Archives for posts with tag: Tor/Forge

How could you not like a book and a series featuring a female protagonist with the humorous/sexy name of Lucky O’Toole? So Damn Lucky is the first I’ve read in Coonts’s romantic mystery series, but it won’t be the last. The third novel(after Wanna Get Lucky, and Lucky Stiff) continues Lucky’s adventures in Las Vegas as the Head of Customer Relations at the mega-casino The Babylon. A typical night for her can involve any number of things, from an aging Midwestern couple trapped in a sex swing to a temperamental French chef who’s determined to make Lucky catch fire.

Besides dealing with the “normal” events and scheduling of conventions at The Babylon, Lucky also has her hands full doing the same sorts of things at the aging Grand Dame of Las Vegas casinos, the Athena Resort and Casino. Recently having discovered that her boss, Albert Rothstein (also known as The Big Boss), is her father has not made her life any easier, and is one more secret she wants to keep closely guarded. She is in charge of seeing that events like a Star Wars and Star Trek convention goes off without a hitch, and the final show of “the forty-year run of the Calliope Burlesque Caberet,” featuring the famous but aging magician, Mr. Dimitri Fortunoff.

What to do when there is a “hitch,” though, like when an escape artist/magician tragically dies inside of Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell, after having received numerous death threats? And, what if the paramedics who come to take the escape artist to the hospital aren’t really paramedics, and the body, itself, semingly vanishes into thin air?

As if dealing with this magical mystery wasn’t enough, Lucky also faces romantic and personal challenges. Her hunky boyfriend is touring with a rock band in Europe, leaving her very lonely, and very horny. Temptation taunts her in the form of other handsome men she encounters, like a newly-hired French chef and Dane, a tall Texan who works for the Gaming Commission. Will she succumb to the temptation, or somehow find the resolve to remain faithful to her boyfriend?

Also, Lucky’s mother is back with the Big Boss, and is pregnant. The Big Boss wants her to give up control over her whore house, and she is reluctant to do so. When the Big Boss asks Lucky to be the go-between, and talk her mother into giving up the house of ill repute, will she honor his request?

The troubleshooting Lucky O’Toole loves her cars as fast as her men, and her car of choice in So Damn Lucky is a Ferrari. Besides the challenges I already mentioned, Lucky has to deal with things like settling a disute over a limited-edition, gold plated golf club that its owner chucks into a water hazard. It’s then retrieved by a caddy, who claims it as his own; but, the man who threw it into the water hazard suddenly has a change of heart, and demands it back. It’s a case that would pose a quandry for Solomon himself, but it’s a cinch for the intrepid Lucky O’Toole to figure out an equitable solution.

So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts is a fun, fast-paced, page-turning read. It’s a novel that combines the thriler/mystery and romance genres, with a generous dose of humor laced throughout. Whether you’re already a fan of the Lucky O’Toole series, you definitely will be once you’re read So Damn Lucky. It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, which is another plus, but I would recommend that you check out the entire series, as I plan to do. It’s a novel that gratiously gives you all of the fun of Las Vegas without ever leaving your house! Add it to your reading lists today!

By; Douglas R. Cobb


William Wallace of Braveheart fame is one of Scotland’s most renowned historical figures. Despite this, though, and a movie made about his life, little is known about the facts of his life. The account that was made into the movie the epic poem “The Wallace,” by Blind Harry, was written more than a hundred years after the events it details. Author Jack Whyte compares Wallace’s life to that of Jesus’s, “…in that both emerged from obscurity at a late age – between twenty-seven and thirty – and each had a short, brilliant, meteoric public career that ended in execution. No one really knows what either man did in the years before he stepped into public scrutiny…” Still, certain facts and surmises have been recorded, and – though Whyte’s book The Forest Laird (A Tale of William Wallace) is a historical novel – he has researched his subject very well, and it shows in his exciting, page-turning novel.

The Forest Laird (A Tale of William Wallace) begins with a cousin of Wallace’s, the first-person narrator, Jamie (or James), visiting William at Smithfield Prison where he awaits his execution to both talk with him and to hear his last confession. James and William fought together against the English under King Edward, and we read about their early life, and learn where William’s initial hatred of the English began. His parents and sister were brutally killed, his sister’s head cut from her body by a sword. He was only eight, and the soldiers of King Edward then raped both of the boys. They escape, but are pursued by the soldiers for upwards of thirty miles. It is no wonder that, after this happened, Wallace was filled with a hatred for the English and a desire to gain revenge against the people who had wronged him and his cousin and who had murdered his family.

The Forest Laird (A Tale of William Wallace) details both Wallace’s victories and his defeats, his highs and his lows, much as the movie Braveheart does. The research the author’s done, though, reveals even more facets to William’s character, and it’s interesting to see him viewed through his cousin’s sometimes idolizing and sometimes condemning eyes. He’s shown druing his fugitive days, when he was considered to be an outlaw, through his meteoric rise as his people’s hero and patriot, and the eventual falling off of his followers due to both defeats at the hands of the English and to the changing times and attitudes of the Scottish royal families. Wallace’s exploits, daring escapes, and adventures are described in vivid page-turning detail. It’s sad as one reads to know, though, the gruesome fate that awaits the fictional Wallace, as it’s the same one that befell the historical one: to be hung, drawn, and quartered by the book’s end.

William Wallace’s life is told with a new, invigorated force through Whyte’s words and colorful descriptions. The next two books in his Guardians trilogy will be about men who were two other cornerstones of Scottish freedom, Robert, the Bruce and Sir James (the Black) Douglas. I know very little about these men, though I’ve heard of their names before. Scotland has had a long and a proud history, and it has always seemed to me to be a mystical, almost magical kind of country. If The Forest Laird (A Tale of William Wallace) is any indication, the novels to follow will be ones I’ll be anxiously awaiting reading/reviewing. I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves reading historical fiction and who’s a fan of the movie Braveheart. Add it to your reading lists today!

If you are a fan of fantasy novels and puns, you are probably already very familiar with the Xanth series of books by the esteemed and talented author Piers Anthony. If you have never read any of Anthony’s novels, you owe it to yourselves to check them out. At times, Anthony gets a bit carried away, perhaps, with his puns; but, they are always relevant to the context of the storyline, and fit in well with the action, adventure, and very cool and personable characters he creates.

The puns extend even to the titles of the Xanth novels. For instance, Well-Tempered Clavicle (2011) is the thirty-fifth Fantasy novel in the Xanth series, following Knot Gneiss. The first novel in the series, though, doesn’t have a pun in its title; it is called: A Spell for Chameleon.

The demon Xanth plays a very important role in the series. He is not always one of the main characters, but characters often refer to him, and have been influenced by him. He is not, generally speaking, an evil demon; but, he is actually liked and even admired/respected by many inhabitants of Xanth.

Knot Gneiss, the novel right before Well-Tempered Clavicle, is one example where I’d say Anthony may get a little carried away with puns. I enjoyed reading it, but when you read about a character called Wenda who has violent mood swings and then read that her swinging on her favorite swing, a “Mood Swing,” was the cause of her mood swings, seems to me to be carrying the whole premise a little too far.

Picka Bone is one of the protagonists in Well-temered Clavicle. He and his sister Joy’nt are skeletons (the offspring of Marrow Bone and Gracew’l Ossein) who share a portion of a soul that has made them have a conscience and help others. Still, Picka Bone believes that he and his sister are living a rather dull life, guarding–mostly strolling around–the grounds of a cemetery. They are doing so at the request of two ghouls who desire a break from guarding the cemetery.

Their lives are dull, that is, until three animals show up, a bird, a dog, and a cat, named after the parts of a speaker: Tweeter, Woofer, and Midrange. They are not afraid of the skeletons, and Picka Bone saves Woofer from where he is trapped. This seals their friendship, and the two skeletons are talked into going on a quest with the animals in search of an adventure.

Woofer, Tweeter and Midrange were in the previous novel, Knot Gneiss. They are from Mundania, and are the Baldwin family pets. They’d heard they could escape getting older in Xanth, so they had decided to move there. As a side benefit, they are gaining new magical abilities. Joy’nt’s magical scroll enables the animals to communicate with the skeletones, and vice-versa.

Other interesting characters that I liked in Well-Tempered Clavicle are Princess Dawn and her sister Eve, who are sorceresses. and Mumfrey, the Good Magician. Mumfrey has five and a half wives, and he grants people answers to their questions if they can find the solution to three challenges he presents them. There is also an invisible giant who joins the three animals and the skeletons. They believe that Picka Bone has a hidden talent, and they journey to ask Princess Eve for help in finding out what the talent is.

The problem is that when they arrive at Castle Roogna, they learn that Princess Eve is away, visiting her husband’s realm. Hades. The adventurers decide to ask Eve’s sister, Princess Dawn, if she will help them. She is available, and what’s more, she fortunately has a free pass that will take them to Hades and allow the entrance to it.

They have many humorous adventures on their way. The plot of the novel changes to one where Princess Dawn is looking a suitable husband, but the animals and the skeletons still play a major role in the plot.

As in all of the Xanth novels, Piers Anthony’s chapter titles are one more reason I am a fan of his writing. Examples include: “Knucklehead,” “Granola,” and “Rules of Engagement.” In the ebooks I have written, I also try to engage my readers by thinking up clever chapter titles. Whether or not I am halfway as good at it as Piers Anthony is a subject of debate, but I always like it when authors try to intrigue their readers right from the very beginning of each chapter, from the title of it onwards, to make them want to read more.

Well-Tempered Clavicle by Piers Anthony is a funny, pun and fantasy-filled addition to the Xanth series. Anyone who loves the Fantasy genre, whether you’re a long-time fan of the Xanth series or are new to it, is sure to enjoy reading this novel. Anthony dedicates his novel to his daughter, who passed away while he was writing it. I am looking forward to reading the next installment, The Luck of the Draw. The Xanth series has legions of fans around the world; check out Well-Tempered Clavicle to find out for yourselves why!

Can you stay cool while it’s getting hot? Environmental concerns and the threat of global warming are topics that everyone should be concerned about, and they have also played into the plots of SF books like the brilliant Paolo Bacigalupi novel The Wind-Up Girl and even Cormac McCarthy’s New York Times bestselling novel The Road.

Tobias S. Buckell’s latest page-turning novel, Arctic Rising, is about a time in the not-so-distant future when the polar ice caps are melting due to global warming. Though I like reading just about any type of SF, I especially like reading those in which the plot seems very plausible because the future depicted is based on trends, events, or scientific theories that are prevalent today. To me, that basis in reality makes books like Arctic Rising seem more relevant and gripping.

In Buckell’s book, global warming has caused the polar ice caps to partially thaw and calve off icebergs, which in turn causes lowland coastal flooding, and opens up the Northwest Passage and uncovers land that has been encased in ice for thousands of years. The land is called Thule. New communities form in Canada, and it becomes an economic powerhouse. The United States and other nations try to claim parts of the sea bed, in their ever-continuing efforts to locate new oil and other mineral reserves. But, others seek to use the newly navigable oceanic highways to transport drugs and illegally dump nuclear waste material.

The main female protagonist of Arctic Rising is the Nigerian airship pilot (working for the underfunded United Nations Poar Guard) Anika Duncan. She and her UNPG copilot, Thomas Hutton, soar in the skies above the frigid polar seas in search of suspicious ships that might be transporting drugs or radioactive waste to dump. Anika notices that the scatter cameras on the airship are detecting that one such suspicious ship, the Russian Kosatka, registered in Liberia, is emitting strong radioactive readings. When they come in closer to investigate, someone aboard the ship opens fire with a RPG launcher, bringing Anika’s airship crashing down into the ocean.

By the time a ship rescues them and helicopters come to take them to where they can obtain further medical attention, theKosatka is long gone. Though they both are alive when pulled from the ocean, Tom’s protective uniform wasn’t zipped up properly and let in the icy water, bringing on hyperthermia. He dies from it, and Anika is more determined than ever to learn why their airship was attacked and what the Russian ship had been transporting. She knows that the rewards could be high for those captains who loaded up old derelicts with radioactive waste and had “accidents” off the coast of African nations, and believes that perhaps the Kosatka was involved in similar illegal activities.

When the ship is found, and the crew arrested, no sign of whatever cargo might have been onboard is in sight. Fortunately, Anika has kept a recording of the evidence gathered by the scatter cameras to prove that the Russian ship had been transporting something radioactive; but, someone, or ones, seem determined to hush the investigation. Why are various military agencies and corporations suddenly getting involved? Could it be that the crew was trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon of some sort?

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell, who also wrote the bestselling novel Halo: The Cole Protocol, is a suspenseful book that is sure to stay with you and open your eyes to what might happen if global warming continues at its present rate. The activist group Gaia Corporation, which tries to use technology to reverse global warming and which has a plan to terraform the Earth, also create a superweapon that falls into the wrong hands. When Anika goes undercover and attempts to stop the Gaia Corp’s weapon, the action really picks up and makes for a fast-paced, exciting read. If you like very realistic science fiction thrillers, I highly recommend that you add Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell to your reading lists.

If you enjoy reading dark urban fantasy novels, you really must check out Joseph Nassise’s brilliant Eyes To See (Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles Book 1). Sometimes, one has to lose what he most cherishes to be able to see how much he misses it. Sometimes, the blind see better than the sighted; sights that we ordinarily can’t see; the ghosts that walk amongst us on a daily basis. This novel is a fantastic beginning to the Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles, and though there have been many books written about the paranormal and ghost busting before now, Nassise’s (author of The Heretic)shines as being one of the best in recent memory.

The novel’s chapters alternate between ones taking place in the present, labeled “Now,” and those in the past, titled “Then.” Though Hunt has lost his eyesight, he’s done it to help him find his kidnaped daughter, Elizabeth. We learn this in the “Then” chapters. Though he loses his eyesight, when he’s in the dark, he can see, to an extent, well enough to get by with the use of a cane. And, he can see the ghosts that walk around us, who are largely unseen by most of us, except the pyschically sensitive.

The main protagonist, Jeremiah Hunt, was once a Harvard classics professor. He was charged with taking care of his daughter, but gets so wrapped up in his research and work on his computer that he fails to realize the passing hours since he’s last seen and heard his daughter, Elizabeth. When he eventually realizes that he hasn’t heard a peep from her for awhile, he goes in search of her and doens’t find her anywhere. He notices an open window in her bedroom, and comes to the conclusion that his daughter must have been abducted. The cops, for a time, suspect that he was involved in whatever happened to Elizabeth, which just adds to the misery and hopelessness that Hunt experiences.

Though Jeremiah loses his normal vision, he gains the spiritual aid of an entity he calls “Whisper,” and another one called “Scream.” They enable Hunt to learn enough about who is behind certain murders that he has often assisted the police in solving homicide cases. Even with their help, Hunt has a hard time figuring out who, or what, is behind the brutal murder of Brenda Connolly. Hunt was brought into the case to provide as much information to the cops as he can, but the posed naked body of Brenda, hands wired and on her knees as if in prayer, is unsettling, to say the least. And what has tinged her skin green?

Hunt sees arcane symbols and words on the walls of the dead woman’s bedroom. He recognizes a pattern, and that Connolly’s murder is reminescent of others. With the help of a bartender who Hunt has recognized possesses pychic abilities, Hunt gets tantalizingly closer to discovering who the murderer is-and how it all ties in with his daughter’s disappearance. But, is at all designed just to lead Hunt into a deadly trap?

Eyes To See by Joseph Nassise is a spellbinding dark urban fantasy that will haunt your nightmares and memories for a long time after you finish reading it. If you love reading novels of outstanding paranormal fiction, than I highly recommend that you check out Eyes To See and see for yourselves what a great author Joseph Nassise is–get it today!

–Douglas R. Cobb–

I’m proud and honored to be interviewing today the incomparable SF author, John C. Wright. He’s the author of several brilliant page-turning novels, including the Nebula Award Nominee Orphans of Chaos, and his latest book, the amazing Count To A Trillion, which starts a brand-new trilogy for him and I feel is destined to be nominated for (and possibly win) one or more of these awards: Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell. Who knows? Maybe he’ll go for the Trifecta.

And now, SF fans, let’s get on with the questions!

Douglas R. Cobb: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, John! I’ve been looking forward to it for some time now, having had a chance to correspond with you a little and get to know you better.

For my first question, as I also asked Neal Asher, I wondered if you got any SF books under the Christmas tree this year, or gave any; and, if so, what were they?

John C. Wright: I am afraid I have reached the age where all my favorite science fiction authors are dead, and will be coming out with no new books forever, with the notable exceptions of Gene Wolfe and Tim Powers. I got two books by Cardinal Ratzinger this Christmas, and I gave the wife two romance novels.

I am anxious to ask you some questions about your latest novel, Count To A Trillion, but first I’ll ask you a couple of questions about Orphans of Chaos, the first installment of your Chronicles of Chaos series.

I really like your take on the traditional theme of orphans who succeed despite their upbringing and the attempts of others to see them fail. The first-person narrator, Amelia Armstrong Windrose can see in four dimensions; Victor can control the molecular arrangement of matter; Vanity can find secret passageways where none previously existed; Colin is a psychic; and Quentin is a warlock. They are also something much more, but I won’t ask you to reveal what.

Did you think up each character and write down their histories and attributes before you ever began writing the novel, or did ideas come to you as you wrote it? How long did it take you to write it and see it through to publication?

Actually, I made up the laws of nature first, then made up the scenery, then rummaged through the attic of my mind for characters from previous stories and ideas to jury-rig into place, or steal from the public domain. Their backgrounds, what is now the material in Chapter Two, was something I invented last of all and wrote last. I wrote it in about nine months, and since I had a working relationship with Tor Books, the publisher of my previous novels, I did not need to shop for a market. The story started as an idea for an Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game. Indeed, when I wrote the first page, I had not yet decided if I were writing a story for publication or background information to pass out to players to use in deciding their character concepts.

Orphans of Chaos and the entire series could be thought of as YA literature, or as adult SF. Did this cause you any trouble getting a company to publish it? How would you describe what category it falls into, if any besides SF or Urban Fantasy, perhaps?

It cannot be thought of as YA literature, since it is not sexually explicit and perverse enough, although, perhaps, in one scene it comes close. It was not written with any but an adult audience in mind. I had no trouble whatsoever getting my publisher to publish it.

It is not science fiction, since it contains elements of fantasy and magic. Nor is it urban fantasy, since that requires a leather clad teen vampire huntress to appear, or something as lyrical as the work of Charles de Lint, which my poor wordsmithing does not approach. Nor is it high fantasy, which requires elves, nor sword and sorcery, which requires barbarians.

The only genre I can think of where a group of teen heroes join forces, one of whom is a psychic, another a robot, another a fourth-dimensional girl, and another is a magician, is a superhero comic book. ORPHANS OF CHAOS is in the same genre as TEEN TITANS or YOUNG JUSTICE.

I am kidding. Almost. The story is a cheap ripoff of, er, um, I mean a loving homage to Roger Zelazny’s Amber books. If you can tell me what genrethose are, I can tell you what genre mine are.

One of Amelia’s quirks is her obsession with the famous female aviator, Amelia Earhart. How does that play into the plot of Orphans of Chaos?

The children were each told to select their own names. Being raised on the confines of an old school, and not allowed to set one toe off the grounds, Amelia was obsessed with escape, and of seeing all the wide and wonderful places she imagined must be beyond. She took her name from the celebrated aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, and from that compass rose which decorates maps, and points to infinity in each direction. Like her namesake, Amelia dreams of flight.

I won’t ask you to get into details to any great extent, John, but could you give the readers of my blog an idea about the real reason why the orphans are at the Academy they find themselves in, and why they can’t seem to remember their pasts?

They are not human beings. The orphanage is not an orphanage at all, but a prison. They are much older, very much older, than their appearance and their memories would indicate.

There’s so much more I could ask you about the series, but for now, let’s get on to questions related to your latest SF extravaganza, Count To A Trillion.

The main character of Count To A Trillion is Menelaus Montrose. The novel is set in America, but in a future period after the country’s collapse, brought about by various things like terrible economic conditions, the Japanese Winter, and the rise of the technologies and scientific advances of other countries. The government of the USA is still struggling to hang on and maintain itself, but we’ve basically fallen to the status of a Third World nation.

Menelaus is a Texan, a very gifted and highly intelligent person with an expertise in math. He’s also a fan of a cartoon series from the past called Asymptote, which is reminiscent in many ways of the original Star Trek series.

Where you (Are you) a Star Trek fan? As an aside, I had the good fortune of meeting Leonard Nimoy (Spock) once, in Illinois, when he appeared in the play One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Also, what is it about the future depicted in Asymptote that Menelaus wants so badly to help make become a reality?

I am indeed a Star Trek fan, perhaps too much so, if such a thing can be imagined. My ambition is to be as much like a Vulcan as human nature allows, and never to deviate from the path of purest and strictest logic. Such a path is odd indeed, since it leads to strange, may I say, non-Euclidean places much different from what Gene Roddenberry might have expected.

The future depicted in “Asymptote” was optimistic and transhuman: a story about overcoming limitations, including all moral limitations. In the depressed and depressing era in which Menelaus Montrose finds himself, the reminder of past glories and the promise of future glories is like wine.

I know that you are not a Darwinist, from both having read the novel and having written emails to you; but, Menelaus’s mother, who is very strict, believes in it, and that Menelaus’s fate is to become a soldier and fight in a war. Menelaus wants to prove his mother wrong.

Why do you think that some people have received the impression that you are a Darwinist, and could you tell the readers of What’s New In Book Reviews what makes Menelaus a successful lawyer (NOTE: by this, I’m not referring to his skills in arguing cases, but to something else) previous to his journey into space?

John C. Wright: The word ‘Darwinist’ is ambiguous.

Correctly speaking “Darwinism” means the biological theory that new species emerge from old by descent through modification caused by natural selective breeding, that theory is neither questioned, nor even mentioned, in the novel.

Incorrectly speaking “Darwinism” is often used by clods who have not read Darwin to means the abortive moral theory that treating one’s fellow man like breeding livestock serves the race, and that no higher principles have a claim on the conscience, that is the moral theory Montrose abhors. This theory is more correctly called Pseudo-Darwinism, Social Darwinism, Nietzscheanism, or Naziism. Montrose, as a small child, does not make this distinction. I assume readers are more discriminating.

Montrose’s mother actually says that boys are made for fighting wars and girls are made for mourning after them, and she gives an evolutionary color to the claim, saying that this was what nature selected the sexes to do. The quote comes from Andrew Johnson’s biography, whose mother said a similar harsh thing, but without the science fictional Darwinian metaphor.

I do not think any reader could possibly have received that impression that the author was a Darwinist from a book where the hero in the first chapter vows a solemn vow to oppose the philosophy.

Menelaus was not a successful lawyer previous to his journey into space. In the corrupt practices of those days, legal battles often were resolved ‘out of court’ by a pistol duel. Montrose, a mathematical prodigy, worked as an apprentice for a weaponsmith, and learned the tricks of how to program the anti-bullet bullets each pistol fired as escorts to its payload advantageously.

He was also bold and cold-nerved enough to meet in the cool of dawn with adversaries and stare down the barrel of a pistol without losing his nerve. He was ‘successful’ if it can be called that, insofar as he was not dead. The scene opens on the day he loses his nerve, perhaps due to a growing conscience or a failing fortitude.

What is it about an alien artifact called the Monument that makes Menelaus want to go to any length to reach it and see it?

The artifact is a small moon, orbiting a star 50 lightyears hence, and covered over every inch with hieroglyphs of some mathematical and symbolic logical notation. It is an attempt at first contact. The only language the Monument Builders have in common with whatever race of unknown history, prehistory, psychology, and biology as may encounter their handiwork is science, math, logic. We all occupy the same universe, after all. Hence, before even beginning the contact message, the message must establish a common language, which mean, to list all the laws of nature, including laws of nature unknown, as yet, to man, such as the relationship between mind and body, the rule of entropy and thought, the logic which underpins logic, and so on. The math is too complex for the humans to comprehend: the Monument was something created by an artificial intelligence the size of many Dyson Spheres occupying a globular cluster to communicate with another intelligence like itself. They regard biological life the way we regard sperm cells, merely as a transitional stage in the evolution of inanimate matter to self-aware matter. When the humans attempt to understand what Man Was Not Meant to Know, things go badly. At first.

Why did you decide to make most of the other scientific members of Menelaus’s spaceship be from India or of Hispanic descent?

To give a sense of the weight of history. No Spaniard at the time of the Armada, when she was the crown and glory of the world, would have imagined the modern state, where a single sneak attack by a band less numerous than the crew of a pirate ship would topple a government. No British subject of Queen Victoria, on whose empire no sun set, would have imagined the desolation of the government of Clement Atlee. I merely postulated a time in the future when the powers of the biowar-maimed Northern Hemisphere powers were weak, and South America and the Indian subcontinent were strong.

And I postulated one other thing. The nation state is a recent invention. Before that, kingships were the norm, and before that, Imperium, and before that, the City State. Each are based on a different theory of the nature of the group to which the man belongs, and what are his duties toward it. Here, I assume linguistic identity, an Hispanosphere or Indosphere, form the basic unit of social loyalty, rather than the nation state. This is not because I think it desirable or even likely, but because I think it unique. At least, I know of no other SF author who has speculated along the lines of that particular extrapolation.

Upon returning from the Monument, 150 years have passed. I won’t ask you, again, to go into much details about this aspect of the plot; but could you say who has now become the dictator of the Earth (NOTE: The description that Tor/Forge includes in review copies of Count To A Trillion calls this person a dictator)?

No one. His title is Nobilissimus, and he is the head of an advisory body, called the Advocacy, which rules a complex coalition of various member powers and organizations. However, this advisory body also happens to be the survivors of the expedition to the Diamond Star, and the monopolists controlling the world’s supply of Contraterrene which they there mined, and the Hermeticists controlling the secrets of extraterrestrial and posthuman superscience they discovered by translating, or having translated for them, of the first few acres of alien notation.

Count To A Trillion depicts an apocalyptic time in our future, but there is hope for a much better one to come. That’s another thing I liked about the novel.

Why did you chose to end it with a cliffhanger, though? It may be
self-explanatory, I guess, in that the reason most books/movies/TV series do is to make you want to continue reading/watching what happens next. Would you say that is a big part of the reason why?

I ended on a cliffhanger to whet the readers’ appetite for the sequel.

It’s been great interviewing you and hearing you discuss your novels, John! I have one more question, or combo question, for you–yes, the dreaded “future plans” one–are you working on the next book in the series yet, or have you been to busy with other things and possibly promoting Count To A Trillion? Do you have ideas what the second novel’s title will be, and could you
give an idea what will happen next?

The next two books in the series are, as of this moment, written, and the one after that is three chapters written. The next book is called THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA; the third is called THE JUDGE OF AGES, and the fourth is as yet untitled. Whether the fourth will be one larger volume or split into two remains to be seen.

The first volume ends with the desperate flight into space of the artificial posthuman being, Rania Grimaldi, whose DNA includes patterns found in the alien Monument. She goes to plead for the freedom and salvation of mankind with the masters of the master-races of the Hyades star cluster, who own the Earth. These remote beings have their seat outside the galaxy in the globular cluster at M3. Due to the disaster which surrounds her departure, Menelaus Montrose, her husband, is left behind and with him is the mission to maintain human civilization in a condition such that, should the Authority at M3 declare man free and equal to the Hyades, man would be deserving of the honor. The irony is that, in a slower-than-lightspeed polity stretching across tens of thousands of lightyears, interstellar agreements and laws must maintain their force and effect for tens of thousands of years, far longer than any institution designed by man can last.

In brief, in order for the verdict of the remote power at M3 to free mankind, mankind must achieve and maintain a star-faring civilization, which means, retain memory and continuity across all the time that a star-voyage would take, the time it takes to count to a trillion, tens of thousands of years. Menelaus Montrose is the inventor of the world’s longterm suspended animation facilities, called tombs, and he must preserve, nay, he must evolve mankind up to the level needed to make his absent wife’s dream come true, and her voyage not be in vain. He must evolve man to be free.

His enemy, Blackie Del Azarchel, who also controls the secret of mathematical analysis of the vectors of history, seeks a mutually incompatible end: he thinks mankind’s only hope for survival is to be the serfs of some higher power, the way wolves in the stone ages became hounds and dogs, and therefore the allies and pets of the superbeings called man. He must evolve mankind to be the perfect

Both men possess superhuman intelligence and an ability to manipulate the predicted paths of history; both are in love with Rania; both are avowed to destroy the other. And both wait thousands of years for their plans to bear fruit.

The volume I am writing now takes place on a grander scale again, with hundreds of thousands of years rather than merely thousands taking place between the events of the great duel between these two towering men, whose role not just his human, nor just in galactic history, grows to ever wider and wider extent.

At each step, a deeper purpose behind the Monument secrets, and a deeper purpose behind the history of the universe, becomes clear.

Thanks once again, John, for doing this interview with me! You and your wife are both very gifted authors, and I wish you both the best! Also, to the readers of What’s New In Book Reviews, I wnat to wish you all a Happy New Year, and I highly recommend you read Count To A Trillion and the other novels of John C. Wright and L. Jagi Lamplighter.

–Douglas R. Cobb–

John C Wright’s Nebula Award Nominated SF novel, Orphans of Chaos, blew me away with the imagination behind it and Wright’s ability to craft an excellent novel. Now, his just-released Hard SF novel, Count to A Trillion, I am prophesizing right now, will also be nominated, and could very possibly win the award. Yes, it’s that good, despite some controversy it’s already engendered among some members of the reviewing community.

What’s so great about it? How about: Everything.

Count to A Trillion is the first novel in a planned trilogy. It’s the tale of the Texan Menelaus Montrose in a future over two hundred years from now, after an economic collapse in America and a world-wide, man-made environmental mini Ice Age (aka: the Starvation Winter or Japanese Winter) has devasted the United States and the entire world. America has fallen to an at best Third-World status, though remnants of it’s once greatness remain. Menelaus is one of nine brothers, who are raised by a strict mother, who values knowledge above what she considers to be some of Menelaus’s frivilous interests, such as music and the animated series, Asymptote, which bears many similarites to the original Star Trek series.

Young Menelaus (I love that name, and another brother’s, Agamemnon’s, taken from Homer’s The Iliad) is a mathematical prodigy, as well as a science ficiton fan, who longs for the era in the vast future described in the Asymptote series when peace, love, and harmony will reign throughout the universe. Though his Mom raises all of her children with the aim of instilling in their hearts and minds a love of knowledge, she also believes (as does a large segment of the population then) that it’s impossible to defy Darwinian laws and roles for males in society. Males are made to fight in wars, she feels, and Menelaus’s course in life crosses with lots of battles and action, to be sure.

By the time he is twenty-two, Menelaus already has many scars from the fights he’s been in. He’s an expert with guns, which makes him an ideal candidate to be hired by a law firm. That’s because many legal cases are resolved in these times by duels, so being deadly accurate and quick with a gun is a definite plus for lawyers. Menelaus is one of the best around.

While serving as a lawyer, Menelaus is recruited by a mysterious man who believes that Montrose might be the person who can save the world. He is a crucial member aboard a spaceship headed to examine an extremely advanced alien creation known as the Monument. It is inscribed with information which might be the salvaiton of the world, if it can be decoded and interpreted properly. The problem is, it’s a very tricky language to decipher, and though segments of it have been translated, the vast majority still remains a mystery.

Menelaus wants to be the person to solve the mystery and change the future of the Earth for the better, and he has a plan to accomplish this: inject himself with a formula that is meant to enhance his intellect and the evolution of his brain. He injects himself, despite the protestations of most of the other scientific members of the crew, who worry that the formula might cost them a member of their crew (Menelaus) whom they need to rely upon later, at the Monument. It works; he becomes super-intelligent; he is able to understand the writing on the Monument; but, he also acts in a way that makes the other scientist believe he’s gone crazy.

Next thing he knows, he wakes up 150 years in the future. He’s been in suspended animation; everything’s changed. He has to face the fact that somehow one of his crewmates, “Blackie” Del Azarchel has become the world’s first dictator. How it has happened is very puzzling to him, as is the appearance of a mysterious Princess who was somehow born on o voyage among the stars even though there were no women present.

How has Wright’s novel become as controversial as it has, within mere days of when the brick & Mortar stores began selling it, on December 20th? My surmise is that a few reviewers mistakenly have taken certain beliefs of Wright’s characters to be his, such as the supremacy of Darwinian theories. I’d say, even if they also might happen to be Wright’s beliefs, what does it really matter, as in the context of the novel, they are the beliefs of the characters, and Menelaus is determined to thwart these theories, as opposed to giving in to them.

Also, there’s been mention of how strange it seems that Menelaus doesn’t suddenly talk like a Rhodes Scholar when he has his intelligence augmented. Personally, I found this to be specious reasoning. If a person grows up speaking his/her native language a certain way, intelligence or lack of it really plays no part in how he/she speaks, except perhaps in having a more advanced vocabulary. Menelaus is highly intelligent even previous to his augmenting his brain. If he suddenly began talking like a Northerner or maybe someone educated in an English boarding school, to me, this would be kind of silly. It’d be breaking his character.

Reviews are really only opinions, though reviewers try to base theirs on what they read, and by comparing/contrasting what they have read with the literature of others. I’ll be the first one to admit that about my own reviews, but I try not to bring any outside political viewpoints or my own biases into a discussion of the relative merits/flaws of a novel.

Count To A Trillion by John C. Wright is a novel that harkens back to the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and to Star Trek. Many episodes conveyed the promise of a better future despite the battles, conflict, and fighting that the Enterprise’s crew often engaged in, and this promise helped captivate the public’s imagination as much as the action did. I highly recommend Count To A Trillion to anyone who is a fan of MilSF, and science fiction in general. It’s a promising start to the series, with a cliffhanger that will make you long to read the rest of the trilogy. Check it out today!

–Douglas R. Cobb–

Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is back on a mission to see justice done for Las Mujeres de Juarez, over four hundred dismembered and mutilated women found murdered along the border between Texas and Mexico, in Jon Land’s suspenseful thought-provoking mystery thriller, Strong Justice. In the first book featuring Ranger Caitlin Strong, Strong Enough to Die,Jon Land took a close look at government-sanctioned torture and the degradation of civil rights. Besides the action-filled, tense, page-turning plot of Strong Justice, in which Caitlin also has to go head-to-head with Colonel Montoya, a terrorist determined to bring America to her knees, I like that Jon Land incorporates the news headlines into his novels, like the often ugly and brutal reality of the cruel fates that Mexican women forced into prostitution sometimes face, of young lives cut short way too early and nastily. Strong Justice is that rare type of book that will live with you long after you have finished reading it, and it’s one that both those who love the Western and Mystery genres should heartily embrace.

She teams up in San Antonio with Cort Wesley Masters again, whose wife was murdered in Strong Enough to Die. Caitlin has had a romantic relationship with Cort, despite his criminal past, because he wants to become a better father for his two boys. There’s a tension created by this complication, also, both wondering if they can reignite their relationship, or if violence and guns are the only things that they had in common and that brought them together. They head to the town of Nuevo Laredo to try to find the evil, bald-headed steroid freak Marcerio, whom some call El Demono, a man it’s rumored cannot be killed. Besides being involved with a sex slavery ring, he also might be “the worst serial killer in history,” the person who murdered the Women of Juarez. Maria Lopez, a young woman who’d been forced into prostitution by Marcerio and his men – and whom he will do anything to get back – draws Caitlin Strong a crude map in black marker to Nuevo Laredo and the house she and other women were held at, one with “birds on it big enough to house a lot of people.”
Cort’s older son, fifteen-year-old Dylan Torres, had meet Maria on a day he skipped school. She told him her story, and that Marcerio was still after her. They are spotted by the police, and run for it, but the police catch Dylan and hold him on suspicion of possessing drugs, even though they find none on him. They reason, erroneously, why should he have ran, if drugs weren’t involved. He uses his one phone call to phone Ranger Strong, and she has him released into her recognizance. .

At the time, Cort is in New Orleans, trying to get money he’s owed from Frank Branca, Junior. Cort had done some jobs for Frank Branca, Sr., who’d suffered a stroke and now was wheel chair bound, and Junior doesn’t want to pay Cort what he’s owed. He finally takes it from Junior’s wallet, after saving him in a bloody shoot-out by killing members of a rival gang with Frank Branca, Sr.’s pistols. He believes he needs the money to help prove to social workers, who seem bent on taking his boys away from him, that he can provide for them economically. He and Caitlin have to demonstrate that he is a good father to Dylan and his younger son, Luke, or the social worker in charge of his case will recommend that the boys be placed in foster care.

As if this wasn’t enough for Texas Ranger Strong to deal with, she’s also called out to the small town of Albion, where a man is holding hostages inside a convenience store. He’s killed some of the people already, and no one is sure how many are still alive. Caitlin enters the store through the back, and sees the man with a gun held to the head of a young girl. She can’t get a good shot at him without putting the girl’s life in jeopardy, so she talks to the man, who claims that he had to kill the other people in the store – and his own family, earlier – because they had spiders living and breeding inside them, and he had to stop the spiders from spreading and doing the same thing to others. He asks Caitlin if she can see the spiders all over the shop, on the walls, in their webs, dangling from the ceiling. She goes along with him, and humors him, and rescues the girl, but something tells her that this incident is just the tip of the iceberg of the weird accounts of violence that are occurring in the town of eight thousand.

Billionaire Hollis Tyree has been drilling wells on land he owns in Tunga County, and a whole town has sprung up to satisfy the needs of the men working for him, complete with stores, a doctor, a church, and prostitutes, some of them the same women that came from the house with birds painted on it that Maria mentions to Ranger Strong. His own children disappeared two years previously on a trip to Mexico, and despite his willingness to have paid any ransom anyone responsible might have demanded, no one does demand a ransom, and he now thinks his kids have likely been murdered there. He’s not been drilling for oil, but for water, because he realizes that water in Texas, California, and other Western states is becoming more scarce, and he doesn’t want to see the results to America’s prosperity and way of life if water there suddenly ran out. However, there’s something besides water in the wells he’s having dug, something dangerous that’s getting into Albion’s water supply, twenty miles away…..

Strong Justice is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong’s attempts to bring justice to the more than four hundred women raped and murdered along the El Paso/Juarez border is torn from today’s headlines. I’d heard of the Women of Juarez before, and hoped that whomever was responsible for their deaths would some day be caught, and I still hope that one day, that will happen. The story about their plight and the fictional Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong trying to find the man who killed them made for fascinating reading that kept me awake late into the night to read more. It’s a haunting novel, one that combines scenes from the past, 1931, and the events of Caitlin’s grandfather, Texas Ranger Earl Strong’s, fighting to keep Al Capone’s gang out of Sweetwater, Texas, with Caitlin’s struggles to put a stop to a terrible serial killer and terrorists. If you like either Westerns, Thrillers, or both, you owe it to yourselves to pick up a copy of Strong Justice today!

What do drug smuggling across Canada’s border, a sex slavery trade based in Mexico, and a double-amputee Iraqi war veteran have in common? That’s what Caitlin Strong, a modern-day fifth generation Texas Ranger has to figure out in Jon Land’s Strong At the Break, the heart-racing page-turning third novel in his Caitlin Strong series. Though it’s the third in the series, Strong At the Break can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

Texas is not big enough for Ranger Caitlin Strong in Strong At the Break. She is “selected for a joint U.S. and Canadian drug task force” and travels to Canada to be a “part of a six-person squad” investigating a marijuana grow house using Chinese laborers…an operation the Hells Angels seem determined to end, even if it means muder.

Malcolm Arno, the leader of a powerful militia movement known as the Patriot Sun, is following in the footsteps of his father, the late preacher of the gospel Maxwell Arno. Max “and his cultlike group of fanatics known as the Church of the Redeemer” had been stockpiling weapons, getting ready for the day when they would start a second Civil War and take back Washington, D.C., and America and restore rights they felt have been gradually taken away from white American by the government and the courts.

Strong At the Break has flashbacks interspersed throughout, just as the first two books in the series do. The one that begins the books and serves as a prologue depicts Jim Strong’s confrontation and attempted arrest of Max outside of Pearsley’s Tackle and Gun Shop. Caitlin sees that Arno’s son is there with him, with no way to know then that Malcolm will grow up to carry on his father’s legacy. He organizes many of the country’s militant extremist groups together and makes Patriot Sun larger than the Church of the Redeemer ever had been.

Field medic and sergeant Mark Serles is an Iraqi vet who had his legs blown off above the knee by an IED. He believes that the Iraqis didn’t set it off, though, but that someone from our government or military did, to silence him because of information he knew. He is still anxious and worries that his life might be in danger, and doesn’t feel he can trust anyone around him. Caitlin Strong is a bit dubious, but promises to help Mark–a native of San Antonio–any way she can.

Jon Land’s short chapters interweave together and keep the suspense and action going nonstop. Each of the three main plot lines are fascinating, and very believable and well-researched. Homegrown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and his connections with the Michigan Militia are mentioned, and with the huge number of other White Supremist and neo-Nazi groups around the country, the parts of the novel dealing with them and their goals seemed all too real. I’m sad to say that McVeigh also had ties with at least one militant group in Arkansas, where I live, and to the “Elohim City” compound in Muldrow, Oklahoma, so the novel touched me one more than one level as I read about Malcolm Arno and the Patriot Sun organization.

Also, I was very interested in how the Hells Angels have helped participate in making Canada an even bigger source of illegal drugs entering into the United States than Mexico. I knew Canada was a major source of drugs like the BC buds, or marijuana, that Jon Land writes about in the novel, but I did not know to what extent until I read Strong At the Break. And the information I read about the tremendous amount of money, $20 billion, that disappeared in Iraq but had been meant to be used to ensure its infrastructure didn’t fail, was extremely interesting. How it plays into the funding of the Patriot Sun makes the novel seem ripped from today’s headlines, and I just hope that nothing like that scenario ever happens, which might allow militant groups to band together and carry out their plans to overthrow our government, however corrupt it might be.

Strong At the Break by Jon Land is a pulse-pounding book that proves you shouldn’t mess with Texas, and especially not with Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. It’s perhaps the best book yet in an already powerful series, and it successfully blends elements of history, the Texas Rangers, and today’s news into an explosive package you’ll love to read if you’re already a fan of the series or the thriller genre. Remember, you don’t need to have read the first two books to get into and enjoy reading Strong At the Break, so check it out today!

%d bloggers like this: