The Wake Up, Paranormal Dystopia by Angela Panayotopulos

The Wake Up by Angela PanayotopulosGreek Glass Makers Navigate Fascist Dystopia

Pros: Lyrical prose. Poetic and allegorical. Cast features much cultural diversity.
Possible cons: Unusual structure including set up and unlikely wrap up. More character and theme driven than plot driven. Plot requires substantial suspension of disbelief.

In the paranoid dystopia of Angela Panayotopulos’s paranormal novel, The Wake Up, a mad president, threatened by the demon he sees in his own mirror, bans all reflective surfaces.

A Virginian glass-making factory is destroyed in the resulting purge. But worse, the glass-maker’s daughter, Lexi, possesses the power to detect inner demons and angles, a power the president fears. Lexi’s gift could mean prison or death.

Then time passes. Lexi grows up, slowly separates from her shattered family and suffers a romantic disaster. Flash backs explore Lexi’s history and introduce additional characters. By and large, these plot elements come together in a last conflict, but much of this book is operating on a deeper, more abstract level, exploring the good and evil inherent to each human’s nature.

This rolling, allegorical feel meshes well with the author’s beautiful prose. Instead of saying, “time passed,” she says:

The world continued to revolve, somehow. The wind breezed through the neighborhoods and pushed the hands of household clocks. Waves rose and fell with the regularity of a sleeping god’s snores. People cupped snowflakes in the hands, scraps of divinity that melted at the human touch, as ephemeral as time.

I’ve lived in Maryland and the District, I appreciated a poetic visit to the mid-Atlantic’s seasons. This book also touches on the idea of inner demons and angles, a theme I’ve explored in my own novels. And I appreciated the careful editing, proof-reading and production of this novel. So although and because The Wake Up doesn’t follow the plot “rules” of a typical paranormal novel, it is a lovely read that I recommend.

The Great Contagion by Jeff Chapman, A Review

The Great Contagion: A Merliss Tale (The Merliss Tales Book 1) by [Jeff Chapman]Pros: Gripping plot. Professional prose, production and editing.
Possible Cons: Loner, emotionally isolated main character. Many unpleasant supporting characters.

Jeff Chapman’s medieval fantasy, The Great Contagion, lies somewhat outside my usual reading preferences. However, possession is one of my literary interests, and the novel covers a distinct possession, the well-known human into animal transfer. Hate it when that happens.

The novel’s main character is Merliss, the soul of a shaman-in-training possessing the body of a cat. She’s lived in the cat for centuries, assisting healers and training their apprentices, so she wears her possession comfortably, like an old shoe. And she’s seen plenty of drama in her long life, but nothing like The Great Contagion.

A plague descends upon the humans; they die in droves and/or behave rather badly. Concurrently, Merliss’s second home, the magical forest, faces unprecedented challenges. Attempting to help her animal, magical and human friends divides Merliss’s loyalties.

Liking Merliss was difficult at first. She read as a grumpy old lady. The initial chapter, a walk through the woods with an annoying young man almost lost me.

But how you travel is more important than your destination.

But the lovely prose kept me reading, then Merliss’s loyalty and bravery shone through her grousing, and the story grabbed me. In fact, I finished the book in two sittings, one lasting until one in the morning, an easy read given the book’s flawless editing and production, and high-grade prose.

My only quibbles are with the first chapter, as mentioned above, and the humans, who are, as in much Medieval fantasy, an uninspiring bunch. And she felt loosely bonded to her coworkers, the healer and his apprentice. The author lays out Merliss’s loyalties to the humans. But I still wondered why she bothered with them. In addition, most of her forest friends are ambivalent characters, mostly frenemies, but I suppose that’s a cat’s life.

An honest soul takes time to mature. More time than most have. They are difficult to find in the mortal world.

The book’s Wind in the Willows’ vibe should appeal to readers of animal based fantasy, such as the Redwall series and possibly Hollow Kingdom.

Supernatural Meets Breaking Bad

A Name in the Dark by G.S. Fortis, a Review

A Name in the Dark by G.S. Fortis

Pros: Action packed plot. Vivid, cinematic prose. Characters with emotional depth.
Possible Cons: High graphic index (violence). First two chapters with minor issues.

Thanks my character Pam’s experience with an inner demon, I’ve become interested in literary portrayals of possession. Any kind of possession will do, but the most common type seems to be demonic possession. Hate it when that happens, right? So naturally, search engines throw paranormal genre my way, hence I stumbled across G.S. Fortis’s paranormal detective debut entitled “A Name in the Dark.”

Private investigator Darcy Caine is possessed by a demon. A murderous demon she’d just as soon ditch; if only she could discover the demon’s true name. But when her new case rapidly drags her into a world of violence and evil magic; her inner demon just might come in handy.

After a weak opening scene (why would Paige be so stupid as to invite Brock over to the loft?) and a backstory infodump, this novel moves pretty quickly. Its first person present prose feels immediate and appropriate to the genre. Formatting and editing are immaculate.

The characters are multidimensional and believable, particularly sidekick Paige who’s also on a mission to uncover her origins and identity. Paige’s story is one of several echoes and parallels, that add depth to the plot. The Los Angeles setting is detailed and fascinating. This book combines elements of Breaking Bad, Supernatural and the Kinsey Millhone mysteries.

Warning: buckets of blood

The Ages of Entanglement by Robert L. Jackson, a Review

Ages of Entanglement by [R. L. Jackson]Poetic Post-Apocalypse Amongst the Palmettos

In R.L. Jackson’s novel, The Ages of Entanglement, Samson, an aged man, strives to protect himself from the intrusion of others as he wanders a near future Southeast nearly depopulated by a technological blunder. He fears entanglement with others, because entanglement precedes loss, and he’s already suffered enough loss for several lifetimes. But when he encounters the solemn and capable girl, Selene, and a handful of other travellers Samson is drawn back into the web of human relationships. Continue reading The Ages of Entanglement by Robert L. Jackson, a Review

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, a Review

Pros: Masterful descriptions and characterisations. Haunting language.

Possible Cons: Open-ended story telling. This book is horror (various unpleasantries occur).

Whilst floundering in Internet quicksand, I stuck a foot into North American Lake Monsters: stories by Nathan Ballingrud. I clicked on the sample thinking the book described legends of “real” monsters, curious, having never heard of monsters prowling the lakes of my home Continent. Continue reading North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, a Review

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, a Review

Pros: Intricately imagined world. Timely themes. Much wisdom.
Possible Cons: Suspension of disbelief mandatory. Many informational passages, characters and indefinite nouns.

Tell/Show Ratio – high
Graphic Index Sex – low
Graphic Index Violence – medium
World Building – excellent
Internal Veracity – medium

Science fiction novels often magnify current societal concerns. The opening quote from Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren, informs the reader that Blackfish City will involve real estate problems of epic proportions. Continue reading Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, a Review

Grass by Sheri Tepper, a Review

(You can’t melt a frozen heart with anger)

Pros: Lovely prose. Fabulous world building. Engaging plot with mystery, peril and hope. Deep themes including population control, religious hypocrisy and societal constraints, the human-animal connection. Fine characterizations including a portrayal of a failed marriage, and an intriguing protagonist. Characters act from in response to well-depicted psychological motivations.
Possible cons: Anti-organized religion theme may trouble some readers. Third act drags and occasionally becomes preachy. Fair bit of emotional tell. Continue reading Grass by Sheri Tepper, a Review