THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!
The Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards Winner for best novella, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR represents some of the very best in innovative speculative fiction.
I read this book in a few days and was enamored with it!
The following is a SPOILER-FREE book review of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone.
The main characters Red and Blue are agents in a time war described best as traversing amongst myriad threats of history and tangled braids of the future.
Red and Blue are women, if not wholly humanoid, well that is for the reader to decide, and are from a distant future.
They are the best at what they do: marking threads, timelines, for destruction and/or control.
The fallout of their actions directly improves or harms entire cords of histories.
Upon becoming aware of one another’s opposition, Red and Blue begin a taunting, spiritual, revealing, and ultimately romantic correspondence through some extremely well-hidden and well-experienced letters (eating and reveling in Sumac seeds for one, savoring a scintillating pot of tea for another).
The prose from both authors is deeply poetic and philosophical, and is layered in quips, in new tech from the future, in new interpretations of past figures and events.
Red and Blue are deeply insightful people, and they challenge each other to grow even as they get to know one another via the letters.
To create this book, Max Gladstone wrote all of Red and Amal El-Mohtar wrote all of Blue’s chapters.
And so a brilliant use of unique personality naturally illuminates each character.
At first Red and Blue seem like they might snare one another.
Later, Red and Blue seem to have betrayed the time war itself.
The result is that each layer of the book unfolds and is more suspenseful, more delicate, more painful, and more invigorating than the last section.
El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR is one of those pivotal works of sci-fi-fantasy, a classic that needs to be reread again and again to be fully realized.
INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an unremitting classic, as is the signed limited edition of the novel by Earthling Publications.
The thing about INSPECTION that is so unnerving is that it is entirely plausible.
The main character J is one of twenty-six twenty-four Alphabet Boys growing up in a school where their adopted father, D.A.D., and his Inspectors and staff have withheld the very existence of the female gender from the boys their entire lives so that they are “undistracted” in pursuit of academic and artistic greatness.
This book is a new favorite of mine! INSPECTION is visceral, poignant, moving, and frightening, and, man oh man, that ending packs a wallop!
The world-building, the characters, the prose could not be woven together better, like a song, or be more impactful.
“Oh, J knew the inspections were for his own good.” [INSPECTION, Josh Malerman, p.86]
That very line sends a shiver up my spine.
If a boy fails a daily inspection to the point where they are dubbed “rotten”, then they will be sent to The Corner, an infamous, hidden place from which two of their brothers have gone but never returned.
That threat is nearly as ingrained as some of the specifics it is wrapped in by D.A.D. – the diseases that disobeying can bring – and therein, the need for Inspections, for every day of their twelve-year-old lives.
The boys are even fed books crafted to them to teach specific lessons and to be devoid of any female terminology.
In a world where so many struggle and generations of youth have to learn history in schools where books are banned and/or censored into incoherence, the brilliant and twisted premise of Malerman’s INSPECTION borders on prescience.
And you will not be able to put this book down.
Earthling Publications’ signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an innovative marvel that captures the soul of the book, art reflecting art.
I imagine Josh Malerman must have felt a thrill jolt through him as he first held the Earthling S/L in his hands.
There is no dust jacket. No word on the book’s cover. And it is all the more stunning because of that.
The Earthling INSPECTION has every minute facet of the tale highlighted perfectly.
The cover is a “D.A.D. red leather jacket” Skyvertex covering, and there from front to spine to back are the black silhouettes of the Alphabet Boys waiting in line for their inspection.
It such a dramatic display.
The endpapers are the actual notebook pages that Warren Bratt printed with his hand-written story where “the woman” enters.
I mean, wow!
This is powerful, as are the brilliant illustrations of Patrick Arrasmith, the fantastic foreword by Jonathan Maberry, and both of them sign alongside Josh Malerman in this numbered edition of 235 (there was a lettered edition of 15).
The paper is bright, smells delicious, and boldly displays the text on 80# Finch interior papers that are held in a Smyth sewn binding.
Earthling is top-notch, even raising the bar they have set for themselves with INSPECTION.
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review: this is the first book in the Creepy Little Nightmares series by Wicked House Publishing. Patrick Reuman, author and founder of Wicked House Publishing, wrote this novel for his son, Aidan, who had been asking his dad to be included in one of his books. Thus, the idea for Creepy Little Nightmares was born!
The Forgotten Fiction received an advanced review copy of this book, and this horror fanatic didn’t even realize that it would fit in YA genre until someone said, “Heck, it does!”
Creepy Little Nightmares is a series of books written by a variety of authors under the same publishing house. Intended to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, Patrick Reuman describes it as,
A series of books that are creepy enough to entertain adults but are appropriate enough in their content that your kids can read them as well. Horror for the whole family!
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow follows 12 year-old Aidan and his group of friends after a boy in their grade disappears from Mulligan’s Hollow Road without a trace on his way home from school. The townspeople of Witherbrook and fellow classmates alike join the search crew, but when another boy goes missing, the town is on lockdown until further notice.
As fear spreads rampant through the town of Witherbrook, Aidan and his friends unite with some unlikely friends to try and solve the mystery of Mulligans Hollow.
Compelling from start to finish, this is indeed a book that the entire family could enjoy.
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is fantastically written, and certainly safe for young readers and squeamish parents alike.
Additionally, this book was refreshingly free of some of the more common plot holes in horror, and even featured parents who were not criminally negligent for a wild change of pace! This book is highly recommended, and we can’t wait to see what comes next in the Creepy Little Nightmares series!
The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is available for purchase on Bookshop.org.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty is Electrifying! When I stumbled upon Adrian McKinty’s The Chain in the bookstore, I picked it up with mild interest. When I read the engrossing blurb from Stephen King on the cover, mild interest blossomed into moderate intrigue. I had never heard of the author but supporting King’s glowing endorsement of The Chain was a Best Novel of the Year award, a nomination for a Barry Award, and several pages of high praise and accolades from all the usual suspects in the book review scene.
The truth is, though, it had me with King.
Then I read the electrifying synopsis on the back.
Your phone rings.
A stranger has kidnapped your child.
The stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger.
The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child.
You are now part of The Chain.
Needless to say, intrigue exploded into giddy excitement that bubbled with urgency, like a pebble of potassium dropped into a glass of water. I wanted to crack the spine and dig in right there in the M section of the general fiction aisle.
Now, when I read a book review, I typically prefer to know right out of the gate what the reviewer’s overall consensus is before wading through a detailed breakdown. So, I’ll give you the cash value straight out: I enjoyed this book very much! Go and read it!
With that out of the way I will now provide a slightly more nuanced analysis. I think it was around fifty pages into the story, when I thought to myself that McKinty’s writing is not necessarily that smooth-as-butter prose that rolls off the lips like poetry or like curse words in French. His sentences tend to be short and punchy, a lot like the style of Lee Child, the author of the Jack Reacher series.
That being said, I still could not. Put. It. Down.
The story raced forward, like a Ferrari on the Autobahn. There was no boring lull in the middle for character development or plot thickening. Short, packed, chapters of backstory were quite skillfully inserted into the rapid moving plot and didn’t so much as slow the locomotive down as it charged toward the exciting conclusion!
The characters were realistic. Flawed. Human. You can’t help but root for them the moment you meet them. There is also the deeply conflicting theme in this story that forces you to ask yourself the question: How far would you go to save your child’s life? These kinds of gut-wrenching moral dilemmas, that Mr. King himself is the, well, the king of, are so fun and probe the reader to turn each page with simultaneous curiosity and trepidation.
Immediately upon turning the last page I checked online and confirmed my suspicion that, yes, the film rights have already been purchased. But don’t wait for the movie! The book is ALWAYS better!
If you are looking for an easy, quick, and fun thriller to sink your teeth into, look no further than the M section in your local bookstore and pick up a copy of The Chain.
Dancing with the Tombstones is a delicious anthology of short stories, and I had the opportunity to review the latest book written by Mark Aronovitz and published by Cemetery Dance compiled during the COVID-19 lockdown of short stories that could be easily described as the adult equivalent of Scary Stories to tell in the Dark.
The following book review of Dancing with the Tombstones from Cemetery Dance is Spoiler-free**
This novel features seventeen short stories, with publication dates that vary from 2009-2020. Ten of these short stories have been published previously in various other anthologies, but it features seven new terrifying tales.
Mark Aronovitz tells us in the afterword that he put this book together in response to the pandemic, during the lonely days of quarantine.
His hope to bring some comfort and distraction during this trying time was a huge success and could have easily been titled Chicken Soup for the Spooky Soul.
Straight up – no nonsense horror.
Aronovitz delivers exactly what he promises, and this was a delightfully terrifying read, his short stories requiring no lengthy plot or conception of reality, just straight up – no nonsense horror.
This anthology is certainly one worth adding to your library, with tales that would be ideal to tell around a campfire on a chilly night and each packs a hefty punch that is genuinely terrifying when the blow strikes home.
Dancing with the Tombstones is split into four sections titled “GIRLS,” PSYCHOS,” “TOOLS & TECH,” and “MARTYRS & SACRIFICIAL LAMBS,” with each of his short stories falling into one of these categories.
Each short story is bite-sized and perfect to pick up and return to again over and over, and the fantastical element of short horror makes for a refreshing read. The short length allows these tales to grow more and more gruesome and disturbing. And every tale holds a more disturbing thought that is expanded upon to a truly terrifying conclusion.
My personal favorite in this anthology was “Puddles,” where Dora Watawitz’s obsessive cleaning routine turns into a waking nightmare when she starts to hallucinate the filth entering her home.
Mark Aronovitz delivers some truly real and a relatable material and to light brings disturbing thoughts such as “When DID I ever clean the toilet brush?” or, “How often do I ever really clean the bottom of my feet?”
These unsettling notions escalate into insanity (or perhaps a supernatural version of Doris’s personal hell) and all the cleaning, scrubbing, and bleaching just can never remove the filth plastered all over the walls of her mind.
Indeed, in a book where hell is described as an eternity consigned to an old Nissan Sentra in “The Echo,” there is something for everyone in this book.
Mark Aronovitz’s writing quality is stellar, and this is certainly a book to be enjoyed again and again.
Mark Aronovitz is the author of the novels Alice Walks, The Sculptor, The Witch of the Wood, and Phantom Effect. He has published two other collections, Seven Deadly Pleasures, and The Voice in Our Heads. He has published over fifty short stories in total and is definitely an author worth following!
Gwendy’s Final Task Soars! A Spoiler Free Book Review examines the latest in the Gwendy trilogy, Gwendy’s Final Task, coauthored by bestselling authors Stephen King and Richard Chizmar.
Spectacular and moving … there’s just no one like Gwendy.
This is a SPOILER-FREE** Preview Book Review of Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. We may re-examine this book at TFF in more detail, with SPOILERS, in a couple months’ time – it is that good of a read! But you may want to read the first two books in the Gwendy Series before tackling this book.
There are three major players in this book: Gwendy, those forces opposed to her, and the button box itself.
The button box is a keystone for power: good and evil can be performed by it, in large doses or small.
Gwendy is a good person, at heart, and so she understands this and has been one of its better caretakers, it seems, but that does not make the choice of using or not using the button box any easier.
Still the gravity of this escapes her, because the thought that extremely powerful entities will stop at nothing to claim the button box does not cross her mind until that is told to her flat out.
For fans of previous works of Stephen King and his many worlds, and also previous works of Richard Chizmar, Gwendy’s Final Task is a rare animal-shaped chocolate treat that you cannot resist.
The story passes through Castle Rock and another infamous town – and still horrifying – from Stephen King’s works, on and up to the space station.
When we last saw Gwendy, in Gwendy’s Magic Feather, she was 37, a Congresswoman, and had been sent the button box for the second time, as crises developed all around her.
She was only supposed to have the button box one time, at least that is what Farris said in Gwendy’s Button Box.
Now Senator Gwendy Peterson is older again and her third time with the button box will take her from Castle Rock and planet earth up into to outer space.
This is both remarkable in the achieving and very necessary for the plot.
The world building by King and Chizmar is paramount to this modern fairy tale enveloping the reader.
The very experience of anticipating the takeoff and having the tablets and instructions needed to manage one’s own controls from their seat draws the reader in.
The responses of the crew (and its computer), the dialogue and banter, from serious-to-jovial, and the setting all pave the way to a ratcheting thriller taking place in the near future and, at times, in zero gravity.
Gwendy is one of the “celebrity” guests on the way to the space station.
And as the story goes back and forth from Gwendy’s brilliant but troubled mind out in space to her memories and the happenings on earth, you cannot help but feel the anxiety that Gwendy feels, again and again.
She has a mission. And it only gets more difficult by the day, the hour, the minute.
The circumstances are dire, and Gwendy’s grip leaves dents in your heart.
The Richard Farris we have all come to know, he is on the cover, and I will confirm he is back, and I will say he has a significant part to play, as he did in the first two books in the Gwendy Series.
We learn a great deal more of Farris and of Gwendy too, and of what the button box can do. These three entities have all been revealed more and more throughout the trilogy when things are at their worst.
So the suspense meter is high, the horrors of earth and space run rampant, and the ending to Gwendy’s Final Task will leave you floored.
This ending moves the reader in a truly profound way.
The Dark Tower Ties To Gwendy’s Final Task
The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King’s magnum opus that begins with The Gunslinger – looms largely on all of the covers of every edition of Gwendy’s Final Task, so you assumed right: there is a connection.
And it is definitively one of the more closely tied books to the Dark Tower amongst the bevy of Stephen King’s works.
I will just say this to the authors: thank you.
A last word on Gwendy and collaborative character building:
I can think of only two characters, each born of two authors pairing up to create a character’s brains, courage, and soul that makes for some of the strongest and compelling people in the world of fiction.
Peter Straub and Stephen King’s Jack Sawyer is one of these, and Richard Chizmar and Stephen King’s creation of Gwendy Peterson is the other.