Cover of Dead Inside by Barry J Hutchison

In Dead Inside, deceased detective Dan Deadman’s life takes a darker turn. And that’s saying a lot for a series that started out with Dan hunting a child-snatching serial killer.

The action opens with a car chase and doesn’t slow down much thereafter as Dan, Olly, and Artur investigate stolen children, straying spouses, a series of grizzly ritual murders, and a visitor from the Malwhere more nightmarishly powerful than any they’ve faced before.

It’s also dark– very dark. Although it’s hard to name a favorite chapter of a book this good, mine would probably be when Dan and Ollie find themselves in the Malwhere. Ollie runs into her ‘father,’ the hideously evil entity that kidnapped her as a small child. And Dan… Dan relives his own death.

Continue reading “Review: Dead Inside”

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Congratulations! You survived another week.

Your joy at finally reaching the point where you can get a full night’s sleep is tempered by the realization that the weeks are going by faster and faster, and you’re not getting anywhere. You’re just getting a little more tired and a little farther behind each time. It’s like Tetris: your reward for completing each level is to do it over, but faster and more challenging.

You succeeded at becoming your department’s auditor! How would you like to also teach company-wide classes on a subject of great legal importance to the company’s continued operation? You’ll need to jump from thinking like an auditor to thinking like an instructor. You’re also going to need to write your own curriculum, because it turns out that we don’t really have one. And yes, we expect you to accomplish all that while continuing to perform your current duties.

Wow, you did a really good job on those classes! The training department is highly impressed. How’d you like to do all of the above while training a revolving group of new hires?

Continue reading “Don’t Blink: A Flash Fiction”

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Dredd 2012 - Judgement is Coming

For the purpose of disambiguation, this review is of Dredd (2012), starring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirlby as trainee Judge Anderson.

When Dredd and Anderson respond to a grisly triple homicide in the high rise mega slum of Peach Trees, they have no idea that they’re walking into the heart of a ruthless criminal’s base of operations. Ex-prostitute Ma-Ma (played excellently by Lena Headey) is the kingpin of a cartel that has risen to supremacy through a brutal combination of extreme violence and drug trafficking. The drug in question is Slo-Mo, a substance which slows the user’s perception of reality to 1% normal speed.

I’ll admit I didn’t have high expectations for this film. I’m not a huge fan of Karl Urban, and I had suspicions that Judge Anderson would be, as happens all too often to female action leads, little more than eye candy. The prominent place of Slo-Mo in the trailers gave me flashbacks to the heavy-handed drug propaganda of the 80s and 90s.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Dredd surprised the hell out of me. It was really good.

Continue reading “Review: Dredd”

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Cover of Soul Jacker by Michael John Grist

Michael John Grist’s Soul Jacker is easily one of the most unusual and thought-provoking cyberpunk novels out there. This book is up there with the classics of the genre in terms of style, narrative voice, and introduction of new concepts.

Grist has built a world that is strange and fascinating both inside and out: memories are injectable, mind bombs can disrupt and destroy thousands of minds without leaving a physical trace, and we’ve honed hacking the human mind down to a fine (if dangerous) art.

Ritry Goligh is one such hacker, or Soul Jacker, a former marine left adrift by the end of the war he was created for. He’s a hard individual who’s made a lot of sacrifices in order to survive, but he isn’t a bad guy. Despite picking up the pieces of a psyche shattered by trauma multiple times throughout his life, he never quite succumbs to the darkness. I found myself really liking that about him. He’s a hero, if nothing else than because he refused to become a monster like those that surrounded him. In an ugly world, refusing to give in to cruelty is an act of rebellion.

Grist gives the reader plenty of demons to hate, though, (or cheer for, if that’s your thing.) This is a narrative that pulls no punches, and gory is an understatement for much of the action. We plumb the depths of a world ravaged by fuel wars and rising sea levels, as well as the depths of Ritry’s oft-broken-and-rehealed mind– a labyrinthine maze of hidden memories and missing pieces, hidden behind steel walls of protective scar tissue and stalked by monsters. And then of course there are the traps laid by the enigmatic character known as Mr. Ruin.

Soul Jacker is a wilder ride than I ever expected when I picked it up, full of dizzying highs and sickening lows that I found oddly satisfying. This is a novel that will thrill you, horrify you, and make you think about where we’re going. I loved it, and I think you will too.

Sound interesting? Soul Jacker is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. I highly recommend it!

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Over the last week I’ve been fleshing out some new ideas for the sequel to Necrotic City. Some have asked “But what happens to the city?” and this is for them. It’s also for all the people Adrian left behind. I’m really excited about this project and I hope you will be too!

Continue reading “Necrotic City: The Sequel”

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Johnny always was an odd kid.

He got beaten at school almost as much as he did at home– and that was saying something, since he rarely left home without fresh bruises. The beatings gave him a fatalistic streak, but they never seemed to break his spirit. Even when he was spitting out teeth, he always had a middle finger up and a defiant “Fuck you!” on his lips.

We lost touch after high school. I went into the trades, and Johnny went wherever kids raised by violent single dads go. I heard he got busted for something stupid and did a stretch in Arizona. I heard he found true love, got a minimum wage job and tried to go straight. Found out he had cancer. Lost his girlfriend after he tried to kill himself. After that, I didn’t hear about Johnny anymore.

When an angular shadow shambled out of a dark alley, staggered into me, and darted away crowing with glee and waving my wallet, I hadn’t thought of Johnny in years.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Middle Finger to the World”

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Go be poor somewhere else

Yesterday evening I went out to get a few things done, and it was… interesting. I’m not a people person. Thus I do as much of my errand-running as I can either very late or very early, in order to avoid the worst of the crowds.

My avoidance of peak traffic times has become more difficult in the last few years due to a disquieting trend. It has to do with the lengths to which a certain segment of the population will go–and the number of people they’re comfortable inconveniencing in the process–to make life even harder for the poor.

Continue reading “A Sign of Our Times”

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Birth of the Eye by Justinas Vitkus

The flash fiction that follows was inspired by the artwork “Birth of the Eye,” by Justinas Vitkus. If you’d like to see more, check out his profile on DeviantArt.

The Stolen Moon

When the largest of the planet’s three moons finally slid free of the horizon, everyone on the research team looked up in awe.

“I don’t think that moon always belonged to this planet,” Senior Geologist Shayna Darris said.

“The hell are you mumbling about?” Mission Commander Jason Haze snapped, barely glancing up from putting together a portable security turret. “Get back to work, all of you. It’s going to be dark soon.”

“Take a chill pill, Commander,” one of the mechanics shot back. “There’s nothing hiding in the dark. Sit back and enjoy the moonrise.”

“Surely you see it too,” Darris said, nodding toward the massive red moon, its face dominated by a circular impact crater.

“See what? It’s a moon, for Star Mother’s sakes! The system surveys say it’s always been there.”

“2B6V is tidally locked. If it’s always been there, how did it get that impact crater?”

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: The Stolen Moon”

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You should be writing. No. Seriously.

I see a lot of motivational posters aimed at authors. You know the ones: a movie character pointing out that you should be writing. Or maybe it’s a pop culture icon. Or maybe the message is framed as a comic strip. Or maybe it’s just a blank page with the words “You should be writing!” emblazoned across it.

And while some are fairly benign, many seem designed to guilt the viewer. I don’t know about you, but I write to feel free of my daily obligations. Writing is my own world, a world free of deadlines and restrictions. The concept of feeling guilty because I haven’t put enough words on paper lately is anathema to the whole reason I write.

Why is it that we, as authors and as a society, conflate guilt with motivation?

Continue reading “Motivation vs Guilt”

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I’ve heard a lot of talk about how cyberpunk is over. Its predictions of brain jacks and virtual reality never came true. It hasn’t aged well.

In some ways, that’s is true. The classic, 80s-inspired neon dystopia looks pretty dated. Fashion and architecture have moved on. Culture and social standards have evolved.

But cyberpunk is still relevant. In fact, you could say it’s more relevant than ever. Here’s why.

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