Review: Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the Wolf
By Alex Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I saw this book blurbed as Sons of Anarchy meets Dune, I knew it was a must-read title for me. Although I haven't yet read Dune, I love what I've seen of Sons of Anarchy, and the concept of biker gangs on an alien desert world jonesing for revenge is more than enough to pique my interest.

Happily, Alex Wells delivers the goods in Hunger Makes the Wolf. This book is filled to the brim with things I dig, and set my fanboy klaxons ringing early on - this sucker is chock full of influences like Firefly, Deadwood (sadly, with far less creative cussing, but if Wells brings in an Al Swearengen type for the next book, that sucker could become an instant literary classic in my eyes), in addition to the aforementioned Sons of Anarchy, set on Tatooine and given a good dash of corporate mystery, downtrodden laborers, and a wee bit of fantasy magic to spiff things up all the more.

After discovering the body of her adopted Uncle Phil lying dead in the desert, his back riddled with bullet holes, the one-eyed female biker Hob is intent on revenge. Wells charges up the aftermath of this discovery with some terrific personal relationships between Hob, Phil's daughter, Mag, and the surly (and also one-eyed) Old Nick Ravani, the leader of the biker gang and Phil's brother. After attacking a corporate facility and exacting some good, old-fashioned Wild West justice, the corporate owners of Tanegawa launch a literal witch-hunt to find Hob and rid the world of its witches.

Wells has built a world of layers upon layers with Hunger Makes the Wolf, but it's all so expertly done that I can't find fault with any of it. Although this book makes for a wonderful stand-alone, it seems set to kick-off a mighty big series, and a whole galaxy's worth of exploration to be done in the volumes ahead. I want to know more about the mysterious Weathermen and the ins and outs of the corporate giant, TransRifts Inc., and what's happening on some of the other colony worlds in between Earth and Tanegawa's world. I want to live in this universe for a little bit longer and really get into the nitty-gritty of it all. And, mostly, I just want to hang out with Hob and the crew of Ghost Wolves as they carry out more hired gun runs and a couple more train jobs, and upset the precarious balance between the planet's hardscrabble miners and the bureaucratic crew pits that run them.

Hunger Makes the Wolf is a great bit of sci-fi with a dash of fantasy, all cleverly disguised as a brutal, kick-ass western. I want more!

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Google Play Releases Are Live! Plus a few other tidbits...

Back in September, I decided to break away from Amazon's KDP exclusivity for a number of reasons (which you can read about here), and have been working on getting my books launched on all the various non-Amazon stores.

As of today, all of my indie titles are finally available on Google Play (due to contractual demands, though, Extinction Cycle: From the Ashes is only available on Amazon Kindle due to it to being a Kindle World's title.) A few of the anthologies I've been lucky enough to be involved in, such as CLONES: The Anthology and a few volumes of Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, have also recently been made available on Google Play.

You can see the full batch of my books on Google Play right now.

I will be updating the sales platforms for each title now available on Google Play shortly, so keep an eye out on the Books section for the relevant links.

I have also set up a PayHip storefront, so all those titles that I own the rights to can be bought directly from me if you so choose. Each title purchased grants the buyer rights to the epub and mobi files, so if you're a Nook or Kindle reader, or use some other brand of e-reader, you can download the appropriate file.

At PayHip, you'll find an exclusive bundle for the DRMR duology. Convergence and Emergence retail separately for $3.99 each, but you can purchase both books as part of a bundle at PayHip for only $5.

I've also set up a sort-of Book of the Month club on Patreon. Patrons at the $1/month bracket are getting one of my titles every month, and will be getting exclusive access to new releases before they launch wide anywhere else.

Right now, for only $1, you can get access to both DRMR novels, Convergence and Emergence. Next month, I'll be posting another book for patrons to download. There are higher levels for readers to pledge their support, should they choose to do so, which will grant them access to things like behind-the-scenes stuff, sample chapters of forthcoming work, and so on. You can head over to my Patreon page and check that out if you kennit. 


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Review: Ararat by Christopher Golden

Ararat: A Novel
$17.10
By Christopher Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prior to Ararat, I had only been familiar with Christopher Golden's work in comics, primarily Baltimore with Mike Mignola. Thankfully, this book was as good a place as any to experience Golden's long-form prose, and post-Ararat, I expect to be reading plenty more this guy's work in the years ahead.

Convinced that they have discovered Noah's Ark after an earthquake reveals a hidden chamber inside Mt. Ararat, a team of researchers dig deeper, hoping to find answers to a series of questions thousands of years old. Led by newly-engaged non-fiction adventure novelists, Meryam and Adam, the team of researchers, scholars, and government overseers find quite a bit more than they bargained for. What they find is something ancient, something evil. As a snowstorm pummels Ararat, and members of the crew begin disappearing, the expedition finds themselves trapped by hostile forces all around.

I've noted before that I'm a bit of a sucker for horror set against arctic climes. There's just something about the visceral nature of freezing winds, violent snowstorms, and blood-spill that really draws me in, from John Carpenter's The Thing to Dan Simmons's The Terror, and real-life horrors like the Shackleton expedition and the polar voyage of the USS Jeanette. And now, Ararat.

Golden nails the atmosphere exceptionally well, and the growing sense of unease and paranoia infecting the researchers is very well drawn. That this works so well is a testament to Golden's ability to draw characters - Meryam and Adam are a flawed, with their problems beginning even prior to their arrival at Ararat. Their difficulties finding a wedding venue for their upcoming nuptials is certainly relatable, and but the deeper issues underscoring this difficulty sets the stage dramatically for the events that follow. Golden does a fine job laying the groundwork early, seeding it with enough doubt so that when conflict erupts it's built right into the core of these characters and their relationships.

Ararat is a slow-burn horror novel, one that is deliberately and methodically paced. Golden lets the conflict simmer, masterfully building up the tension as he peppers in a series of crises that lead to a wonderfully aggressive climax fueled by distrust and fear. This is the perfect snow-day read.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Campbell's and CLONES

Available for free download right now is this book, Event Horizon 2017, an anthology collecting 75 Campbell-eligible Award authors and their works. This is my second, and final, year as a Campbell-eligible author, and my short story of Lovecraftian sci-fi, Black Site, is included!

You can download Event Horizon for free at Book Funnel

Speaking of Black Site, this story originally appeared in last year's CLONES: The Anthology project. The ebook edition of CLONES: The Anthology is currently on sale for only 99c on all available digital platforms. You can find the relevant links here.

In addition to housing my Campbell-eligible story, it was nominated by readers for the best anthology of 2016 in Preditor's and Editor's Readers Poll. On Amazon, it's currently sporting a 4.4-star average out of 5, with 115 reviews.

Several of these reviews even point toward Black Site as among the reader's favorites - always a good feeling, especially when I'm surrounded by (and propped up by) a number of excellent indie authors. Here's a few quotes from those reviews:

A true tale of horror and science untethered, successfully cultivating your sense of dread and raising your apprehensiveness. All of that spine-tingling tension eventually climaxes into an explosive, senses-shattering finale.
— Amazon Reviewer Chris F.
There’s some time travel, there’s some genetic experiementation, there’s some out-of-body experience, and there is some plain old gut-ripping, face-twisting, vomit-inducing horror. I’m looking at you, Black Site, you gory sonovabee you.
— Amazon Reviewer Brent J. Meske
4 STARS: Black Site by Michael Patrick Hicks. Gross. Sooooo deliciously gross. The graphic descriptions are exactly what I needed to get the complete imagery of this story. I’m gonna slap a mature audience warning on this one. Much darker than the other stories.
— Amazon Reviewer ltg584
I’m quite a fan of this author and Black Site is a wonderfully dark and descriptive tale - a thrilling marriage of sci-fi and horror.
— Teri Polen, author of SARAH

Black Site will be getting a stand-alone release later this year. I'm currently waiting on cover art to come through, and then I'll be posting the story for my Patreon supporters to download prior to giving the story a wide release. 

Of course, if you don't want to wait on all that, well, it is on sale.


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Review: Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wending [audiobook]

Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My original STAR WARS: AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

I read and enjoyed the print (well, ebook) edition of Chuck Wendig’s prior Star Wars: Aftermath novel, but after hearing good things about the production qualities of the Star Wars audiobooks decided I would give this format a shot for the second go-round. Holy moly, have I been missing out! It’s safe to say that from here on out, any Star Wars titles I dive into will be in audio format, especially if narrated by Marc Thompson.

The audio production of this novel is absolutely superb. Random House Audio, in conjunction with Lucasfilm Ltd., put together a fully engaging and visceral listening experience. In print, Wendig’s writing style is short and punchy, but as read by Thompson it takes on a wonderfully dramatic effect. Thompson excels at giving each of Wendig’s characters unique voices, and combined with sound effects and a musical score, this audiobook is more like a one-man radio drama. Listeners are thrust into the heart of each battle (and boy, are there ever some battles!), with the whizzing hum of laser bolts blasting by, the thrum of ship’s engines beneath their feet, and the familiar notes of John William’s score overlaying it all. It’s quite a remarkable work all around.

On the story side of thing, Life Debt picks up a short while after the close of Aftermath, and brings a story element teased in the prior novel straight to the center stage. Serious Star Wars fans will know immediately that the title refers to the bond between rogue scoundrel and smuggler, Han Solo, and his co-pilot and friend, the Wookie Chewbacca. After Solo goes missing, Princess Leia presses Norra Wexley and her band of rebels into service to find them. Wexley and her crew, now hunting down fugitive Imperial officers for the New Republic, find themselves embroiled in a battle to wrest Kashyyyk from the Empire’s control and free the enslaved Wookies.

Life Debt is an epic Star Wars tale, filled with political intrigue within both the fledgling New Republic’s ranks and the Empire itself, as Admiral Rae Sloane squares off against a new opponent vying for control of the Emperor’s throne, and battles large and small. While there are plenty of wars among the stars, it’s the story’s heart and sense of fun that really makes this production so enriching.

Listening to Life Debt reminded me what it was like to be a kid again, lost in these stories of the heroes of the rebellion and the insidious forces of darkness within the Empire. This sucker is just flat-out enjoyable, and while I enjoyed the first Aftermath novel quite a bit, Life Debt is significantly better. Wendig has found his feet with his original characters, and he does a great job bringing in old favorites like Leia, Solo, and Chewie (there’s a series of wonderfully heartfelt moment between these three late in the book that are just sublime). And with Wendig’s occasional Interludes, to show how the war between these opposing forces has affected and disrupted day-to-day life for the galaxy’s citizens, there’s an epic and expansive feel that gives the narrative a much wider context. This is Star Wars at its grandest, and I’m eager to see how Wendig’s story culminates in Aftermath: Empire’s End.

[Note: This audiobook was provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com.]

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Review: A Kiss of Thorns by Tim Waggoner

A Kiss of Thorns
By Tim Waggoner
A Kiss of Thorns by Tim Waggoner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With A Kiss of Thorns author Tim Waggoner crafts a brilliant "throwback" horror novel inspired by those 1980s cabin in the woods films like Friday the 13th, but still manages to toss in a few good shocks between bouts of frenzied sex and violence.

Lonny is your typical horror movie slasher, living in a disused cabin off the hiking trails of an Ohio lakeside resort cabin. Waggoner pulls no punches in showcasing the lad's rotten childhood and various depravities, including an infatuation that gives motive to his many murders, and his latest target Julie. Julie and her husband, a young couple barely out of their teens and with their shotgun marriage already in a rut, hope to reignite their spark on a second honeymoon. At least until Julie, a horror movie fanatic, gets lost in the woods...

Waggoner crafts a vicious short story with this one, presenting a couple horrifying moments straight out of NBC's Hannibal in a highly satisfying one-sit read that's pure, bloody good fun.

[Note: I am a member of the DarkFuse Readers Group and received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.]

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Review: Extinction Lost: A Team Ghost Short Story (Extinction Cycle) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Extinction Lost: A Team Ghost Short Story by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Team Ghost hits the ice in Greenland to stop a new threat during their European campaign against the monstrous Variants. Set between Books 6 and 7 (Extinction War, forthcoming), this short story finds Fritz and his Delta Team operators, joined by the Marines of Fox company, freezing their butts off as the snow howls around them, hunting down a bioweapon hidden in a once-secret Nazi compound.

Nicholas Sansbury Smith's Extinction series is known for its high-octane thrills and cinematic action set pieces, and this short story is no different. At less than a hundred pages, and five chapters, this one's basically pure action from beginning to end. Extinction Lost doesn't expand much on the characters or their relationships (it was originally published in SNAFU: Black Ops and serves as a good intro to the author's work), but for newcomers there's a nice opening segment that lays out some of the Extinction history and provides a fun view of how Ghost is viewed by other members of the Armed Services.

Smith was smart to recently shift gears a bit within the on-going series by making the European front a more central setting, and it provides plenty of historical military theater to prop up the story. Extinction Lost is a great example of this, with its focus on a lost Nazi base and some intriguing variations on the Variants thanks to its icy Greenland setting.

Extinction fans diving into this quick read know what to expect and won't be disappointed, but for those readers just finding this series, Extinction Lost is a good appetizer to get you prepared for War later this year.

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Review: Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Agents of Dreamland
$7.68
By Caitlín R. Kiernan
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Agents of Dreamland, a Lovecraft-fueled novella from Caitlin R. Kiernan, is a trippy, non-linear story that has a bit of an X-Files vibe about it. From a mythos standpoint, Kiernan explores the apocalyptic fate of mankind following first contact with the Fungi from Yuggoth and the investigation of a secret government agency in the years prior.

This is a short, but dense, narrative, and Kiernan hops around from one time period to the next. There are a lot of awesome ideas crammed into this novella, from the mystery of those briefly lost hours when the New Horizon's satellite went dark just before reaching Pluto, to the investigation of a small group of murdered cultists and the strange, fungal infection that has seized their bodies. For the most part, though, the focus is on present-day (well, July 2015 to be exact), but Kiernan plays fast and loose with the timeline, presenting information in non-linear dollops.

At its core, Agents of Dreamland is more concerned with ideas and possibilities than it is in presenting a straightforward narrative with resolution. This is more like a slice of life vignette set against the backdrop of Lovecraft's cosmic horror, and the story itself demands plenty of thought well after the last page turns shut. Kiernan gives us a set of intriguing characters placed in a dynamic world, with several book's worth of possibilities encircling each of them. And I hope to sweet, dear Cthulhu that she'll write those books!

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]

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