For half a century Zacharias O’Bryan has captured listeners’ imagination with his stage plays, his fireside tales and his songs of adventure. The grass-grown, tumbled-stone castles of Ireland, the dark-chambered Toltec tombs of southern Mexico, the Anasazi cliff dwellings of the American Southwest—these are lands that speak to O’Bryan. And now, rafting into a parallel universe via the roadless river canyons of Southern Oregon, you would be wise to believe his words: The greatest story of all time taps at our window. It begs us to participate.
A rollicking spoof on the old chestnut "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" (aka "Twas the Night Before Christmas") by Clement C Moore. Join a rural-dwelling marijuana farmer and his family as their speeded-up distributor arrives in a Jeep pulled by eight snarling pit bulls. Chuckle as the scrawny fellow tumbles down the stovepipe to do business while the ol' lady and the chilluns snore. (18+ please).
Start with two cups of Southern bosom-heaving romance. Stir with an ounce of Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers Guide" sci-fi. Fold lightly with a shiny blue roadster that apparently hatched from an egg. Cook it over the flames of fondness between Amanda and Sergei. (Oops! ... I meant to say "Miss Backseat Pleasure" and "Shoogie.") -- and have a little fun.
These poems and songs are excerpted from the novel "Spirit Thorn, a Tale of Parallel Worlds." Zacharias O'Bryan invites you to be his guest in a world where music, life and the swirl of atomic particles are one. Molly Greenfingers (the monster), Kestrelle (the young being from another dimension) and Braden Swift (the human teen boy) will be your guides.
"Spirit Thorn, A Tale of Parallel Worlds," the important new novel by Zacharias O'Bryan, unifies spiritual ethics with both ecological mandates and the mind-bending cosmology of cutting edge physics. Written as a science-fiction/fantasy adventure, Spirit Thorn is capturing the hearts, hopes and tears of all Seekers -- from the precocious ten-year-old to the questing adult.
on June 17, 2010
Forty Leap will ambush you. Not since Phillip K Dick has a sci-fi author so perfectly captured the plight/fight of an individual when up against the deadly, unswerving power of the state. The book has a lit-noir feel to it, somehow balanced with an aw-shucks innocence. Folks, this one is a winner.
Anti-requiem: New Orleans Stories
on Dec. 26, 2010
It's hard to believe that this collection of short stories--a sampler really--doesn't have thirty or forty reviews. And I'm not talking one star here, folks. Louis Maistros is a pro. He not only captures New Orleans, he captures life: the parts that bleed and sing and love and die. No doubt he's the kind of writer who both laughs and weeps when he writes a scene--they're truly that evocative.
Each story is different from the next, so there's no sense in my trying to paint a picture, but I can tell you that I am blown away by his ability and am eager to get my mind around more of his work.
-- Zacharias O'Bryan (and nope, I don't know Louis Maistros)
The Spare Husband, a Short Story
on March 26, 2011
Good job Angus Brownfield. Your story "The Spare Husband" was a bit of time travel for me: I found myself in the mood to put on a pair of slippers, light a pipe, and read for the sheer pleasure of it. The story carried echoes of writers like William Saroyan, writers who could chuckle at human foibles while remaining true to their deep love of our quaint confused species. Bring us some more. Please!
The Line That Deserted Him
on June 05, 2011
Do I say "O.Henry" or "Oh Angus?" This shorty was a pleasure from start to finish... and then some.
The Amulet (Custodian Novel # 1)
on June 09, 2011
The Amulet, by Alison Pensy, succeeds on several levels. Set in England and the world of Faerie, the book chronicles the adventures of Faedra, a young woman of mixed human and faerie blood, as she awakens to both her hereditary power and responsibilities. As an adventure, the book certainly does not disappoint. There are chases, betrayals, loves and surprises aplenty.
Beyond storyline, the book also succeeds in blending the mythology of the Celtic Age with the wants and needs of current-day youth: friends, celebrations, dogs, horses, a much-loved father, and a fondly-remembered mother. Pensy wisely does not dodge the early dawnings of eros in her heroine, and we rediscover the joy and trust that define erotic love early in one’s life.
Perhaps most importantly for girls of the 21st Century, The Amulet is an allegory of empowerment for our own daughters and sisters. At the end of the rainbow, today’s young women can anticipate fulfillments greatly surpassing silk gowns, glass slippers, and a handsome prince or two. Pensy’s heroine is every bit as likely as the hero to make a wise decision, face a danger, or deal with the inevitable set-back.
People of both sexes and any age will enjoy the story, but it will appeal most viscerally to girls between ages 9 and 15.
The book opens a three-book set. I predict Alison Pensy will become well-known and loved in the world of young adult books.
Río Penitente, a novel of expiation
on June 29, 2011
Río Penitente, Angus Brownfield's newly-published tour de force set in Mexico and California, proves what many of us have known for years: Masterfully executed literature that simultaneously grips mind, soul and emotions, would soon claim a natural homeland in the cyberworld of the eBook. Authors may now pursue truth rather than someone else's notion of corporate profit.
Río Penitente chronicles the physical and metaphysical journey of three unlikely companions: Robert Gattling, Berto and Conchita. They move through an assortment of the sages, goddesses. fools and ferrymen that seem to inhabit such journeys.
The financially comfortable Robert Gattling, a Hemingway-esque Californian steeped in Catholic concepts of sin, regret and expiation, strikes a bargain with his own soul. He will serve as mentor, savior and border-crossing coyote for two unschooled peso-less Mexican vagabonds, Berto and Conchita, a young couple whose worldview is shaped by an admixture of campesino traditions, envy, violence and pop culture. If Gattling's quest succeeds, if Berto and Conchita can be led to their mythical Promised Land, then Gattling's life sins will be forgiven (at least that's his delusion). But what happens if there are problems: sexual, cultural, legal? Well... that's why we have a story, isn't it?
Notwithstanding Gattling's Christian/guilt background, Río Penitente is an existential book; thus forgiveness is an expensive commodity indeed. It's neither simple nor cheap. It cannot be purchased for a Communion wafer and a sip of wine.
I was first drawn to Brownfield's Mexico mythos in his prior novel, El Maestro (available as an eBook through this vendor), which I read in another format a decade ago. Brownfield expands and hones the vision created in the earlier book. He is a mature craftsman at the height of his artistic power.
Pool of Tears, a Murine Memoir
on July 13, 2011
Angus Brownfield, one of the more versatile writers to emerge in this eBook revolution, has done it again. “Pool of Tears,” a literary fantasy novel, tracks the adventures of a clan of talking, reasoning mice—for your willing suspension of disbelief, say “gene spliced mice”—whose life paths force their interactions with certain humans: good, evil, ambitious and just plain nutty.
Our mice-friends, who live in the recently established colony known as Subdivision, derive their Scottish accent and their broader cosmology from an almost religious oracle, “teevee,” which is surreptitiously viewed in the homes of their human hosts. Language is reason is language is reason… and both expand as the Talkers move forward from Day One of their history. They deal with a sad but psychopathic adolescent human who would happily kill them all. They face down a band of fascist mice in the old country, (known as Secret Chambers, which fortunately lies far away across Wide Boulevard). Their lives are made more interesting by the bohemian mice at the beach, who are known as (what else?) Scapists.
There is love, courage, sadness, birth and death. It’s all quite real. We believe it and feel it. Why must we humans, upon occasion, view the animal world to discover who we are? Brownfield doesn’t pose such questions. He’s far more interested in telling a riveting tale and telling it well. If we choose to excavate an allegory, we’re welcome to it, but he doesn’t smear it all over us.
Give this book a try. Apparently it’s the first of three—and because my life is longer than a mouse’s life, I’ll probably get a chance to read the next two as well.
The Mechanic of San Martín
on July 26, 2011
What a strange and interesting book. The protagonist, a successful, hardworking small-town master (maestro) mechanic has it made--complete with two wives... but it's all too complex, too precarious, to last. His escape into the wilderness when it all breaks down comprises the guts of the book, and the reader is invited to join him on this metaphoric trek. Like so much literature set in Latin America, there's a touch of magic realism, but we needn't be fantasy buffs to follow it.
Having personally spent a great deal of time in Mexico, and having fallen in love with Mexico's culture and life view, I was delighted to discover RIGOBERTO AND HIS TWO WIVES. Many European-Americans (including D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, and John Steinbeck) have painted literary portraits of the soul of Mexico. Angus Brownfield's contribution to the canon rates among my favorites.
on July 31, 2011
ABRUPT EDGE -- A GENRE-BENDRE
Here I am again, drinking at the Brownfield Well. If you haven't guessed from my other reviews, Angus currently tops my list of preferred Smashwords authors.
Last night I finished reading "Abrupt Edge," the brand-new book by Angus Brownfield, an author who does mostly eBooks, but has one paper-'n-ink title out.
Genre-wise, the book defies classification. It carries the intensity of a Tom Clancy novel, the sexuality-as-knowledge of Hesse's Steppenwolf or Fowles' The Magus. It contains the guts of the Biblical tale of Caine & Abel, and the all-encompassing vengeance-cum-hubris of The Illiad.
Set in a remote corner of the Nevada desert, a pair of estranged brothers (yup, they're fighting over a girl) build side-by-side competing empires: one, a fundamentalist polygamist Mormon theocracy; two, a best-in-the-world sensualists' pleasure palace. They compete not only for limited water resources, but for the most important resources of all: the bodies and souls of the isolated tatters of their fanatical father's Mormon band. Theirs is a non-resolvable quarrel. When the treasured daughter of the Mormon dictator comes over to the sensualists, a new take on the "Trojan War" follows.
Like great sci-fi or fantasy, the otherworldly nature of the story makes us dig deeply into our own minds, beliefs and souls.
Negatives: The novel has one or two slow-ish chapters of back story, and it could use a better-designed cover, but these are piddling issues.
Caveat: adult subject matter / scenes.
on Nov. 26, 2011
The time is 1957, or is it 2013? Or maybe 1985?… oh well, something like that. The setting is along a stream in Appalachia, or is it aboard a Sputnik large enough to carry a cryogenic crypt, an organic recycling fuel center and a menu of pork and beans? Or is it maybe in the basement of a Scottish computer lab?
The story is dead serious speculative fiction… or is it maybe a Mark Twain tongue-in-cheek country-boy tale? Or a Douglas Adams spoof on both? And the existential attainment of peace of mind makes great sense, but does it really compute? Speaking of computing, wouldn’t you just love to command your own time travel agenda with an antique Commodore 64 home computer that makes friends with a ready-to-serve-you robot, the Iapetus-Five (your basic Yappity-Guy?)
If you want questions for all of your answers, shouldn’t you be reading The Telstar by Samuel J Addison?
The Day's Vanity, The Night's Remorse
on Nov. 28, 2011
----First of all, "The Day's Vanity, the Night's Remorse" by Angus Brownfield, is a book for grown-ups, one of the few serious works of literature I have encountered in the eBook jungle. It's a book for women and men mature enough to excavate their own almost-forgotten attributes: the joys and sorrows within their pasts, the abilities that lie dormant, the paths not taken... then to ask the painful questions, "Who am I now? Where did that onetime can-do idealist go? Can I ever reclaim the rich possibilities that were my absolute birthright?"
-----Brownfield's title "The Day's Vanity, the Night's Remorse" is taken from a poignant poem "The Choice" by William Butler Yeats, who learned the hard way that the consequences of The Choice are permanent and often severe--perhaps the deepest existential question of peacetime moderns. As a reader of serious literature, you no doubt carry enough IQ points that The Choice has forced itself upon you: Violin virtuoso or devoted mother? Research physicist or small-town dad?
-----In Brownfield's book, we do not approach The Choice from the viewpoint of a Yeats-like successful poet and dramatist, but from an intelligent, successful, decent bureaucrat (Byeford Pritchett) who makes a very strange decision: During the exact years when middle age is giving way to old age, he chooses to walk away from his present life and stake claim to the path he didn't take. But that's not the story. The story is the price that is paid, the complications that ensue: such as homelessness, temporary confinement as an insane person... and most of all, his agreement to return the decomposing body of a deceased bum to its own Valley of Peace. Beneath it all is his innate determination to love those around him more than he could ever love a balls-out drive toward personal fulfillment.
-----The storytelling, from multiple points of view, is intelligent and insightful. The descriptions of towns, friends, thoughts, hopes, motorcycles and the endearing plumpness or thinness of the various women that still tempt the protagonist... all are enthralling. This is a fine novel: Herman Hesse's "Steppenwolf" crossed with Hemingway's "Islands in the Stream."
The Golden Chalice of Hunahpú: A Novel of the Spanish Attack on the Maya
on Oct. 12, 2012
The Golden Chalice of the Hunahpu, by William Vlach, is a delightful and sophisticated work of art. The years of the Spanish conquest of the Maya (Southeast Mexico & Central America) are brought to life in the first-person narratives of three powerfully rendered characters: a high-caste Mayan boy who grows to manhood during the era; a female Spanish aristocrat who marries a conquistador and follows him to the New World, eventually becoming a despot in her own right; and a fairly decent Spanish monk who provides a window into the dark soul of the Spanish Inquisition... which, sadly, arrived in the New World like a ship-borne pack of stowaway rats.
Those of us who were skeptical of the so-called "history" portrayed in the Euro-propagandistic schoolbooks of the Fifties and Sixties have yearned for such a book as Vlach's. His research, both historic and linguistic, sets a strikingly realistic stage for this poetic and insightful novel. If Vlach tends to favor one party over the other, I suppose his sympathies lie with the Maya... but mostly because their story needed to be told. Other than that, the book is quite even-handed. Vlach doesn't blink at portraying the stubborn superstitions and cruelties of either culture, nor does he shy away from the profound courage (on both sides) that powered this cataclysmic series of events.
Five stars: both for adding several layers of truth to history, and for creating such a riveting tale.
An Occasion of Sin (a cautionary tale)
on Dec. 30, 2016
What can I say but "Wow!"?
Brownfield's story, presented as a cautionary memoir, explodes onto the page and then into the heart: an organ which may gain in wisdom and resilience, but refuses to abandon caring, needing and wanting. Accessible to anyone, but indispensable to those of us of a certain age.