The Soul Ripper (Twisted Souls #1)
on Nov. 17, 2012
What If Souls Were Given and Could Be Taken?
Set in the very distant future, The Soul Garden is the first in a new series by Cege Smith. We are only given a few details about this world and the rest is left pretty ambiguous. The past is know as Before, where some apocalyptic event occurred that humanity had to drag itself out of, or so I imagine from what we're told.
In this world, babies are born soulless. When a human has no soul their appearance is different; they have grey skin, don't smile, don't generate warmth and have red-rimmed eyes that get redder with age, eventually taking over the entire eye. For babies (or adults) to get a soul they must go through the Soul Distribution Day, where the lucky chosen receive a soul from the Soul Fountain. Souls can also be extracted and this is often a punishment for criminals. Murder results in soul extraction, but as souls are in short demand the extracted souls are "rehabilitated" and re-used.
This era is very "protocol" heavy, adults are assigned jobs at a ceremony, women are expected to give up their jobs once married and even having children is heavily monitored. Couples are selected out of a lottery. Any couple that wants a child applies and then hopes for the best. The population is regulated because there is a shortage of souls. If a couple disobeys the rules and have a child outside of the system, their souls are extracted and the child is left, soulless, in the Soulless Asylum.
An interesting concept for a book. There are aspects of the Soul Ceremony that I found similar to baptism. I'm not sure if it was intended, but before the ceremony at the fountain, babies are soulless, unloved and are seen as unnatural. Then a visit to the fountain with a gathering and incantations gives them a soul. It was an interesting similarity that I saw, maybe just me though.
The story is narrated from the points of view of five people and (given the amount of time we get we each of them) they are relatable, we care for them and the switching of characters adds to the tension that starts to build when we realise the inevitable.
I enjoyed the start of the Twisted Souls series and look forward to the next part. I recommend this to anyone interested in apocalyptic worlds, the supernatural, magic or anyone who is intrigued by the synopsis.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. My opinions are 100% my own.
Framed for Murder
on Dec. 13, 2012
Beware of Walking Your Dog, You May Find a Body
Road Kill by CM Spencer is a cozy mystery set in Chinook (a small town in Canada). We follow the life of Anna Nolan, starting with (while out walking her dog) literally stumbling across the body of her estranged ex-husband (Jack)- and then immediately being found my a local cop over said body.
Evidence against her piles up and Anna has real reason to investigate his death. Which is to say, so she can prove her innocence. However- as she puts it- she's more of a liability to the police, bumbling around and damaging her case. Not only that, it puts her on Sergeant Charles Tremaine's (a British investigator brought in for the case) bad side. Constantly getting in his way and on his nerves.
As her life unravels and she struggles to find not only Jack's killer, but also peace after memories best left forgotten resurface. When she had been married to Jack, he had had a string of affairs. Anna's response had been to look the other way. Her reason was simple. She now had a son and no steady job or income. Without Jack to provide either, she would have to live of welfare. So instead she turned a blind eye until, years later, she finally draws the line and ends it. Now four years after that, her determination to find his killer leads her to meeting some of his past affairs. There are suspects galore and she's determined to find the guilty party.
Of course there are obstacles along the way. Meeting some of the women your husband cheated on you with is no small task, let alone trying to surreptitiously question them about his murder. Talk of Jack also brings to light his situation with Ben, Anna and Jack's 19 year old son. Having had no contact with his father for years, he is dealing with abandonment issues, hatred of the man his father had been and also love of the man who was the only father he had.
There are humorous attempts on Anna's part to ferret out the killer and prove herself to the police, especially Charles Tremaine. As a cozy mystery, it's a pretty light-hearted read. Though usually cozy mysteries have two points of interest- the murder and a subject the protagonist is passionate about. Generally, these will be tea rooms, flower shops or similar things to which the murder takes a back-seat. However, in this book the cozy mystery feel comes from the same writing style as with Agatha Christie books. They tell of grisly murders and yet somehow are pleasant to read, hence "cozy" mystery.
The ending is entertainingly Bond-ish. We have a dramatic villain who spouts all the usual cliches, even finishing off with an I'm-going-to-have-to-kill-you-now statement. Enjoyable to read nevertheless. The only criticism I have is that the story can be a little slow moving at times. Cozy mysteries often rely upon a second point of focus to help keep interest as the murder investigation takes place. As I said earlier, that doesn't happen here and the result is a missing second focus point. However, we do have some side-stories and entertaining events, so it's certainly not a reason not to read this book.
If you're looking for a good cozy mystery, a little bit of romance or just a nice read this is great for you.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
The Complete Monster Exchange Program
on Dec. 18, 2012
Vampires are Perverts and Detention Will Rob You Of Your Mind
The Complete Monster Exchange Program by Terri Bogard is a collection of humorous stories about monsters in an average, human high school. There are sixteen tales in total, ranging from two serial killers debating which one of them should have the rights to a popular teen spot, the lament of the invisible boy or Bigfoot desperately wanting people to notice him, these stories are quirky and full of comedic moments. Terri Bogard seems to especially enjoy turning our views on their sides. An example would be with a witches' mother, whose worried her daughter doesn't dress enough like a "whore of Satan" and that she'll be uncorrupted at a normal high school. Something we can all relate to, right?
There are a lot of sexual references in pretty much every one of these stories, so if that's not for you I'm giving due warning. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I got a little laugh out of the creative names for characters, such as Johnny Heartthrob and Darla Sweetheart- the generic prom king and queen couple, Cleats Longshot as the quarterback or Snaps Viewfinder- the captain of the yearbook committee.
Some of the stories intertwine, while still being consistent and it's fun to see how some of the characters from previous stories turn out in later ones or are viewed by other people. Each tale has its own cover illustration (courtesy of Andi Bogard) and a few stories are written by guest writers (including one by Andi Bogard himself).
This collection is funny, has some interesting alternate takes on reality and goes out of its way to be so stereotypically "high school" that you can't help but enjoy it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, likes "slice of life" stories or supernatural/paranormal tales. There are some interesting takes on urban legends that are not to be missed.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100%my own.
on Jan. 13, 2013
Every Evil Doer Needs an Evil Animal Companion
Arlo's Epiphany by Jane Oldaker is a short, little story starring Arlo the Barncat. Arlo is different from your average cat or dog though. He's a covert operative working for the Agency.
What is the Agency? And why was it founded? Well all over the world there are villains and these villains train animals to be villainous and perform villainous deeds (enough with the villainous). So of course an opposing force had to be created.
Like all Agents, Arlo can talk to various species (including humans). The Agency employs its own medical expert, Dr.Phelps, who works undercover as a vet. They also have handlers. Arlo's is Charlie, who debriefs him after every mission. Arlo himself is a "technocat". With his Stealthberry and skills, he's a wizz at all things technical and generally and all round fantastic agent. There is only one aspect that he falls short on- thuggery. Yes he can walk the walk, but not talk the talk.
This worries his old friend (and retired agent) Mahoney. A mature, feral tomcat, his reputation precedes him and none dare mess with the infamous Mahoney. But when Arlo comes visiting and claims to have been attacked (with the bite marks and missing fur to prove it), Mahoney suspects none other than his long-time rival, McTavish. This attack has his MO all over it, but Mahoney must follow Agency rules and they clearly state he is not allowed to attack non-strategic animals. Maybe he can find a way around that rule without actually breaking it?
A fun, little story with plenty of character. Any animal can be an Agent, so we get hilarious characters and situations, such as Agent Brenda Chicken- who can peck with the speed of a striking cobra.
I'm not entirely sure what age group this book is intended for, however. My natural instinct would be younger readers, but there are some rather large words for small children. For example, here are some words I can see younger readers having problems with; avuncular, sporadically; incorrigible; insouciance to name a few. While I realise this could be a good method to teach children what these words mean, I still hesitate to say this is a book for small children.
Also, Arlo may be the name on the cover, but it is Mahoney who we see through the eyes of for most of this book. Not that that's a bad thing (and it may only be in this book that this occurs). I'm assuming this will be a series and we'll hear more from Arlo and friends in the future.
We do get a couple of nice illustrations of a few characters that are pleasant to spy as you scroll through the pages.
I found the subject a little familiar too. For anyone who has ever read the Hank the Cowdog series, you will probably realise what I'm talking about. However, the main difference (aside from the characters and situations being completely different) is that Hank just believed himself to be "Head of Ranch Security", but Arlo actually is an Agent. He can talk to animals and humans and do all the stuff we read about. It's not the fantasy of an imaginative cat.
There are some nice characters that make this book worth the read. If you're interested, why not give it a try?
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Elements of the Undead Omnibus
on Jan. 18, 2013
The Elements of the Undead: Omnibus Edition contains all three books in the trilogy by William Esmont. Those three being Fire, Air and Earth. I'm going to explain a little bit about each one (without giving too much away) and then conclude with my thoughts on the series as a whole.
But first, a little background. The Elements of the Undead Trilogy is a horror series (though the horror is pretty tame considering the plot. I would call it more of a thriller/ adventure). A zombie apocalypse breaks out at the very beginning and we're brought along with the characters as they react and absorb all the information and struggle through each situation they're faced with.
I'll start by saying there are a few graphic scenes, such as zombies eating people or sex scenes, as well as course language. If that's not your cup of tea, you have been warned.
In book 1, Fire, we meet quite a few pivotal characters who, step by step, are brought together. First we have Megan Pritchard- a prostitute who works in a brothel in the desert, four hours outside of Vegas. She is planning to visit her sister in Tucson when the zombies start appearing.
Meanwhile, we have very brief snippets of Alicia (who is more of a secondary character if that), working in a supermarket, when she witnesses a zombie attack outside the store.
We then switch to Jack and his wife Becka in New Mexico, who have two twin daughters, Maddie and Ellie, who are in the process of building a birthday surprise for their girls, when Jack's mother calls telling him to look at the news.
Then there's Cesar, the illegal immigrant from Mexico, crossing the border with a few others into the States in the hope of making it to Kansas.
We then switch to Kevin Salerno, who has just landed in Idaho returning from a business trip to Shanghai.
Then along comes Captain Mike Pringle, flying a Boeing with his co-pilot Marty Sellers, when one of the passengers goes rogue and starts attacking people.
Switching again, we meet Peter Woo, a devout Christian who believes the apocalypse is the Rapture come again.
Finally, we meet US Navy Commander Betty Hollister, who is the first woman to ever command a ballistic nuclear missile submarine in the Navy and her second in command, Andrew Pollard as they receive a message from HQ to bomb certain cities in the US to try contain the zombie plague.
So you can see we have quite a few characters to keep switching between, but somehow the author makes it work. Bit by bit, we get brief, little snippets of each group before moving onto the next, slowly revealing more and leading them all, inevitably, to the same place. We are given more information about a few particular characters more than others. In the first book, I would say the key characters are Megan, Jack, Cesar and Hollister. With Mike, Peter and Andrew adding specific important plot points.
However, as you can imagine a lot of the characters (if not all of them) end up in sticky situations and we're not always given the details of how they manage to escape. For instance, hopefully this won't be a spoiler, but Mike is in the cockpit of the Boeing. The last thing we witness of him before he crops up again later in the story, is a zombie banging against the door trying to get in. They're 30,000 ft in the air. Yet, we never receive any explanation of how he survived or got to where he was. Or what happened to anyone else on the plane. This happens for a few characters, but it's understandably considering how many of them there are.
In this case, having that many characters actually works in the story's favour. Normally, I would say too many characters spoil the broth. They just make it confusing and distract from the main "flavours" you want people to experience. If done wrong, it can destroy a book, but if done right, like in these books, it creates the necessary viewpoints to get across the different reactions people would have and allows the author to mess with their brains the way it would in real life. Think about it, a zombie apocalypse breaks out. What are the odds everyone (providing they survive long enough) would keep their sanity. We all have a very different way of dealing with problems, especially one of this magnitude. Some people will harden up and become the nearest thing real life has to action heroes, some people will fold and lose their minds, some people with end it, rather than face the alternative. Those are just a few possibilities because the mind is so complex that you can never really predict how someone will adapt (if at all). That's where having a large cast plays to the trilogy's advantage. Not only can we get multiple reactions, but it also lets the author write some of the characters off without leaving too small of a cast behind.
Pretty much all of the individual stories happen simultaneously, giving us a view of many different parts in the States. We don't ever hear much about the rest of the world, all we know is that zombies are global and likewise situations are probably happening everywhere.
In Fire, we get some information about the zombies themselves. As pretty much anyone who has ever heard of a zombie knows, they can come in many different forms, with many different strengths. In this trilogy, we have simple, traditional zombies. They lumber along (with the exception of radiation-poisoned zombies (courtesy of all the bombs dropped on the States via Hollister's orders), who can sprint), are often missing limbs, organs or anything else, their vocabulary is restricted to moans and growls and you can only kill them with a headshot. They also travel in packs. Oh, and when food is scarce, they're cannibals.
While we're never given any concrete reason for zombies appearing out of nowhere, it is suspected that "zombiefication" happens from some kind of virus or disease. The victim starts off with symptoms similar to the flu and then quickly becomes aggressive, before converting to complete zombie. It's quick and deadly. It also spreads surprisingly fast, in fact, the virus went global in only a few hours. Also part of traditional zombie lore, one bite is enough to turn you, with the added complication that any of their fluids (saliva, brain fluid, etc) can infect you as well- if they get into your bloodstream. So when you're fighting for your life, make sure to keep your eyes and mouth closed and cover any cuts or scrapes. They have no blood though, so at least you don't have to worry about that too. Unless of course you have to kill a human who has been bitten, to stop them becoming a zombie. Though most of the people in this trilogy keep a spare bullet for themselves in that eventuality.
As the story progresses, we witness two survivalist camps forming (with a few stragglers on the side heading their way). On one hand, we have the Scorpion Canyon group in Tucson. A relatively laid-back (considering the situation) group, who are looking out for everyone's best interests. On the other hand, we have an aggressive group, run in military style. The two groups deal with the living dead and the people in their confines very differently. The first group survives on raids and equality, while the second struggles under a dictator for a leader, who is quickly losing the plot, but still desires power, authority and complete loyalty on penalty of death.
As the two groups become aware of the other's existence, tensions run high as one group wants to co-exist and the other wants absolute dominance over everything and everyone.
Throughout the books, there are some nice quotes from the likes of Robert Frost and Ezra Pound (among many others) which make for some pleasant, figurative palette cleansers between scenes.
Now we come to book 2, Air. An original and unusual idea for a second book, Air has almost nothing to do with the first book and at only 10,000 words long, it's not a format I've ever seen in a series before. The only similarity in plot is the zombie apocalypse. But I found it an interesting way to backtrack and introduce a new character, without confusing the readers or relying on flashbacks.
In this book, we meet Chris Thompson. Using another not-often-seen technique, the author places us in the middle of his story, without even a name to go on. Though considering this book is only 10,000 words, we're pulled up to speed rather quickly.
It starts off with him on the roof of the Liberty Medical Centre, holding off a horde of zombies with the aid of a rather feeble door. He's contemplating what he believes are his final few moments and the choices he made earlier in the day to end up at this point.
I won't give too much away (especially considering the length of this book), but it's suffice to say he came to the hospital to visit his brother, Dave, after he was in a car accident. Of course, considering how the virus starts (remember the flu symptoms), they have the bad luck of being in the exact worst place possible. What's the old saying? The worst place to be sick is in a hospital. This is quite a while back from the main story (a few months back in fact), as we return to the very beginning of it all.
Short and sweet, Chris' story continues and ties in with the rest in the final book, Earth. There will be a few spoilers from the previous books below here (nature of a series I'm afraid), so if you don't want to know, stop reading now. If you're interested in the series, why not try it out? Final warning for spoilers below.
Set three years later, not much has changed. Zombies are still everywhere. There are less survivors than before and those still around are more savvy than they were at the start.
Straight away we're introduced to yet more characters. Ryan Franklin, his wife Paige and their 14 year old son, Luke. They live in an underground bunker in Arizona, courtesy of Ryan's brother-in-law Mitch persuading him Armageddon was approaching. Unfortunately for Mitch, he never made it to his own bunker. The only other members of their community are Jim, his wife Felicia and Jim's father, who live in an adjacent bunker.
Megan and Jack return, along with another new character in the form of an ex-military retiree, Archie Henderson. They are planning to move the Scorpion Canyon group to another canyon across the valley, where they'll have more access to water and food.
Immediately, we can see that something is different in the zombies' behaviour. They are gathering in swarms much larger than previously seen and all seem to be waiting for a command. They are now almost impossible to fight (due to sheer numbers) and are advancing upon all compounds.
The Franklins are forced to decided whether to stay and fight an impossible battle or try to escape in their car, while a wave of zombies fast approaches. Meanwhile, Megan, Jack and Archie are still in the wilderness trying to survive more zombies than they've ever seen.
Not surprisingly, the two parties eventually meet up. Drawn together by necessity, they discover something that leads them to believe there is another survivalist group in Tampa. Deciding, it would be best to find them, they start the long journey.
As we start to learn more about the newcomers, the unease builds. As it turns out, Paige was on antidepressants long before everything went under and it's no surprise that zombies all over the world have put her precariously close to the edge. Dealing with a woman who only has brief moments of lucidity and a rapidly weakening grip on reality, while trying to survive impending death, is enough to make anyone nervous.
Chris Thompson also returns with a brief explanation of the last three years. He and a few other survivors made their way to Galveston and then onto one of the oil platforms in the Gulf. Their group has been slowly growing since and (apart from storms) they are kept safe by the sea. The sea also provides plenty of food, they gather water from frequent rains and the generators provide ample electricity. Surprisingly, they also have internet. Some satellites are still functioning it seems, allowing them to keep a check on storms in the area.
With zombies such a dominant presence on the planet and the number of living people dwindling by the second, is there any way to win or even to simply survive?
The way these books are written is less like three books made into one story and more like one story made into three books. What I mean by that is that the plot flows almost seamlessly between one book to the next (with the exception of the second book for obvious reasons). Within the plot, the timeframes change often enough that even with the 'three years later' subtitle at the start of the third book, it could well have been part of book 1. It would even be possible to make it all one book without making any changes. What I'm trying to say is it's less episodic than some series. There's no obvious end to one book or beginning of the next, more just the start of the next scene. And I enjoyed it being like that. Often in series, the later books will be set some time after the previous ones and we get a lot of backtracking and flashbacks to fill us in. While we do get a little filling in at the start of the third book, it's done in a way that could've taken place after the end of the first. I actually didn't realise I was on the third book until I finished the series.
The ending is a little abrupt and leaves no real conclusion. But then considering that the zombie apocalypse has broken out, there are very few ways to give a definitive ending, short of killing all the survivors.
However, there are also a few unanswered questions. One, what happened to Hollister's group? The last we see of her she went stir-crazy, was drugged up and killed her second in command. Did she end up destroying the group through sheer ineptness? Did the zombies attack them at the same time as Scorpion Canyon? Did she kill everyone and then die herself?
The final niggling question is the zombies themselves. In the third book, the idea that they're under command is introduced, but never expanded on. They seem to be getting smarter or are waiting for orders from a leader, but it's never explained.
I don't know whether there were ever any plans for another book (perhaps Water based on the previous titles?), but I would've liked that plot point to go somewhere.
Having said that, I did thoroughly enjoy the series. While I'm not always a fan of gore, it's handled well here. It is graphic, but not too graphic. At no point did I find the huge cast of characters confusing or distracting and they were all given surprisingly detailed situations considering the amount of time we had with each one. Each of their survivalist stories are basically the same, but then they would be. A zombie apocalypse breaks out and your first instinct is to get away from the larger cities. To try to find other people. To bunker down and try ride it out. And that's exactly what they did. While the stories are similar, they're all given just enough individuality to make them interesting, rather than reading the same scenario ten times.
If you're a fan of zombies or dystopian worlds this series will be right up your alley. I breezed through it and, before I knew it, was at the end.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
on Feb. 21, 2013
Frost by Kate Avery Ellison is the first book in the Frost Chronicles series.
Set in a cold world, elusive monsters called "Watchers" exist. Hiding in the forest, they are rarely ever seen, hunt at night, are immune to weapons and are only held at bay by snow blossoms (sky blue flowers) that people keep around their thresholds and wear as necklaces for protection. However, they don't guarantee your safety.
The villagers of Iceliss (just known as "the village" to locals) have hard lives in the Frost. To survive in the frozen, forested landscape every man, woman and child needs to do their part. There are quotas to make sure of it. If you don't meet your quota, you don't get your rations for the week. There are a multitude of different tasks, such as hunting, farming, weaving, dyeing, gardening, etc. From your profession, your surname is derived.
Lia Weaver's job is to spin wool into yarn. She also manages a farm no other villager wanted, as it lies on the outskirts of village, with nothing but forest and Watchers beyond. She must also look after her twin brother, John (who is unable to walk) and free-spitired younger sister, Ivy, after their parents were killed by Watchers.
No one is entirely sure what happened to her parents. They were found without their snow blossom necklaces and were last seen entering the forest with members of the Brewer family. The Brewer family made it back, but Lia's parents didn't.
Now more than ever, her remaining family must follow the rules to survive. If the village believes her unfit, they will take her siblings away. Suddenly, Lia reaches a critical point when the terrifying Farthers come to her village. They come from the city of Aeralis, in the far South. They are known as a brutal race, who imprison and abuse any and all. They are also technologically advanced, especially compared to the little village in the Frost, where technology will get you killed (as it attracts the attention of the Watchers). Aeralis has airships, gas lamps and seems to be similar to cities that exist in the Steampunk world. A dark, frightening place- whose rumours are warning enough.
When a wounded boy turns up in the forest by their house, Ivy is adamant that they save him. He is obviously a Farther and helping him is strictly against the rules, but Lia gives in to Ivy's request. It soon becomes clear that the Farthers are searching for this strange boy, but why? Was it a mistake to help him?
As Lia tries to find answers, her world is turned upside down. Who are The Thorns? What is the Gate? Who can she trust? And how did her parents really die? In this harsh world, one mistake will lead to your death, whether by exposure, Watcher or human.
The plot is fast-moving and sets a great pace. The descriptive writing is done well and depicts the severe world the characters live in realistically. Reading the story, I could feel the icy wind against my face and the constant threat of danger surrounding them. At no point do you ever feel that the characters are safe. This is simply because a safe world does not exist for them. Even without the threat of monsters all around, or brutal soldiers attacking, the elements alone are enough to kill you if you aren't careful.
The characters themselves are realistically nothing special. What I mean is that not every person in the real world is the Chosen One or has ninja fighting skills. Some people you meet might not even be interesting. Some will stick out more than others and some you won't even notice. And that's exactly what the characters are like in this book. Normal, everyday people. Some you relate to and some you forget as soon as they're gone.
The ending leaves you with just enough curiosity to keep reading. For those who don't want to continue the series (for whatever reason), it's also just complete enough to be a stand-alone story. Personally, I enjoyed this book. It held my attention and kept me guessing. Normally, I can figure out what the plot-twists will be or what secrets will be revealed, but this book had a few that surprised me. The finale happened so quickly that I was left wanting to immediately start the next book. I've always been the type of person who has to finish a story once I've started it and I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series. If you're a fan of young adult books, fantasy or just interested, why not try it too?
Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
The Cavern Kings
on March 27, 2013
The Cavern Kings by Jeff Bauer is an interesting book that looks into the world of diving- specifically cave and cavern diving. As a diver myself, I find myself drawn to the water and (judging by this book) the author seems to feel the same pull.
The story begins in the small town of Wakulla, Florida. Josh is a scuba instructor working at Wakulla Skuba alongside his friend, mentor and boss, Kathy. Together they run the busy, little store and take interested visitors out to see the wonders of the sea. His best friends, Frank and Jon, always join him when they take a class out diving. The three friends learnt to dive together and have gone on every dive together since.
Once a year, they have a celebration in honour of the anniversary of becoming 'legal' divers (basically, getting their certification). Each summer, they choose a spot to dive in the Key. However, this year their plans are complicated by their work schedules. Josh works full-time at the dive shop, Frank is a sales associate and Jon is a computer programmer. Between their three jobs, they find it hard to make time for their annual celebratory dive.
Instead, they come up with the idea to dive closer to home, during the weekends. They're surrounded by natural springs to dive, but never tried them as the open ocean was more alluring. So, they head of to Blue Springs in Marianna, where they come across their first cave. None of them have any experience diving caves, which they soon realise they definitely need if they want to go anywhere near caverns or caves. During their amateur, first cave dive, they discover the allure of overhead diving, as well as the dangers.
And thus we get the plot. The three decide to take a cavern diving course during their weekends off. Their tutor, Drew, was recommended through Kathy and is said to be one of the best. Their small group is joined by one other for the class, Astrid- a Swedish woman with just as much passion for diving as them. Josh is your typical lovably, good guy, Frank is the over-confident prankster and Jon is the quiet voice of reason. With Astrid, they add a kind, though a little intimidating, personality to their mix.
This is more of a slow-read. Most of the book is description, with very little dialogue. But the description is so perfectly accurate of what you experience during diving, that I wouldn't call the slow-pace or basic plot a flaw. In fact the opposite. This is a love letter to diving, focusing more on the sensations and the way divers interact and view the underwater environment. It also acts as a cautionary tale, making sure non-divers and divers alike are all aware of the dangers involved, especially if you're a new diver or diving a new area or skill. Diving has an extraordinary amount of certifications because you need to study each specific skill thoroughly. None of them can be added on to another. Cave and cavern diving bring numerous more dangers. On an average open-water dive, the deeper you get, the more light will fade, the higher the pressure gets, the colder the water is, the more air you breathe. If you're in an area with few landmarks, getting lost can be surprisingly easy. In a cavern or cave, you add the threat that an overhead environment brings. There is no longer a direct line to the surface. Sunlight is completely cut off. That mixed with the lengths and widths that tunnel systems can be, poses an extreme danger in and of itself. All it takes is getting a little lost or stuck in a narrow tunnel. Then it's just a matter of running out of the small amount of air you carry on your back.
Keeping track of time and air is crucial in diving. Underwater, time flows differently. You can check your dive computer and find you've been down an hour, when only 10 minutes seem to have passed. Not being able to see the light changing, makes it hard to tell how much time has passed. This book covers the many aspects of diving, from training, experiencing the first dive, becoming qualified, the first 'legal' dive, the experiences you have with the environment and the loss and tragedies that can and do occur. Sometimes, no matter how safe you are, things can still go wrong. Diving rules are built from the mistakes and misfortunes of others. You can never be too careful, especially when there's a hundred feet of water and solid rock between you and another air source.
Some of the writing can be a little rudimentary, but the book pulls you past the occasional occurrence.
A lovely mix of fiction and non-fiction and an enjoyable book that the diver in me can't help but love.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Sloughing Off the Rot
on July 10, 2013
Sloughing Off the Rot by Lance Carbuncle is a story with an odd mix of genres.
"And that night John went to bed without eating his dinner. Zonked on zolpidem and single malt scotch, wrapped tightly in his super-special 1,000 thread counts sheets and nestled comfortably on his newfangled memory foam-reclining- adjustable king-sized bed, John blacked out just after lying down. Peaceful nothingness swirled around him, tossing off flecks of gold and strands of cool blue. The ten thousand things fled and left in their place a cozy void."
John wakes up one morning to discover himself no longer in any recognisable place. His comfy bed replaced by hard ground and his soft pillow by a rock. He is pondering how he woke up in a cave, and the strange, dark hole a few feet away when a voice comes to him. The voice tells him he is "John the Revelator", followed by some Proclaimers' lyrics and some very ambiguous, unhelpful comments.
The voice tells John he needs redemption. To reach it, he must follow the path, never straying lest he lose the path and become lost to it forever.
The moment John exits the cave, he is met by a strange 'prophet-like' being, in the form of an almost naked hippie, who calls himself Santiago. Santiago is there to guide John, to walk beside him on the journey. However, Santiago is not the most stable of people, and John is now thoroughly confused. He can remember nothing of himself or his past, and he certainly wants nothing to do with this crazy, little man or his plans.
Lost in a desert, John just wants to find his way home. A burning bush tells him that he must follow the path to do so. This is John's second chance. He must follow the red-brick road of El Camino de la Muerte (The Way of Death) and never stray, if he wants to return. What happens on it and where it takes him is up to John.
With little choice, John sets off with the 'wise' Santiago at his side. Along the way they meet a vast assortment of characters. They are hunted by the zombie-like 'lunkheads'- who are men stripped down to nothing but their base desires. They are not the only wants hunting him.
A very weird, sometimes off-putting story. The best way to get through it is to not question it and follows John's example- just go with the flow. There's an odd mix of humour, fantasy and disturbing, adult horror. There are graphic scenes that may not be for the weak of heart, but there is also plenty of warmth to offset it. Though there are horror aspects, the character' reactions makes them seem less threatening and sickening. In fact, the characters just brush them off like nothing. They're almost horror without the horror.
Reading this book is like entering one of Salvador Dali's paintings- it's bleak, beautifully grotesque and utterly beyond description. Freud would have a field day. It's a bizarre mesh of adult versions of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Especially the latter. It can be hard to know what's going on, and there's a confusion to match John's own.
There are also a lot of Christian undertones (even John's name), all added in in a playful, semi-mocking manner. Not in a offensive way (though I'm sure some would disagree), more in a misplaced, I-think-there's-some-relevance-to-this-but-I-can't-find-it kind of way. Pop culture references are also blended into the mix, adding to the complete acid trip that is this book.
The characters themselves are synonymous with the many different sides of people. The ego, the superego and the id. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil, but suffice to say they are a look into the human psyche. Though I will add that Santiago reminds me a little of a more explicit Zaphod Beeblebrox, minus the snazzy outfits, spaceship and extra head. He's quite charming in his own psychotic way.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. If this review got you interested, why not check it out? Though one tip? Don't overthink it too much, just let it be. Let it wash you through the pages, and only once you've finished the book should you think back and wonder what on Earth you just read.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.