Showing posts with label Book Review 2017. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Review 2017. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kaiju Thriller Falls Short

Island 731Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A storm-tossed ship winds up in the lagoon of an uncharted island. As the characters sift through the damage, crew members go missing. Searching the island for lost shipmates, the protagonist stumbles upon remains of a notorious World War II Japanese dark science outfit known as Unit 731. But park ranger Mark Hawkins soon learns that gruesome experimentations have never stopped.

This seemed like two books: a half horror-thriller and the rest a justification for what came first. The chief antagonist seemed impossibly smart for his age, the scientific justifications thin, the evil agency behind it all opaque. To keep the plot moving in the second half, the author unloaded back story like a man lightening a balloon to stay airborne. And while such a practice justified the narrative, it threw me out of the story.

Which is a shame, since good action scenes combined with a stripped-down writing style made this tale zip along. More foreshadowing may've helped.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Jungle Fighting in the Central Highlands

As a replacement, a friend of mine joined one of the units chronicled in this work shortly after the incidents described. Here's a brief glimpse of his life as an infantryman. A medic is mentioned who, I believe, survived the destruction of a platoon mentioned in the book.

Nine Days In May: The Battles Of The 4th Infantry Division On The Cambodian Border, 1967Nine Days In May: The Battles Of The 4th Infantry Division On The Cambodian Border, 1967 by Warren K. Wilkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An engrossing description of infantry combat as American units reacted to North Vietnamese Army ambushes and assaults, with young U.S. draftees battling a hardened enemy, often in hand-to-hand fighting.

Struggling in the dense forests of Vietnam's Central Highlands at a time when most Americans still supported the war, the U.S. companies and platoons generally possessed excellent small unit leadership. They would need all the help they could get as they clashed with the NVA under triple-canopy forests that often blocked out the sunlight as well as supporting artillery fire.

Wilkins touches on the U.S. strategy of attrition, and the political constraints that hobbled American forces, leaving them unable to pursue the NVA into their bases across the Cambodian border. Reduced to counting bodies, the 4th Infantry Division could never put away their foe. The fraud of body counts and the untouchable nature of enemy sanctuaries negated the courage and endurance of the men, eventually forcing 4th Infantry Division units to battle over the same ground again and again until the attrited Americans finally withdrew.

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Friday, November 03, 2017

Apocalypse Story a Fast-Paced Revelation

Father Elijah: An ApocalypseFather Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael D. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At peace in a desert monastery, a psychologically-scarred monk is summoned by the Vatican to witness to a powerful international figure feared to be the Antichrist.

Based on Catholic eschatology, the story centers around the trials of Father Elijah, who reluctantly sets out on his mission only to find himself reliving the loss of family, friends, wife and child. As dark forces close around David Elijah, his friends and supporters, the monk struggles to complete his charge, grappling with issues such as the savagery of Man, free will, and the healing love of Christ. At the same time, the society around Father Elijah transforms at a bewildering pace, as lines dissolve between spirit, prophecy, and reality.

Set at the turn of the millennia, the book is paced like a thriller, with sharp dialogue driving the action forward; complex characters hold your interest. Overall, a fascinating exploration into the nature of evil, the power of patience, and the possibility of redemption.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Caustic, Funny Supernatural Tales

Dreadful Outcomes: The Wickesborough ChroniclesDreadful Outcomes: The Wickesborough Chronicles by D. G. Heckman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Consider this "Our Town" if written by Dante.

With apologies to Thornton Wilder, D.G. Heckman has penned a hilarious sardonic, 21st century version of small town life. In this supernatural anthology centered around fictional Wickesborough, Pennsylvania, we encounter characters most greedy, evil, self-centered, and unwary who run afoul of zombies, psychopaths, and demonic furniture in a region marinating in dangerous legends that still pack a punch.

Driven by strong ironic narration, the offerings include a band of sensitive cannibals who hate being confused with zombies; police attempting to deal with a wendigo outbreak; and weekend wiccans who discover themselves in deep with a cat-worshipping cult.

But not all outcomes are dreadful as a funeral whisperer learns the consequences of his calling, and a young man pursues his crush on a melancholy spirit.

An indie gem, this Wickesborough collection reminds one of Stephen King's Castle Rock, only with a mordant sense of humor. A dark, funny, absurdist read.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Zombie Novel with a Bite

A Place Outside The WildA Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are more zombie novels out there than the shambling dead they contain.

However Humphreys' take on a popular genre held my attention for its focus on survivors, their psychological strain, PTSD and myriad other woes besetting a handful of humans and the simple life they've built in a small compound, eight years after the rise of zombies.

Like circling sharks, the undead wander the compound's perimeter, hungering for human flesh, patient, omnipresent. At the same time, interior conflicts such as murder and drug addiction combine to erode the community's survival odds.

Good action and plenty of it keep this tale moving along.

Definitely worth a read.

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