Illustrator and comics artist and publisher from Canada.
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Smashwords book reviews by Mike Dominic
- Powers vs. Power Book Two
on Aug. 23, 2010
Writing prose about superheroes can be a difficult task because the visual aspect on which the medium of comics depends is missing. "Biff!" and "Pow" don't parse the same in a non-graphic form. This means that the stories, if they're not to be entirely juvenile, have to be a lot more character driven. The problem is then to avoid the pitfall of turning the work into fanfic, making the characters cheap pastiches of existing heroes or winding up hip deep in long descriptions of powers and physiques. Robin manages to avoid these dangers quite nicely and has created a cast with a fair amount of depth and personality. Yet, the work does not cross over much into Alan Moore territory; this is not a deconstruction of the genre. Superheroes in this world are a good thing, and there's a good sense of fun and wonder in these stories as well. I think these books will be enjoyed by anyone who actually likes superheroes.
Fans of "Watchmen" and "Astro City" and other intelligently written superhero fiction will definitely enjoy both volumes of Powers vs. Power, and as for me, I'm looking forward to Volume 3.
- Halloween Sky and Other Nightmares
on April 01, 2011
I'll tell you the truth...I'm a bit of a fiction snob. When I buy a book from an ebook site like this and from an "unknown" author, I generally expect something on the quality of the thinly veiled fanfic that seems to abound everywhere. In the horror genre it gets worse, as everyone seems intent on emulating Charlaine Harris or Stephanie Meyer...and even the originals of those don't interest me.
I'm happy to say that in this case, I'm wrong. "Halloween Sky" is an anthology of stories of such surprising breadth, depth and quality that I'm tempted to say I haven't seen the like since Charles Grant's original "Shadows" collections.
Plainly put, these stories are good. They are, by turns, entertaining, disturbing, frightening, amusing and titillating. There's fantastical weirdness in there worthy of Clark Ashton Smith; there's black humour worthy of Gahan Wilson; there's splatter worthy of Skipp & Spector. It's a mixed bag, no doubt, so all in all the best way to describe the stories as a whole is to say that they're good.
The quality of the writing is not just serviceable, as so much writing from developing authors seems to be, but it's professional. Morris seems to have no trouble shifting the narrative voice to meet the form of the story, and the characters are well-drawn, engaging (if not always sympathetic) and consistent with the worlds they inhabit. The stories themselves generally avoid the tropes of the genre, developing bizarre and thus fascinating new territory...and where the book does dip into the standbys, as with the truly excellent zombie story that closes out the volume, it does so in a new and intriguing way so that you never have a sense of literary redundancy.
The book's not perfect...there's one story in there that I thought was below the standard of the rest of the book, and without which the book would have been much improved. In a few spots the stories are predictable...but predictable in the sense of a freight train speeding down the track, making them no less intense when the inevitable and foreseeable end arrives.
For the experienced reader, I would put the quality of these stories among anything written by Bentley Little or Richard Laymon, and taking aim at Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson territory. The author's notes at the end of each story are almost as interesting and make you wonder just how much of the author's experience, as in the opening tale, "Halloween Sky" come from life.
For anyone who enjoys the short story form in horror...the best form for the genre, in my opinion...this book is a treat. At the price, you'll find the value returned many times.
on April 28, 2011
The strength of "Fraterfamilias" is its cast of characters, a gathering of personalities about whom the reader almost instantly wants to know more. They're well-constructed, complex and largely sympathetic. The authors capture their individual voices very well. It was anticipation of their several fates that, largely, kept me reading to the end.
Unfortunately, the weakness of "Fraterfamilias" also lies in the characters. More specifically, it lies in their failure to really DO anything for most of the span of the novel.
The action of the story opens with a very strong scene in which a leading character is killed. Much credit goes to Doloughan and Stiles for finding a way to kill off their protagonist in the introduction and still have him be the pivot of the rest of the novel without resorting to one long flashback.
However, after that very promising opening, the rest of the characters seem to run themselves a merry caucus race for the rest of the book, circling around each other with motivations and goals that are never quite clear to the reader, and possibly even to themselves. The main plot is just barely strong enough to tie all the leading roles together, and very often the subplots were more interesting...up to the point where it was realized that they were either never going to be resolved, or resolved in a vague, hurried fashion.
The villain of the piece, as much as he can be considered a villain, remains shrouded in mystery for the bulk of the story, but then is largely left hanging in his final scene, with no indication of a dénouement or even a proper comeuppance. Not that he does much in the span of the novel to deserve one, other than setting loose his despicable henchman, whose final treatment is much milder than it should have been.
As a whole, the novel feels like the authors came up with an interesting cast of characters (about whom I'm sure there's an interesting backstory tucked away somewhere), but couldn't think of the right paces to put them through. The result is that the story is just scene after scene of "talking heads", who never really live up to the potential they promise.
It's not a bad novel, really...if you enjoy internal dialogue, and characters working through their feelings, then this may be your book. However, that's not the type of novel the cover and the writeup, or even the introduction, promise. What they do promise is something that's never truly realized.
Personally, I'd like to see the bulk of this story edited down to novella length, then have that serve as the introduction to a longer work, in which we learn more about the characters, and get more of their backstory in the context of a more action-driven (not necessarily violence, but for heavens' sake, have them do something!) plot.
I suppose its some praise for the novel that I was able to finish it, when I have abandoned works by more well-known authors, and also that I still would like to know more about the characters involved. I do appreciate its better points, but I doubt that I will be recommending it to anyone else.
on May 16, 2011
Starting out somewhere around Richard Matheson's "Duel", heading down the road a pace past "The Hills Have Eyes" and ending up somewhere even Lovecraft would be hesitant to approach, this book is an enjoyably creepy read, perfect for the summer reading list or, dare I say, for those long trips in the car. It's got good character development, a truly unique villain, and an ending fit for any summer blockbuster. Well worth a read.
- Formatting Comics for the Kindle and Nook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Images and Ebooks
on June 02, 2011
This book was worth much more than I paid for it, in terms of the amount of time it saved me in formatting our book for the Kindle. Using the helpful template provided by the authors, I was able to accomplish the task much quicker and with much less guesswork than if I had to try and work it out on my own.
Until Amazon releases a tool or script for automating this process, anyone considering putting a comic on the Kindle owes it to themselves to read this book first.
- Arcane Sampler
on June 23, 2011
This book does well to bill itself as "Penny Dreadfuls". The original penny dreadfuls, like the pulps, were meant to be disposable entertainment. The stories in this collection fit that bill well. They are disposable, in the sense that they are ephemeral and unpretentious, and they are definitely entertaining.
Calling them disposable is not a criticism in this case; it's a feature. These stories will not linger with you, but they will thrill you while you're reading them. You're not going to have to work too hard to understand any of them, but they're all well done, and there's clearly some talent on display here.
All in all, the items in this collection are not too long, and not too deep, making this the perfect read for an idle couple of hours. As entertainment, it's highly recommended, and I'll be looking forward to future offerings in the series.
- Historical Lovecraft: Tales of Horror Through Time
on Aug. 11, 2011
The connection between Lovecraft and historical fiction seems so obvious, I'm surprised it took anyone this long to make it. With "Historical Lovecraft", it has been firmly and strongly established, and this book is a welcome addition to the ever-growing Mythos.
Lovecraft, for all his strengths, was a bit of a cheat when it came to history, setting his more fantastic stories in times and places supposedly lost to history, when they weren't happening in his own back yard, figuratively speaking. This kept his work safely out of conflict with the facts of history. While the stories do not suffer from the absence of real historical context, it is interesting to wonder about how his creations would have operated within a more familiar context.
The stories in "Historical Lovecraft" provide that context, coming from the pens of writers who seem not only steeped in the legends created by the writer, but also knowledgeable about the times of which they write. These are writers of the finest caliber, telling first-rate stories. Their individual voices are layered ona delicate and subtle balance of historical insight and the kind of cosmic horror for which the sub-genre is rightly famed.
A shining example to me of the quality of this collection lies in the story "Silently, Without Cease" by Daniel Mills. Instead of weaving a narrative from whole cloth and dressing it up in the robes of another Century, the author has taken a historical event that is in itself horrible enough, and filled a few theoretical gaps with the addition of an Elder God. This, along with the judicious use of some graphic description, creates a story that will linger long after the book is closed, as should be the case.
With the recent rise in popularity of Lovecraftian tropes, there are many authors turning their hand to the Mythos, with varying results. "Historical Lovecraft" has to be among the best of them, and the quality of work presented has me looking forward to other books from this publisher, and hoping for a "Historical Lovecraft II".
If you're a fan of either Lovecraft or good historical fiction, get this book. I promise you will not be disappointed.
- The Strange Case of James Kirkland Pilley
on Sep. 08, 2011
Definitely an entertaining read. The story has strong echoes of Lovecraft's "Herbert West, Reanimator", but definitely has its own identity as well. The central idea is very strong and creates some great, if graphic, visuals for the reader.
To be a little critical, some of the diction and vocabulary in the early part of the story had me wondering if it was intended as a somewhat humorous pastiche, but the events of the story soon proved otherwise. Also, some of the plot elements seemed a bit contrived, but not to the point of incredulity.
Overall, a good story, and strong enough to make me want more.
- The Beast of Bridgewater
on Sep. 08, 2011
I admire the intent, if not the execution of this story.
It reads as if it were a fiction writing assignment from an interested, but not particularly talented, high school student. It's not terrible...but neither is it particularly good. There's no strong hook for the reader, almost no character development, and only the barest gloss of atmosphere.
Without knowing anything about the writer, I'd say that his writing might go somewhere in time, but it will take a lot of practice.
Read it because it's free, but don't expect too much.
- Innsmouth Magazine: Issue 11
on Oct. 23, 2012
A good issue, as good as any so far. In a field redolent with pastiche, it is nice to see an editor take a chance on content. With this issue, Innsmouth Magazine self-acknowledgedly moves from "Lovecraftian" fiction into weird fiction, as clearly evidenced by the dreamlike "The Drowned Ballet" by Kirsten Alene. Still, it does not leave its roots behind, as the almost too cute "The Boston Look" demonstrates. Between the two non-opposed ends of this spectrum of fiction lie some interesting stories and a lot of ground to be covered, so I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.
My favorite piece from this issue is easily "Dinner at Majak's" by Nghi Vo, in which Lovecraft is served up the Top Chef and topped off with a dash of Bloch. Chilling fun.
- The Bequest; An Homage to H.P. Lovecraft
on Nov. 02, 2012
As far as Lovecraft pastiches go, this one is pretty good. Above the average, in fact. It definitely has a Lovecraftian core, but has some interesting original touches as well, and overall makes for a good read. Heartily recommended.
- The Writers' Pad E-zine Volume I Fall 2012
on Nov. 02, 2012
A bit of a mixed bag, and unashamedly amateur, but well-written for that and containing some interesting work with a lot of potential. Some parts, especially some of the poems, were rather weak, but were more than made up for by some strong fiction. I'll be interested to see more from some of these writers.
- Tales To Terrify Vol 1
on Nov. 26, 2012
You should not be reading this review.
The table of contents of this book is nearly a Who's Who of modern horror. The names contained in this volume are so luminous, and the quality of work they contribute so nonpareil, that it is almost an insult for the reader to question whether it is worth buying this book, even so far as to read what another reader has to say about it. There's not one whit I can say about Gene Wolf or Joe Lansdale or John Shirley...just to sample a few...that will add anything to the legend that precedes them, and any one of the contributions in this book is, in itself, worth the price of admission. And so, for the simple reason that the value of this book, from it's gloriously lurid cover through to it's final author bio, is beyond question or reproach, you should not be reading this review.
That and the sad fact that the minute you spend reading this review is one less minute spent reading the book.