Book Review : Apocalypse Weird: Phoenix Lights by Eric Tozzi

phoenixThe world of Apocalypse Weird takes yet another twist this time Aliens want in on the apocalyptic action and no better author than Eric Tozzi to introduce them. Set in Phoenix, Arizona this latest addition to the Apocalypse Weird series cranks up the tension from “Edge Of Your Seat” to “You Have No Nails Left” with an alien invasion disaster extravaganza on an epic scale that once again pushes the boundaries of the series. Tozzi’s vivid imagery lends an almost movie-like feel to proceedings while the characters are well-presented and the dialogue is snappy and to the point. The pace is brisk and gives the reader little time to pause for thought, quickly jumping to the next set piece with the odd detour on the way and plenty of surprises in store. Another highly entertaining addition to the world of Apocalypse Weird that makes it’s own mark while still keeping the tone of the series so far.

Once again, production values are top notch on this release with a fantastic cover from M.S. Corley. On promotion all this week at the bargain price of $0.99c /£0.99p

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My Top 10 Scifi / Horror Books For 2014


It’s been a busy year! I reckon I’ve gotten through around 35 books this year so it’ll be hard to whittle it down to a top 10. I’ve noticed a lot of the lists about this year are very safe and samey so I’m shaking it up a bit. Also unlike most of the other lists around I’m including self-published titles, of which there have been some outstanding examples this year. Sincere thanks to all the authors and publishers who have supported me this year!

1. Eleanor by Jason Gurley


I absolutely loved this one. Highly original and thought-provoking. Jason has since bagged a publishing deal with Crown so expect this book to be everywhere next year, albeit in a revised edition.










2. Sand by Hugh Howey


Hugh pulled out all the stops with this tense post-apocalyptic actioner. It’s a riveting read from start to finish.












3. World Of Trouble by Ben H. Winters


Ben’s iconic detective Henry Palace unravels the final pieces of the puzzle as asteroid Maia hurtles ever closer to earth. He really couldn’t have finished this trilogy any better.











4. The Martian by Andy Weir


A huge success this year, this originally self-published scifi thriller features a quick-thinking wisecracking astronaut stranded on Mars. You will never clench your buttocks more. Think of it as Gravity with a little Ferris Bueller thrown in.









5. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix


This beautifully designed and innovative take on the haunted house theme transferred to retail was a blast. Think House On Haunted Hill-meets-Ikea.










6. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

broken monsters

This supernatural crime thriller was a gem strengthened by Beukes unique style and unflinching attitude.











7. The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz


My YA pick for this year, this is a no-nonsense dystopian epic which should definitely NOT be split into two movies to bore the pants off the general public.











8. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs


A thoroughly enjoyable sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, expect to see a lot of this series next year as the Tim Burton movie is released (hopefully not starring Johnny Depp as Miss Peregrine)











9. Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells


A huge hit on Amazon this year, Fluency is a brilliant fusion of classic and modern scifi and paves the way for what should be a very entertaining series.










10. The Other Of One  (Book One) by Brian G. Burke


My middle-grade/early teen pick for this year. I’ve been raving about this one for a while but it deserves a shot. An epic fantasy tale with an Irish twist to rival anything else that’s been released in this genre this year with a lot of heart, plenty of action, humour and scares to keep 11-15 year-olds (and many adults!) interested. Looking forward to book two next year.




























Book Review: Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

fluencyOne of the runaway sci-fi hits on Amazon this year has been Jennifer Foehner Wells’ space thriller Fluency and quite frankly it’s a welcome addition to the genre. Borrowing from many classic sci-fi themes, Fluency centres around the discovery of an alien spaceship seemingly marooned in  a nearby asteroid belt. Linguist Dr. Jane Holloway is recruited reluctantly to join an exploration to discover the secrets of the ship, known to NASA since the 60’s as “The Target”.

Once they arrive however Holloway discovers that the ship is not entirely abandoned and the ship’s alien navigator quickly contacts her telepathically and starts to reveal the secrets of the ship and its past to her, preparing her for an experience she could never have expected.

Fluency moves at a breakneck pace in a very cinematic fashion,  the narrative mostly linear with some minor flashbacks to fill in gaps in the back story. Wells does a fine job of dealing with the technical side of proceedings without resorting to complicated jargon (I know I know, some geeks love the jargon but not this one!) The human technology is believable and the alien technology while advanced, is also impressively practical.

While much of the story concerns Holloway as the protagonist, her relationship with the rest of her crew is a difficult one, with some of the crew believing she is being manipulated by the alien Ei’Brai and particularly Walsh, her commander distrusting them both. As events unfold it becomes clear that there is great danger on board and relationships become strained as the crew fight both for survival and command. As the story progresses, Holloway develops a painfully slow relationship with fellow crew member Alan Bergen who’s sometimes schoolboyish behaviour towards her provides plenty of sexual tension and his frustration towards Holloway and Ei’Brai’s developing connection also provides a few laughs at times as it seems he just can’t catch a break. Some of the other crew members tend to get lost in the narrative at times, with the pace allowing little development to their characters but where some might see this as a flaw in the writing, others may see it as a tribute to Star Trek’s classic dispensable Redshirts, allowing the main players to confidently take centre stage.

While the strong female character has become a bit of a cliché in sci-fi over the past few years, it’s worth noting that many of these female characters have been written by men. What makes Fluency so refreshing is that Holloway’s character develops in a much more believable fashion given her circumstances. Sure she has to eventually toughen up and fight, but she’s much more than that. She’s a brilliant mind faced with a life-changing event and not just her life but the entire planet’s and her decisions will have monumental consequences. Her ability to focus is paramount and though it may seem she is being manipulated at times, she quickly takes control of her relationship with Ei’Brai. As the story reaches its gripping conclusion it also lays the groundwork for an exciting continuation of this rapidly unfolding saga.

Littered with plenty of nods and winks to classic sci-fi and some clever pop culture references, Fluency is a thrilling, bumpy ride that rarely falters and firmly cements Jennifer Foehner Wells’ standing in the indie scene as an innovative and refreshing new voice in modern sci-fi.


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Review: Shadows Burned In By Chris Pourteau

sbiShadows Burned In is a fresh take on the old haunted house story we all know and run away screaming from in terror from, which has other agendas. In fact on closer inspection it really isn’t a ghost story at all. Sure there’s a creepy house with a creepy back story and other supernatural moments but this is something much more ambitious.

Set in the near future, where schools are now mostly closed and children learn from home in virtual classrooms and spent most of their spare time playing online immersive games, Elizabeth, a young girl relocated to her father’s home town becomes fascinated with a derelict house with a shady past. Her father David too has a connection to the house as we see from flashbacks to his youth, but is battling the demons of his own childhood while trying to come to terms with the slow disintegration of his relationship with his wife and daughter.

We also see a glimpse of prison life as an ageing prisoner Wayne Alan Kitts attempts to make a brutal and daring escape at any cost, with horrifying repercussions. The author makes no attempt to sugar coat this character or his experiences at the hands of both prisoners and guards. He is a violent machine bred by violence who has passed the point of no return and aims to use his escape to commit even more vile acts. There’s no redemption, Shawshank or otherwise to be had here, which makes him more frightening than any supernatural entity.

It’s a story of contrasts, of conflict, of opposites. It’s a serious study of the cycles and effects of abuse on different generations. Part speculative fiction, part coming-of-age drama that also looks at the brutality and inhumanity of prison life, all overshadowed by a looming structure that serves to embellish the story rather than dominate it, Shadows Burned In is a tense, absorbing debut with an important message for the modern reader.

Eamon Ambrose




Book Review: Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Gurley_EleanorTragedy has a profound effect on any family. A decision made by a family member in the past reverberates throughout time, reshaping possibilities, closing doors that should have been left open and opening ones that should have never even existed. A young girl, struggling with these consequences, finds herself torn from reality by strange forces that will affect her life forever.

A mesmerising mix of surreal fantasy, science fiction and beautifully written drama, Eleanor is one of those rare moments in a reader’s lifetime when they start to remember why they love reading so much. A story that grips from the first chapter and never lets go. Exquisitely-crafted characters and breathtaking imagery fuse effortlessly with an ambitious and original plot, bringing to life a story so captivating it refuses to be put down.

While dealing with darker themes such as suicide and addiction, Gurley displays an empathy with his characters I’ve rarely seen, neither glamourising their decisions or preaching against them but allowing the characters and their actions to speak for themselves. Conventions of genre are refreshingly swept aside. Many will try to tie it down, to quantify it, to classify it, but this book defiantly refuses to be pigeonholed into some obscure sub-genre.

Fans of Jason Gurley’s other work will be pleasantly surprised. This is Jason as you’ve never seen him before. As brilliant as his other work is, this is his most confident and accomplished book yet, and being the culmination of almost 13 years work it rightfully demands and deserves an audience. Easily one of the best novels you’ll read this year.

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Deep Breath, Hold Tight: Stories About The End Of Everything by Jason Gurley

Gurley_Eleanor.pngJason Gurley has created an outstanding collection here, each as diverse as it is enthralling, establishing himself as a masterful short story writer. From the bleak post-apocalyptic opener Wolf Skin to the heart-wrenching finale The Dark Age, each story and character is intricately crafted and despite the dark subject matter, each story has an underlying theme of hope even in the most hopeless of circumstances. I’ve been sent several anthologies of a similar nature recently and this is by far one of the best I’ve come across.
Gurley effortlessly embellishes each paragraph with so much emotion you cannot but be affected by the subtle prose and a heartfelt empathy for his characters rarely displayed by authors these days. An engrossing, often surreal trip to the End Of The World, beautifully descriptive and consistently thought-provoking. A refreshing break from the sci-fi norm.

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Book Review: From The Indie Side – Sci-Fi Anthology


Cover Art by Jason Gurley

There was a time when short stories had a lot of credibility in sci-fi. Arguably some of the greatest work from classic sci-fi, fantasy and horror authors are short stories and there was a time when anthologies were plentiful. Some of my fondest reading memories as a kid are of reading the Harlan Ellison-edited Dangerous Visions, Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood or Stephen King’s Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight.

The good news is, short stories are making a comeback, fuelled largely by ebooks and self-publishing. A short story anthology is ideal for readers who adore the convenience. It’s something you can dip into occasionally and come back to anytime. Read, re-read, skip forward, skip back. Don’t like a story? That’s fine. Don’t like an author? That’s fine too – next! Sometimes it’s a great palate cleanser in between novels, especially for reviewers such as myself. They are however starting to take on a life of their own, with many authors expanding their original short story into successful novels, Hugh Howey’s Wool and Michael Bunker’s Wick both being prime examples.

For authors there are no restrictions. Write your story, publish it yourself and see what happens. Readers may like it, they may not, people may buy it, they may not. What is evident from what I’ve seen in the world of self-publishing so far is that the cream tends to rise to the top. It may take a while, but if you’re an indie author with talent the only limit to your success is yourself.

From The Indie Side is the culmination of a lot of these success stories, some now well-established, others rising stars on the indie scene, but all extremely talented and deserving of their place on this book.

The sign of a good anthology is when you’ve finished one story and feel compelled to move straight on to the next. From The Indie Side is one of those.  There are twelve stories featured, from Jason Gurley’s beautiful opening story The Winter Lands to (my personal favourite) Peter Cawdron’s thrilling finale The Man Who Remembered Today, spanning an excellent range of sub-genres. While you may be familiar with some of the more popular authors featured, what impressed me most were the writers I hadn’t yet read. There are some genuine gems in there, most notably from Brian Spangler, Sarah Foster and Susan May. I have to admit, some of the more fantasy-based stories weren’t for me, but that’s purely a matter of personal taste on my part, I can’t fault the writing.

From The Indie Side is a fitting snapshot of both the health and wealth of independent science fiction right now and whether you’re a hardened fan or about to dip a toe in the indie fiction pool, there is no better place to begin than here.

Eamon Ambrose

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