June 24, 2013

Review: Royal Flush - Scott Bartlett

Hello there!

Royal Flush is about The King. That's his name (kind of like "The Doctor" you know?). He is the King at The Kingdom and rules there, of course. Not that he does much, he hangs people every now and then or throws them into dungeons, but mostly, he embarrasses himself and shows up on the local tabloid in shameful stories that aren't always true, but sometimes, sadly, they are.

The King is a loner, but his advisor keeps telling him he must marry - a King must have a Queen and heirs, of course. But The King never wanted to marry. He did want to be King, of course, that's basically why he IS King. I mean, no one else wanted to.

So there is the King and hisAdvisor. And suddenly the King falls in love with someone at a bar, while drunk. And decides to marry her. But she doesn't want to - he's not really that much fun. And from then on, well, the story gets a bit... Weird.

You see, this is a complicated yet simple book. The plot isn't confusing, one thing happen after the other and you understand it perfectly. But, on the other hand, things become quite extraordinaire, the characters are JUST as obvious as they seem, which is a new one for me, usually authors try to make their characters deep, confusing, complete as human beings. Here we see people who are, really, just people in the end. You can always relate them to that cousin you know isn't very deep or that co-worker who seems to survive on instinct. But that's exactly where it gets complicated. It's hard to talk about it without spoiling the whole story - no plot twists, you see. Well, several plot twists, but not on the way we usually see them on the "I bet you didn't see that coming, right, so now I changed everything so you'd be surprised" kind of way. More on the "hum let's do something different with the characters now!"

Our King isn't the brightest or the fittest, or even the most charming. He isn't any of those things at all, bright, fit or charming. He's just plain and boring. And yet, you keep on reading and turning pages because, well, you just have to find out why on Earth he keeps on living and how on hell the author will find yet another way to torture him.

He almost loses his kingdom, but doesn't, then he really does, then he roams the land, finds another kingdom, goes back, travels, regains his kingdom, loses the kingdom and so on. It's complicated, of course. Always with a "companion", the Fiddler. The Fiddler has a name, but I didn't bother to look it up. The fiddler also has a lady-friend, a girlfriend if you like, who, of course, the King falls in love with. That's a very interesting part of the book, that and The Wisest Man Alive.

When I write it down, it seems like a stupid book. And in a way, it is. But it is so clearly intentionally stupid that you just have to keep on reading. It's a quick read, a fast paced book that can keep you busy during your boring idle hours, like Lunch Hour!

Book Summary: 
The Kingdom is careening toward catastrophe. Meanwhile, the King is cruising seedy taverns looking for likely maidens.
Maybe it's his incompetence and his weakness for beautiful women dragging him deeper and deeper into trouble. Or maybe it's that he has no other name than "the King".
Either way, he is portrayed as a cross dresser by the Kingdom Crier (the Kingdom’s most popular tabloid). Shortly after, he must defend his castle against a siege, with only his royal fiddler—while attempting to steal his royal fiddler’s girlfriend.
Winner of the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize, Royal Flush seeks to answer that timeless question: can a man who throws his dates in a dungeon find a girlfriend?

You can buy Royal Flush at Amazon.

June 12, 2013

Guest Post: Gorillas and Such by Lance Manion

Gorillas and Such

Like most people I daydream about having a lot of money. Not the kind of money where you win a lottery and the state takes half of it and unscrupulous relatives take the rest and leave you alone and bitter and addicted to pain medication in some seedy split-level in Alabama. I mean big money.

"This is where 'the help' (said with practiced disdain) sleeps" kind of money.

The kind of money that people like myself never actually acquire because they spend all day trying to figure out which state they should deposit the unfortunate lottery winner in and if they should Google a specific pain medication instead of just saying they were addicted to "pain medication."

But if I did have that kind of bread I think I would open a store in the mall that exclusively sold apes and monkeys. A big place. Not the usual pet store-sized spot sandwiched between the bargain footwear outlet and the old record place that now just sells bad jewelry and ear piercing services but where the Sears would usually go. A couple floors of primates. Every conceivable monkey and ape you've ever thought of.

I'd call it Gorillas And Such.

And before you ask, we would absolutely have a strict policy against selling prosimians. Why you would even suggest that I have no idea. Use your head before interrupting me next time ok?

(Prosimians ... really?)

Obviously it would be expensive to maintain such a place of business but why would I need the "big" money you ask? (finally an intelligent question) Because what fun would it be to own a giant store that sells every species of monkey and ape if you couldn't 'accidently' let one out every now and again.

The lawsuits would no doubt start to pile up but I can't think of a better way to use my money. The idea of an enormous gibbon running wild through the food court and savaging the surly teenager who works behind the Jamba Juice counter gets my toes to tapping.

That's to say nothing of the silverback we 'accidently' let loose in the parking lot during the July 4th fireworks spectacular.

Another selling point, although completely unnecessary ... you had me at gorilla, would be that after only a few weeks in business the stench of the place would be overpowering. I think even Yankee Candle would fly the white linen-smelling flag. And the noise complaints ... just thinking about them is intoxicating.

Perhaps the best part is that even in the best of economies primates are expensive, let alone now after the effects of the current government policies have really taken hold. There would be weeks where we didn't sell a single baboon, mandrill or orangutan. I bet the bank holding our loans would love that. Trying to keep a straight face while sitting across from a dour-faced bank officer and pitching my idea of having a real gorilla hand out flyers in the mall to improve traffic would be awesome.

And finally, what Xmas season would be complete without the traditional group of chimps (decked out in full Santa gear) chasing a colubus monkey (sporting elven garb complete with jinglebells on his attractive-yet-slippery boots) up the tree, cornering it, tearing it apart amidst an ear-piercing cacophony of agonized screams and guttural roars, and then eating the unfortunate elf in full view of hundreds of formerly-festive children? I can think of no better way to express the true spirit of the season and reinforce to the traumatized kids how thankful they should be for the thin line that exists between their cushy lives and the violence and cruelty that awaits them in the forest than the dripping red of the Santa's beards.

A very thin line indeed.

All brought to you by Gorillas And Such.

Lance Manion is the author of four short story collection; Merciful Flush, Results May Vary, The Ball Washer his latest one Homo sayswhaticus.
He contributes to many online flash fiction sites and blogs daily on his website www.lancemanion.com.
He was born to neither run nor be wild and finds the na at the end of banana as annoying as you would if it were bananana.

June 05, 2013

Review: Drayling - Terry J. Newman

Hello there!
Drayling is a dystopia. And everyone knows that I love my dystopias, right?

Here we meet 25th Century England (and I also love England), the county/area/city of Drayling and its inhabitants. We follow the Graves family, with its members Uri Graves, the father and Local Historian, Marius Graves, the son, who's also very interested in History (like myself) and has a very questioning mind, which his father appreciates. Della, the mother and Urania, the younger daughter are secondary to the story but also bring important questions, specially concerning women's rights on this future.

The BFF, or British Friendly Federation, has been peaceful for many many years - several generations, actually - ever since Dunstan Heathfield's  Revolution. It's the work of this wonderful man, Dunstan Heathfiel, who in his time, went around the world and convinced people of the way to live. Mostly, travelling was forbidden, first between countries and then, between counties/cities. Also, soon, trading between districts was also forbidden and all non-oficial communications. This was essential to the Revolution and the new Way of Life they were building. So, cities were to be self-suficient, as they are not allowed to trade around, which is the largest difference between them and now - no communicating, no traveling and no trading.

I'm sorry, but that's already raised me with a few red, purple and orange flags. Excuse ME? So I'm now supposed to just trust whoever is in charge that the whole world has simply agreed to stop fighting, end all religion and just... Sit by a camp fire and sing Kumbayah? Here, in real life, whenever someone stops another person from communicating or even leaving the house, we call it a crime, they are isolating the person, most likely abusing them, and trying to break their spirits... So that can't be a good thing to do to a country, let alone the world!

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's go back to the Graves. They are a normal family, a decently important one in the community, since Uri is the Local Historian, one of the Worthies, a kind of Town Council that rules the city. The Historian duties are, mostly, to spread the word about the Revolution, to teach it at the Learning Facility, to make sure all the right days are honoured and to keep record of things that happen. The same structure rules larger areas, the country and supposedly the world.

Marius gets permission to make an excavation where the new Worthy Hall is going to be built, since it seems like historical grounds and this may be the last chance to do so. They find a Cricket Field and then they decide to play a cricket match, just to see how it was, since all sports have been banned with the Revolution, since they lead to competition. For the excavation and for the cricket match organization, they make Marius a Thinker (Th.) and give him custody of a historical device, since people can't travel to see museums, historical devices travel from district to district, always staying with one guardian until their death, when they pass to the next district/city.

Almost at the same time, strange things begin to happen, the Regional Administration and the Archwitan (higher forms of government) start sending out strange, very strange, new orders, changing the way they were ruling so far. Not only that, but they mandate that a new male be introduced to each area - the first new person to be seen there (not born and raised there) in centuries! Stin is that person, a bright young man who soon becomes friends with Marius.

Things are changing, for better or for worse, and their way of life is starting to fall apart. They have to take action - are they the right kind of people? What will they find, when they start looking? What's going on?

Drayling starts out a bit slow, because of the world setting, but, to me, it's perfect, because it's shown pretty much all that I didn't like about the Matched Trilogy - world setting, history. How did they get there, why did they get there, what happened to the world. I LOVE that. And after it's been all set and done, the author took great care to explain what the characters were doing, how they were feeling, what they were thinking, making you understand and even agree with them that they were doing the best choice there was (no "what are you doing! don't do that" moments). And yet, I didn't feel very deeply connected to the characters, emotionally. I felt like the book was a great first one, was a great setup, but it could use another one or two, to make us see more of the world, but mostly, of the characters. We spend so long learning and getting used to the scenario that we don't get too deep into the people and that's something I would like to see in the future.

I recommend  Drayling to everyone that loves Dystopias, sci fi, political drama-ish. You can buy Drayling at Amazon