Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth is rather different in style and tone from much of Andrez Bergen’s previous body of work. Even so, though, there’s a distinct flavor to it that, if you’re familiar with Bergen’s writing, is unmistakable. His influences and his passions always stand out, from elements of noir to classic films and comic books to music, and more. As I’ve remarked before, this tendency to wear his passions on his sleeve is part of what makes Bergen’s work so much fun to read.
“I might as well be lying in a coffin. I’ve seen them on TV before. The dead always looked so comfortable with their arms folded across their chest in those silky interiors. Peaceful, even though they’re alone.”
“Unless it was a show where the dead happened to be vampires. They’d probably be smothered in women. Hot, vampire chicks and metrosexual Nosferatus, getting busy while luring mere mortals into their blood-sucking orgies of doom.”
“I don’t need more of that kind of frustration . . .”
Spencer Harrington has all of the problems most guys his age have: too smart for his own good, wanting a girlfriend, fighting with his dad, straining against the rules, and trying to figure out what he wants in life. Unfortunately, Spencer is doing that from a hidden Arctic base he calls the Icehole, thousands of miles from the nearest living being. And, that’s because Spencer has one thing no other typical, 19-year-old boy has . . . his father is a super-being named the Crimson Mask. And, Spencer has no powers.
None. Nada. Zip . . .
All young Falcio val Mond ever wanted was to become a fabled Greatcoat, an ambassador of justice who enforced the King’s Law throughout the land; however, he was born at a time when the Greatcoats had been disbanded, the Dukes held most of the power in the kingdom, and a young peasant could only dream about being anything other than a pawn in noblemen’s political games and lives in a tiny duchy named for a foul-smelling, oily blue flower. Destiny has a way of finding its targets, though, and through luck, tragedy, madness, and perseverance, Falcio helps enthrone a king who believes in the King’s Laws wholeheartedly. No one likes regime changes, though, and while Paelis rebuilds the Greatcoats and names Falcio First Cantor, he is, ultimately, deposed by those who dislike monarchical power in their duchies. Paelis leaves his former judges a final task: find the King’s Charoites, a difficult task when everyone from noble to peasant calls you “traitor,” and a nearly impossible one when no one knows what they are!
Orphans, by Ben Tanzer, is a slick and haunting sci-fi meditation on the full-steam corruption of the American dream and, indeed, America itself. We are shown a bleak future, where more money is devoted to the manufacture and maintenance of drones and droids than to the human poor who are forced to live desperate lives on the fringes of cities. We are shown a world where China has emerged as the dominant nation, the Chinese language is taught in schools, and Chicago has been renamed Baidu. We are shown a city, Baidu, where a complete income gap exists between the jobless masses wandering the streets in vain protest and the powerful elite, ubiquitous, yet invisible, hiding behind a wall of drones and wealth. We are shown a family through the eyes of our conflicted protagonist Norrin Radd.
The man currently known as Robert Blank thinks he retired from being a multiple agent of the Information Underground when he fled Los Angeles after accidentally engineering his own assassination in Justin Robinson’s first novel, Mr. Blank. He has a beautiful girlfriend, a respectable career as the owner of an occult bookstore, and just wants his previous personalities to fade away; however, if you’re the star of a tongue-in-cheek comedy noir, life is never that easy, and when Mina is framed for the murder of one of Blank’s former contacts, he reaches deep into his bag of tricks to prove her innocence, even when it might put him back in the path of the people he betrayed in his former life.
“Did you like it?” He asked her.
“Am I supposed to?”
“I don’t know.” Mike said.
“Well, I did like it. I like it fine.”
This bit of dialogue comes from writer Ivan Infante’s new e-book, False Ransom: The First Mike Chance Novel, and takes place between the lead character, conman and bruiser Mike Chance, and the fugitive daughter of a local mob boss immediately after she has shot a man to death . . . an experience that is a first for her. While this smidge of Infante’s story may not seem like much on its own, it perfectly captures the dark tone, moral ambiguity and subtle sexiness of False Ransom, while also conveying the emotional turmoil readers will experience in this tight and suspenseful page turner. At first, it’s an acquired taste, perhaps a little more harsh and cynical than most are used to, but once you get accustomed to the flavor, trust me, you’ll like it. You’ll like it fine.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
I've read a lot of of fantasy books based off of roleplaying games. The quality of their plots often leaves much to be desired, and they're all over the place as far as deciding what rules and complexities from the game to follow and which to blatantly ignore. This is all to say that those aren't really concerns here. James L. Sutter knows his stuff.
The first Watt O’Hugh novel, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2011 and also won Best Fantasy Novel in The Indie Excellence Awards 2012. Now, the acclaimed novel is being re-released, along with the second part of the tale of mysterious shootist and time roamer Watt O’Hugh, Watt Underground, which both clarifies some of the mysteries from Ghosts and continues revealing pieces of Watt’s story for curious readers. With so much fanfare about the original novel, I was uncertain whether it would live up the hype, and, sadly, for me, while Ghosts is a well-crafted, unique piece, I was left mostly unmoved and slightly baffled. I personally found Watt Underground a more enjoyable read, and it almost felt like a decoder ring for some of my confusion from the first book.
Emily Monroe is a highly effective personal investigator with a hidden secret; her psychic abilities give her an edge in finding things invisible to the more traditional senses. She’s successfully concealed her talents from the non-gifted humans around her, but a chance encounter with another psychic turns Emily into a dark obsession for a man enamored of control and pain. Now, she’s working against the clock with the Wichita police force to find this man before he kills one more woman in the name of drawing Emily to him. Simultaneously, the young woman finds hope in a male psychic named Jake who offers warmth, safety, and light. Can the two of them protect the connection between them while preventing the killer from flooding Emily with his darkness and death?
Being up front, the Fear the Boot podcast has been part of my lineup of regularly listened to podcasts for a long time. If you're a fan of tabletop RPGs, it and its massive backlog of 330+ episodes are one of the first I would recommend. Many of the hosts of the show - Dan Repperger, Wayne Cole, Chris Hussey, and more - have demonstrated their creativity time and time again on the show, and it kills me that we don't have more stuff out from them.