Rebel Dharma Society

Spiral Void from the Thoughtscape

Thus completes the third installment of Eric Lahti's Henchmen saga (the fourth book is coming). This has been a light read that has blended a range of different mythologies into a tight and complete urban fantasy series. The earthy feel of the narrative continues. If the movie rights were ever sold, Lahti should insist on the soundtrack being provided by Virginia's sons of psychedelic, Freedom Hawk.

Continuing the saga and Steven and Jessica's battle with Nazi buttwipes from the previous book, Transmute also introduces a much transformed Saxton, warranting a whole novel devoted to that character, so mind-blowing is the turn-around [hence an entire bloody book that I am going to have to read now.....thanks, Eric!]. Throughout the Transmute story, Steven also comes to better grips with being the God of Dreams and what he can do with it. Packed with action and soldier super-apes that were once human, Transmute is Lahti in his fill stride. I love this book.

Be warned: this book ends on a cliff-hanger and is only awaiting Lahti's completion of book 4. Yet, Transmute is a complete story in its own right, so the reader will not feel ripped off with the ending.

The editing has much improved as well, which was something that had mildly irked me with the previous books. While there are some typos here, they are far fewer and further between. It is a small thing, but makes a huge difference in the readability of the language.

Transmute continues the saga of Steven, Jessica and company, firmly comfortable for established fans with a novel and new development of the overall plot arch that has threaded its way through the series.

To wrap up, a few thanks are due. First, to the Chinese Communist Party for buggering up their management of the Covid-19 virus and then lying like hell about the real extent of the cluster-f**k that they allowed to be unleashed on the globe. Thanks are due as this prompted a large number of authors to savagely discount their ebooks, Eric Lahti among them. So, an even bigger thanks goes to Eric Lahti for putting his Henchmen books out there for free during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lahti and the CCP – what a team!

Transmute – a solid 4 Mandalas.

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson had me curious from the start, yet it took an age to get around to reading it. As a fan of H.P Lovecraft, this novella had that something extra to drag me in. And glad I am that it did.

Professor Vellit Boe is the protagonist who normally works at the Women's College in Ulthar (famed for all those cats). It is also a society in which women have only been grudgingly given certain rights, and that makes Ulthar a fairly progressive society in the Dreamlands. When a student apparently runs of with a man from the Waking World, the College goes into over-drive in its attempt to deal with the fallout and get the girl back. Vellit Boe gets the job of retrieving the love-crazed youth and it seems her past uniquely qualifies her for the task.

For fans of Lovecraft and the Dream Cycle stories, Vellit Boe's visits to some familiar places make some very endearing connections. Yet, Johnson repeatedly delights the reader with the new and unique wonders of her own imagination. Being a novella, Vellit Boe crams a whole lot of wonderful and spectacular places into an extremely short span with the result of the pace being incredibly quick. In psychedelic contrast, as a reader, you are not left with the hurried feeling that was a real danger. The pace feels right. Unlike Vellit Boe's lack of breath in some situations, I was not fatigued by trying to keep pace.

I confess: I had to use the dictionary in my ereader to check up some words. I could have left it to a guess, but that was not an option with the style and selection of phrases with which Johnson so imaginatively colours the story. It is simple a gorgeous and beautiful read that caresses your mind with velvety massages and vaporous wafts of aromatic scents. The prose is the fine wine of the written word. I loved and hung off every word.

While it is a very short book, coming in at under 120 pages on the Kobo edition, it is a delight in every sense and keeps you swiping until the very end with some delicious and surprising twists along the way. At times, Johnson follows Lovecraft's admonition of not explaining anything. There are some things that I am still wondering about.

The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe is not a horror, but is more seated in the fantasy realm of literature. However, it is firmly rooted and centred at its very core in the Lovecraftian universe. Bearing that in mind, people new to H.P. Lovecraft will find a lot people and places in Vellit Boe to give them a neat starting point in the original corpus that inspired Johnson's novella.

And I loved the cat.

This is a very solid 4 Mandalas.

Get it at Amazon!

#Review #Fantasy #ebook #Lovecraftian

Editors Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass bring together a collection of military-themed stories that blend a thorough-going Lovecraftian milieu with hard-core war. World War Chtulhu brings 22 short stories for your delectation and delight. As a new fan of Lovecraft, this was my own first journey outside those works written by H. P. Lovecraft himself. The shorts range from historical events, such as the battle of Troy, given a Lovecraftian twist to futuristic battles with new Great Old Ones and interdimensional horrors. All of which are saturated with Lovecraftian motifs.

Let me start with the one glaring inconsistency in the entire collection: the apparent demotion of Lieutenant-Colonel Longcroft to Corporal and then repromotion to his original rank in the span of a single conversation with the POW Camp Commander, one Oberstleutnant Waldemar von Edelsheim. A Feast of Death was still an enjoyable read, to be sure, but I did have to check back a couple of times to make sure I had not crossed names in my own head.

A few of the stories, such as *Broadsword”, tied in and used common motifs effectively, such as the oft-used Nazi obsession with the occult. Others went into some really creative uses of narrative, such as The Ithiliad. Such was the confusion it wrought in me (I may have been overly fatigued at the time of reading it), I will have to read that one again.

There is something for fans of every type of military period in this book. The regional variances between British and US characters are developed well and convincing. Where these identities were key, the characters were believable and relatable. There was no real getting burdened with overly done internal narratives, but enough that balanced pace with getting to know who they were as people.

In terms of file size, this is a massive ebook, but that is due to the number of highly detailed illustrations. I read mine on a Kobo. This in no way did the illustrations any justice whatsoever. I would recommend viewing them in something capable of colour, as they are wonderful illustrations and worth the look.

My personal favourite was the last story in the collection, Wunderwaffe by Jeffery Thomas. Set in a radically different future in a place called Punktown (my first foray into that city), it was notable for the creative way Thomas envisioned the use of Lovecraftian magic by inter-dimensional beings who are also opposed to the Old Gods and other malevolent beings. I really enjoyed this one. I will never look at tattoos in quite the same way again.

This is a solid collection from Dark Regions Press, and a nice introduction to modern Lovecraftian writing.

Three mandalas

#Ebook #Review #Lovecraftian #IndiePublishing

Arise, by Eric Lahti, continues the saga from the first book Henchmen, carrying on mere weeks after the events in Book 1. The content and the style are the same as the previous installment, so enjoyment of Henchmen would indicate the same with the current stage of the story.

Having released Dreamer, it seems our gang of heroes (loosely applying that label) has upset some very powerful beings who have decided to take out a contract on the main culprits. Whatever they are paying, it is enough to get Eve onto the job and consider doing in Steven herself. Arise is a solid lesson in being careful what you wish for. Dreamer has fulfilled every expectation and then some as he decides that he enjoys some measure of power. Wilford Saxton even becomes a tense ally of the group as he searches for his own answers. Churches, new villains and government-sanctioned conspiracies to create the ubermensch up against a group of gun-happy rebels with a bad attitude, and you have some serious action going on.

There are more significant errors in the typing of the book with some words clearly missing on some pages. However, you need to get further into the book before you start encountering them. They were a little more annoying, but they did not greatly diminish the enjoyment of the action and the characters therein.

Like the first volume, Arise is fast paced and light reading. It is not going to tax the mind, but it will solidly entertain the reader. Again, there is enough left open that it will draw you in and on through the story and beyond.

The new characters also add to the allure with a deep sense of mystery about either themselves as “people” or their motives in the grander arch of the plot. They remain unique and likeable characters. Even Saxton seems less of a prick as he develops in this tale.

It is with thanks that I was able to read a highly enjoyable book. Rooted firmly again the in urban fantasy tradition, fans of that genre will feel right at home with Steven and his friends. I was kept page-turning (metaphorically, of course) right to the end. This book was a worthy addition to the Henchmen trilogy that lost none of the momentum that it gathered in Henchmen.

#Review #UrbanFantasy #eBook #IndieAuthor

I was lucky enough to receive this ebook for free from the author, Dean Tongue, and experience something a little different from my usual fare of reading. I have been a long-standing fan of spoken-word poetry from people like Levi MacAllister and Clint Smith III, but written poetry is a rare thing for this old salt.

Skeleton with Skull Arch

Much of the book is driven by Dean Tongue's experiences in life and especially those supported and wrought by the people in his life. Most importantly, the effect of his girlfriend and partner on his situation is the most prominent feature of a lot of the book. Some of the poems struck as something written by a love-struck teen such as a large number of poems I wrote myself and now cringe at. However, these same poems have a rawness about them and I have the feeling that Dean Tongue did not polish them up all that much (if at all) before publication. The first few poems left me with that “teenage poem book that usually gets hidden at the back of the underwear drawer” feel.

It was after a few poems that Tongue's creativity and skill emerge and begin to really come into their own. The book is arranged in such a way, that the author seems to really hit his stride after a few “warm ups”. “Tomorrow's Rainbow” is a case in point where Tongue cleverly arranges not only the content of the poem but the structure of it. I have to admit to being too slow to pick up what he was doing until the end. There are a number of poems that genuinely surprise and delight with the structural and language play they contain.

A large number of the poems also explicitly express another major driving force behind Tongue's creative output in poetry: helping other people who are going through dark times such as he himself has experienced. Tongue is not simply writing poetry for himself and his own healing process, but is also reaching out to others who may need someone to come alongside them. This motivation makes the book a beautiful thing indeed that goes beyond the artform and attempts to make a difference. A lot of the poems end with some form of life advice for the reader, a kind of guide to getting on with life and getting through some of the crap that the world throws at you.

As made explicit in the book, Dean Tongue is writing for an audience of one (I would say an audience of two, though). He is writing what he wants and he has the courage to put it out there and let people into what is going on. A Farewell to Demons, the follow-up to Agressive Depressive, is a book of raw edginess that is honest and gritty. This is a guy who has clearly come through some pretty dark valleys and come through with a lot wisdom and guts.

Three mandalas
Postscript I also wanted to express my gratitude to Dean Tongue for his generosity in providing A Farewell to Demons for free. If you want to find out more about a prolific author with a really positive outlook on life, you can find Dean Tongue at these places.

Dean on Amazon Dean on Twitter

#Review #Poetry #Ebook #Book

Author Eric Lahti had been offloading copies of his ebook Henchmen Series over at Smashwords for free during the corona virus crisis. Finally, China did something that had a positive result! (Too soon?) I picked up this series and have to admit that, while it risked being quite derivative, it has a lot of surprises packed into its relatively short length.

Steven, whose viewpoint the first person novella is written from, has fallen in with seven-foot tall woman, an “motorcycle club” member, an expert in being in places that he is not supposed to go and a hacker minus the Guy Fawkes mask. They pick up an ex-sushi plate (nude woman) at a restaurant after some nasty types try to have some “fun” with her. This leads to the group heading to New Mexico to encounter a government plot entwined with some very Lovecraftian style aliens (I think it was an alien) and someone of more divine status with some sophisticated taste in fashion. The self-stylised villains turn out to be the good guys against even bigger villains. Even among villains, you get the nice ones and the definitely more douchebag-types.

Henchman Cover

Henchmen is not a heavy read and seems to draw a lot inspiration from the likes of Richard Kadrey and other urban fantasy writers. Lahti's style is fast paced, packed with comments and even some references that I could understand (Asia CD's). Lahti certainly knows his way about a fight from a Kenpo viewpoint and has certainly done his homework on firearms. What comes out is a smooth narrative with very few stops that leads to a good, light read with some quite funny parts in it.

The characters are immediately likeable people, especially Steven, who is not shy about sharing snippets of life wisdom, such as his recommendation to try sushi and BDSM in the same meal. The characters are well developed in their individual personalities, though there were some moments where they seemed to be out-workings of Lahti's personality which obscured the distinctive qualities a little. This was a minor point and something that did not detract from the overall arch of each character.

The book itself has a few typing mistakes early on, but definitely not enough to cause on-going frustration. The quality of writing is excellent and there is enough left in the mystery of the people and events that keeps the reader coming back for more. Lahti really does play his cards close to his chest when it comes to details about who people are and what they are doing.

Henchmen is a short novel that could have easily been revised into something much longer, but given that brevity, the story is fast-paced and a lot of fun. It is a novel take on the urban fantasy genre and the tropes that are often present within it. I had a lot of fun reading this one.

Four Mandalas

#Review #UrbanFantasy #Ebook #IndieAuthor

Being offered up for free on Smashwords, Backworlds was a no brainer and was the book that triggered my fandom of author M. Pax in general and her Backworlds Series more specifically.

Craze has had a rough life with a family who would make Judas Iscariot look like a Saint among the Heavenly Host. This launches craze on a journey through the stars into the company of some unscrupulously avaricious people who just suit Craze's temperament right to the ground. That is, if he find any on which to land on his feet.

The Backworlds universe sees a humanity spread far and wide among numerous outer planets, massively and genetically modified to cope with a whole range of environments. Into this mix, the very earthy and real Craze gets thrust with all of his attitude and beef with his family.

Book 1 Cover

While the ebook is not hugely long, it reads fast and has enough mystery to it that it gets the reader invested and hooked into the universe and the people themselves. While Craze may be a bit of a scoundrel at times, he is also a complex character with enough to surprise the reader, even though one sees it coming. There was enough in the story to keep this reviewer hooked for the next 5 installments in Craze's story.

Getting a free ebook is always a bonus, but that is even sweeter when the writing and concept is as good and original as Backworlds. This has been one of my best finds of the last few years and, even after years, remains at the top of my favourite science fiction reads.

#MPax #Ebook #ScienceFiction #Review