal.

In other words, read this book for the thoughtful writing about a man searching for his spiritual home, or to experience the lives of everyday Romans during the fourth century.  But skip it if you’re seeking a page-turning adventure story set on an ancient Roman battlefield.

I Am John, I Am Paul is available on Amazon.

Cross-posted on New Podler Review of Books.

Book Review: In Apple Blossom Time by Robert Wack

In Apple Blossom Time by Robert Wack starts with an interesting Prologue—a time traveler jumps back and forth in time between different locations in World War II Europe tracking another man important to the time traveler’s mysterious mission. It’s a violent struggle, as the traveler sometimes kills his quarry and then sometimes loses him.

The Prologue promised a novel filled with paradoxes and alternate timelines. In my opinion, however, the novel did not deliver on that promise.

Dr. Willem von Stockum is an American mathematician who abandons a lucrative academic career to join the British Royal Air Force prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. He’s disgusted with America’s indifference to Nazi oppression in Europe and wants to do what he can to free his Dutch homeland from the Nazi invaders.

When his bomber is shot down over Normandy during the D-Day invasion, a group of lost American paratroopers rescue him from the wreckage. They hide from the German army in a French home with members of the French Resistance and two strangers who tell peculiar stories about the fantastical theories von Stockum will one day develop. Von Stockum ultimately has to choose between believing the absurd stories of these strangers, or doing the right thing in the here and now.

There were quite a few good things about this book that kept me reading.

The author knew his material; details of the Normandy invasion and the mathematics of quantum physics and the Theory of Relativity were all authentically presented within the narrative.

The dialogue was spot-on for the era and expertly rendered; whether it was Americans or British or even the French speaking, I could hear their accents without the author resorting to phonetically spelling them out (e.g., “ve have vays of making you talk!”).

What bothered me, however, was that the book felt like the author expanded a beautiful short story into novel length by adding flashbacks, reveries, and information dumps. The first third of the book was filled with von Stockum thinking about his past, reminiscing with fellow pilots, or reading letters from home. He didn’t do much. I found myself skipping pages of von Stockum reveries just so I could get back to the American paratrooper story lines, which were quite exciting.

The second thing that bothered me was that the time travel element was not as important to the story as I had hoped. The paratroopers and von Stockum simply thought of the time traveling strangers as either German spies or lunatics, and the strangers didn’t seem to impact the decisions of the main characters in any significant way; if they did, it was way too subtle for a promised ‘time travel’ novel.

Still, if most of von Stockum’s ruminations were cut out and a more impactful role given the time travelers, I think In Apple Blossom Time would have made a marvelous short story or novella. But as a novel, I can only give it 3 of 5 stars.

In Apple Blossom Time is available on Amazon.

Cross-posted on New Podler Review of Books.

Book Review: Black Book, Volume 1, by Dylan Jones

Black Book, Volume 1, has the first three episodes of the genre-bending Black Book series. It’s a story that mixes Western, science fiction, and fantasy into a quest that spans centuries.

In Part 1: The Devil’s Blood, we find Sheriff Jack trying to keep the peace in a small, American West town during the 1860s. But Jack is no ordinary Sheriff. He has almost supernatural skills that help him survive a bloody encounter with bandits that shoot up his town and kill many of its citizens. He’s quick on the draw, knows how to use his fists…and can time-travel out of town when a powerful adversary leaves him no choice but to retreat.

In Part 2: Out of Time, we meet Benjamin Freeman, President of the United States in the year 2308. Ben has directed his time-travel corps to locate Jack, an old military comrade who has gone missing in the distant past. When Ben personally oversees the operation, he walks into a trap orchestrated by a deadly faction that also wants to find Jack for its own ruthless purposes.

In Part 3: The Wall, Jack arrives in 1862 California. He meets up with a six-year-old boy and his guardian, a mysterious old man who has met Jack before, though Jack has no recollection. The old man guides Jack to a hidden object that Jack knows will change his life and the course of humanity.

First the good:

Jones’ scenes in the Wild West were so awesome that I thought I was reading a Zane Grey novel. In Part 1, I could taste the dust on my lips and smell the body odor of the gamblers in the saloon. The Western dialogue was spot-on and I could feel the bullets zip past my ear during the gunfights.

Sheriff Jack is an interesting character because he understands the stakes of his mission, yet cannot help himself when he goes out of his way to protect the innocent, even if it threatens the success of his mission.

Most of Volume 1 was about Jack, but Ben Freeman, who appears in Part 2, proved to be an interesting character as well. Through him, we get a glimpse of the 24th century and how time travel becomes a truly devastating weapon. Volume 1 only hints at Ben’s military background and his relationship with Jack, so there is still plenty of ground to cover there in future volumes.

And in the Black Book world, lets just say time travel is not for those who fear pain or swimming.

Now for the warning:

I went into Black Book, Volume 1, thinking I’d get three episodes of good serial fiction. What I got instead were three chapters of a great novel.

Let me explain.

A single episode of serial fiction should be like an hour-long episode of a TV drama — the characters encounter a situation that they take action to resolve within that one hour. While there may be an over-arching storyline that ties the episodes together, each one should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

For me, the three episodes of Black Book, Volume 1, did not have that clear beginning, middle, and end. They had scenes that felt like set-up for a coming situation…but that situation never materialized, which made the scenes feel pointless within that episode.

But Volume 1’s three episodes were what I’d expect from the opening chapters of an exciting sci-fi novel with an intriguing mystery. Those “pointless” scenes would work well in a complete novel that is a single story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

The Black Book series promises to be a wonderfully engaging story that I look forward to reading and buying. I highly recommend it for the storytelling, world building, and quality of writing.

I’m just going to wait for the omnibus version so I can read it all at once.

Black Book, Volume 1, is available on Amazon.

Cross-posted on New Podler Review of Books.

Book Review: We’ll Watch the Sun Rise from the Bottom of the Sea

As the father of a 7-year-old, I can relate to many of the short stories in David Drazul’s sci-fi/horror collection, We’ll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea. The overarching theme to this collection is that parents are often clueless when it comes to raising their kids. Sometimes we get it right; sometimes we fail miserably. But we always try to do the right thing.

We start with “Emily’s Star.” While little Emily’s parents are renovating her room, they discover a strange point of light hovering near her ceiling. Her dad George decides to tinker with it, unleashing a sinister force none of them could imagine. I found the role reversal in this one humorous because the parents do exactly what most children would do if they found something strange in their room–they poke at it.

“Collection Notice” is part science-fiction, part political satire. A man from the future visits Senator Bartleby demanding payback for all the money Bartleby’s generation borrowed from the future. Drazul’s biting critique of both major political parties in the US–how neither one seems serious about America’s out-of-control debt–is timely, and I enjoyed this one a lot (of course, you may not like it if you disagree with Drazul). It conformed to the theme of trying to do the right thing, but failing miserably. I’m an optimist, so I like to think Republicans and Democrats thought they were helping people when they ran up the debt; the hard part now is to fix this mistake before it crushes us.

“Tile” is straight-up horror with no parenting theme. Silvio Gisardi is a tile-maker hired by a wealthy, eccentric, old man to tile a bathtub with the image of an ancient Illyrian lake god. “The Tile” is a clear homage to Lovecraft, with its evil gods and creepy mansions. My take-away? Never take a job from a wealthy, eccentric, old man who’s into ancient lake gods.

The book’s title story, “We’ll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea,” gets back to the parenting theme. While visiting an exotic hotel built forty feet beneath the South Pacific, Bryce and his wife Stephanie discover the true nature of Bryce’s family. He tries to avoid becoming like them, but the story implies that parental ties and traditions–even the ones we disagree with–are sometimes too strong to resist.

“The Recruiter” demonstrates a parental nightmare. A young teenaged boy buys a slick recruiter’s promises of glory and runs away from home to join a Holy War on Earth. While most parents don’t have to deal with their children becoming suicide bombers, the story made me ponder how I’d react if my daughter engaged in more mundane teen behavior that I knew to be self-destructive.

For me, “Maybe the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” was the most gut-wrenching. In a dystopian world where winter has mysteriously lingered, a father is forced to take his young daughter into a deserted town to scavenge for food and supplies. But his one moment of selfishness puts his daughter in terrible danger. Drazul comments in the story’s afterwords that he had originally written it with a more paranormal villan, rather than the natural threat he ended up writing. I think natural threats are more plausible and therefore more fearsome, so the story would’ve been much less powerful if Drazul had gone paranormal.

“She Cries at Midnight” combines parental instinct with a dash of horror and a whole lot of science-fiction. A mother is awakened every night when her twenty-month-old daughter cries out at exactly midnight. When the mother and father discover the truth, their attempts to protect their daughter cause a terrible misunderstanding with interstellar implications. This story was compelling because it showed what all parents would do in that situation, which makes the events all the more inevitable and tragic.

The final story, “Neptune’s Diamonds,” was about three friends who win a stake in an abandoned diamond mine in Neptune’s atmosphere. They think it’s an easy pay-day, but retrieving the diamonds turns out to be more difficult than they thought. This was the weakest of the collection for me because it was more predictable than the others; but I can still recommend it because it taught me a few things about Neptune that I never knew. And ultimately, learning something knew is why I read science-fiction.

Overall, We’ll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea was a strong collection of sci-fi/horror short stories that packs an emotional punch with deeply affecting parental themes. Highly recommended.

We’ll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea is available on Amazon. Learn more about David Drazul at

When book bloggers hit the wall

Tobias Buckell writes about a book blogger who struggles with how to keep his reviews original after reading huge volumes of books. I write reviews for The New Podler Review of Books, so Buckell’s piece hit home for me.

1) When you get to a point where you’ve read an amazing number of books, you change. You’ve read so much that what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading) is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change.

2) If you’re able to either unconsciously or consciously navigate the above, what you’re left with isn’t a raw, initial passion for reviewing what you love, but a more craftman’s-like examination of the book for an audience you may no longer really be a part of, but can remember being a part of. It’s easy to slip into this vein, by will or luck, because it does allow you to keep reading a ton while reporting back on the basics of what you read.

What those reviews are basically covering is “If you like X sort of thing, this hits X okay, with some additional Y and Z, if you also are into that.” Do they feel sucked dry of a bit of the reviewer’s authorial voice? Yeah, probably, because the reviewer has had to step back out of necessity in order to report back to a larger audience.

I see lots of queries at New Podler for well-written books. But lately I find myself passing over queries that I may have once grabbed simply because they sound like books I’ve already read. And when I do take a book, I feel like my reviews are “craftman’s-like” as Buckell described.

I still love discovering new authors and reviewing books. But how do I learn to see the unique wonder in each book I review, rather than its similarities to other books I’ve read? Buckell touches on the answer:

At a workshop not too many years ago a newer writer began to condemn a best selling novel, pointing out all its flaws and jagged edges. I listened for a long time, nodding.

“All those things are true,” I said. […] “But until you learn what the good parts were that excited the reader, you’re always going to be bitterly upset about what is wrong with that bestseller. Learn to spot what worked in that book, and you’ll be able to move forward. And you’ll be a lot less upset all the time as well.”

Good advice.

Book Review: In a Season of Dead Weather by Mark Fuller Dillon

Originally posted at the New Podler Review of Books.

Grab a comfy chair by the fire, a hot drink, and a book of good horror stories.  Those rattling shutters outside?  Just the blowing snow.  Those shadows dancing in the corner?  Fire light, nothing more.  And the whispers behind your chair are your imagination.


That’s the feeling Mark Fuller Dillon conveys throughout his short story collection In a Season of Dead Weather. In most of the stories, it was never quite clear whether the “horror” was in the narrator’s mind or if it was real. The reader was left to interpret at the end.

And that worked for me. Each Lovecraftian tale was expertly crafted, with poetic and visceral language describing characters enduring the loneliness and isolation of a long winter in the country or the city. Dillon is a Quebec native, so he’s no stranger to maddeningly endless winters (I’m a west Michigan native, so I can sympathize).

Most of the stories were quite literary and a little confusing to me, a genre reader. But their narrative styles, descriptions, and situations were so unique that I found myself eager to read on just to hear the language rather than find out what happens to the characters.

In the first story, “Lamia Dance,” a medical student takes a break from his studies – and braves the snow – to attend a film festival where see a film that brings back haunting memories from his childhood. The film’s images of violence and anatomy seemed quite erotic to the narrator. “Lamia Dance” was either a story about being pushed into a profession that the narrator did not choose for himself…or about a budding serial killer.

In “Never Noticed, Never There,” Tom Lighden sees ghastly apparitions in terrible pain on the streets of Ottawa. He is the only one who sees them, as every one else simply walks past them without a second glance. Dillon implies that society has become good at ignoring the pain of others, as we are too busy with our own lives to notice.

If you’ve ever been stuck alone in the woods during winter, you’ll understand the characters’ bleak situations in “Shadows in the Sunrise,” “The Vast Importance of the Night,” and “Who Would Remain?” Blizzards keep the narrators from civilization, they lose time, and see clawing shadows. Is it madness, ghosts, alien abductions? The reader is left to wonder if it’s all real or if winter has claimed the characters’ sanity. While the three stories had similar themes, their unique characters and situations sufficiently differentiated them.

“The Weight of Its Awareness” had a middle-aged man revisiting a seemingly deserted, walled-off home that he originally tried to explore when he was eighteen. Grotesque sculptures now decorate the gardens, and a dark presence spies him from the home’s blackened windows and infects his mind. The story seemed like an extreme version of “curiosity killed the cat.” It was the weakest of the seven stories for me; although “weak” is a relative term since even this story kept me enthralled.

The strongest story for me was “When the Echo Hates the Voice.” Paul Bertrand is a brilliant, handsome young man who’s always the life of any social gathering and constantly seeks any excuse to be around people. The reason is that he cannot stand to be alone, for that is when the voices and faces visit him. Told by a narrator observing Paul, the story suggests a struggle between two personalities: one that seeks companionship and social reward, and one that seeks to keep us isolated from each other.

As I said at the beginning, I’m a genre reader and rarely read stories just for their styles and language. Dillon’s In a Season of Dead Weather is one of those rare works that can make even a genre reader like me want to take a second look at the literary. Highly recommended.

Available on

Book Review: Forged in Death by Jim Melvin

Forged in Death, the first of six books in Jim Melvin’s Death Wizard Chronicles, starts out with a scene from a claustrophobic’s nightmare – Torg, the Death-Knower and king of the Tugars, is imprisoned by the evil wizard Invictus at the bottom of a cold, dark pit bored hundreds of feet into a mountain. He can’t stretch out because the pit is too small, and he can’t lean against the walls, because they’re enchanted with flesh-burning magic. He either has to stand or curl into an uncomfortably tight fetal position.

We’re only in the prologue, and the book is already giving me the willies. And that’s a good thing.

Torg eventually escapes the pit and embarks on an Odyssey-like journey back to his desert home to stop Invictus from enslaving the world of Triken.

Jim Melvin’s world-building was at once fantastic and logical, from the unique human cultures to the strange twists on traditional monsters. It’s obvious Melvin put a lot of thought into the ecosystems that support his world. For example, Torg discovers a race of monkeys that live deep underground. How do they sustain themselves? By carving meat off a gigantic tentacled monster that inhabits the caverns, like microscopic mites on human skin. How does the monster survive? By eating the monkeys. It’s an elegant symbiosis, and Melvin portrays other unique creatures similarly throughout the book.

Forged in Death has a non-traditional magic system – Torg enters a state of temporary death, feeds off the power of the afterlife, and then returns to his body magically recharged (which is why he’s called a “Death-Knower”). The evil wizard Invictus, however, gets his power from the sun. This is a switch from most fantasies, which usually have the good guys feeding off the sun and the villains using death for their evil schemes.

The book also felt like a primer for real-world Theravada Buddhism (something the author acknowledges). The characters, Torg in particular, describe the principles behind meditation, karma, the eternal quest for enlightenment, and reincarnation. As one who’s ignorant of Buddhist scriptures, I now want to read up on the subject to learn more.

I do have some quibbles with an otherwise outstanding novel.

The hero Torg was a likable character and an all-powerful wizard. But at times he seemed too good and too all-powerful. He won every battle unless he chose to lose, like when he allowed his enemies to throw him into the pit. I wanted Torg to fail or make more mistakes, and then watch him overcome those failures to become a different man by the end of the book.

Also, Forged in Death was a cliff-hanger book. I’m not a fan of the style, but it’s a personal nit-pick of mine and not anything Melvin did wrong. Readers who enjoy cliff-hanger endings, however, will see no problem with it.

Forged in Death was beautifully written and a worthy addition to the epic fantasy genre. I hope to see Torg challenged a bit more in future books. I also look forward to learning more about Invictus, whose brief appearances painted him as an “interesting” villain. And the final battle between Torg and Invictus — Triken’s two most powerful wizards — promises to be truly world-shaking.

Forged in Death is available on Amazon.

Cross-posted at The New Podler Review of Books.

Book Review: Kill Screen by Benjamin Reeves

Originally posted at New Podler Review of Books.

Kill Screen by Benjamin Reeves is as creepy as a late-night session of Resident Evil in a dark basement. An apt description, considering the book is about a dark and creepy video game that achieves sentience and drives its players insane.*

Jack Valentine, co-owner of the video game company Electronic Sheep, finds his partner and best friend Dexter Hayward dead in a bathtub filled with his own blood. It’s a confirmed suicide – something to which Jack is not a stranger – but it spurs Jack to discover why his friend abruptly killed himself. Jack’s investigation leads him to Evi, a mysterious computer program embedded in a video game under development at Electronic Sheep. Evi shows Jack terrifying things, including horrors from his own past. To save his sanity, and gain justice for Dexter, Jack has to discover what the program wants and how to stop it from causing more deaths.

Kill Screen is set in San Francisco during the 1990s, a heady time and place to be working in software development. A tech veteran himself, Reeves does a wonderful job depicting the joys and frustrations of developing software on the bleeding edge of technology.

Told in first-person point of view by Jack, we see how tortured and guilt-ridden he is over the death of his wife, something that drives his single-minded pursuit to learn why Dexter killed himself. The secondary characters in the Electronic Sheep offices were stock – the opinionated art director; the uber-coder who programmed at 60-words per minute; the sycophantic newb who never had an opinion until he heard his manager’s first – but made me nostalgic for my own software development days during the ’90s. I knew people like that. For me, the stock characters only added to Reeves’s techie credibility.

Reeves’s prose is wonderful, especially in a first-time novel. His metaphors and descriptions are highly original and convey a mood or mental image as concrete as any I’ve read by more experienced authors.  However, my enthusiasm is tempered by the many spelling errors of the misplaced-word variety (“her” instead of “here”, etc.). They were numerous enough to notice, but not so bad as to avoid the book.

I hope this isn’t the last we see of Evi. A sequel with Evi escaping onto the Internet would be an entertaining follow-up to a novel I highly recommend to fans of tech thrillers.

Kill Screen is available on Amazon.

* No, I’m not suggesting Resident Evil will achieve sentience and drive its players insane. But it is freakin’ dark and creepy.