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Visit escapepod.org for a review of “Affliciton” Laurell K. Hamilton’s 22nd novel in the Anita Blake series.

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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in Book Reviews, Quotes

 

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Dystopian Book Reviews – Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem reboots abound. Available to read for FREE online at pagebypagebook.com. Click photo.

Anthem reboots abound. Available to read for FREE online at pagebypagebook.com. Click photo.

 

 

 

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Ayn Rand is most famously known for her monumental works Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Before she wrote either of these works, she crafted a future dystopian short novel in 1937 called Anthem. Surprisingly, Rand had difficulty getting the work published and Macmillan Publishers rejected the work saying that Rand, who grew up in the Soviet Union, did not understand socialism.

Anthem is set in a world where collective socialism has progressed to encompass every facet of society and holds total sway. Individualism has been rooted out to the point that individuals have numbers instead of names and to use personal pronouns such as “I” or “me” results in instant death. In this dark world, babies are taken from their parents to be raised by the Home of the Infants and later transferred to the Home of the Students for rearing. Students are then later assigned a profession by the Council of Vocations which they must practice until they die.

The main character in this story, Equality 7-2521, is exceptionally intelligent and curious and hopes to be assigned to the Scholars, but instead is made a Street Sweeper. While performing his duties he meets and falls in love with Liberty 5-3000, but they must both keep their feelings secret because such are forbidden. He also finds a previously hidden tunnel that he later learns was a subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times. Down deep in this tunnel he rediscovers electricity and finds a way to produce electric light. Excited by his discovery, he brings this to his leaders’ attention, but they are horrified realizing that this discovery could threaten the Council of Lanterns which previously overthrew the Council of Torches. Equality 7-2521 is labeled a criminal and determines that he must find a way to escape this society.

Anthem is an incredibly powerful and tightly written work that will leave you pondering the story long after you have finished. Well worth the read.

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Other Post Apocalyptic & Dystopian Book Reviews by Ryan King include: The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson, The Last Ship by William Brinkley, and Blindness by Jose Saramago.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 

 

Top Ten Best Fathers in Fiction

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Growing up without a stable father figure, I learned most of what I could about manhood from books. It was where I could see their decisions and consequences and sift through the base and cowardly to embrace the noble and selfless behavior of a good man. This caused me to wonder about fathers in fiction. There are plenty of father figures (i.e. Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo), but not that many characters we would call admirable fathers. Books are filled with exceptional mothers, but truly good fathers are hard to find. I believe they are so rare in fiction because they are so rare in true life…at least to authors.

With that said, I was able to compose my top ten list of best fathers in fiction.

1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a widower in a small town rocked by social change. He provides for his children and not only teaches them wisdom, but lives an admirable life and stands for true and justice.

2. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. from Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. This book and its sequel are true stories written by Gilbreth about his childhood and his unique parents. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. is an extraordinary figure filled with ingenuity, humor, and eternal optimism that pervades his children’s early lives.

3. Pa Ingalls from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of books. Like Cheaper by the Dozen, Wilder’s book is based on true accounts from her childhood. She grew up on an isolated farm and often knew hardship and difficulty. Throughout, her father was a rock of strength and goodness based on an eternal faith in God.

4. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett is the father of five willful girls and husband to an energetic and often misguided wife. They all love nothing more than to intrude on his peace. Mr. Bennett is the epitome of practicality and patience, loving his daughters and guiding them as best he can without crushing their spirits.

5. Unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In this brutal post-apocalyptic nightmare story, a widower father’s entire existence is consumed with protecting his son. The father is eternally patient and never blames his son even in the privacy of his own thoughts for the son’s actions that cause them both to suffer. The father even pushes himself to the point of death for his son and sacrifices everything for this unconditional love.

6. Samuel Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck supposedly modeled this character and his circumstances after his real-life maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is a generous, warm, intelligent inventor/farmer from Ireland who has the heart of a poet. Universally admired by friends and neighbors, Samuel never achieves material success for himself, but lives his life in such a way that most of his children find it readily.

7. Andy McGee from Stephen King’s Firestarter. Andy is one of three widowers on this list and is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe from those who would harm her. Andy seeks to allow his daughter to be a little girl and protect her from a world that he is willing to destroy if need be. In the end, Andy sacrifices himself to save his child.

8. Ned Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Ned is a genuine character in a world filled with hypocrisy. His love and care of his children, even the bastard John Snow, is in striking contrast to the lack of care shown by Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon for their own offspring.

9. Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Vito Corleone is a unique figure in that he holds immense power, yet seeks to reason with people. He does not force other people’s hands except as a last resort. Vito even extends this view to his children and let’s them find their own way when they defy him and they end up loving and respecting him all the more for it.

10. Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Duke Leto Atreides is a powerful man in violent and dangerous universe. His young son Paul will one day be duke in his stead. Leto does everything he can to prepare his son for the dangers ahead of him.

 

What other books can you think of with good father’s in them (not father figures)? Hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has four sons and writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 

 

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Book Review of The Last Ship Novel (Now a TV Show)

Post-Apocalyptic Review Series by Guest Blogger, Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy.

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One of the more interesting characteristics of some post-apocalyptic tales is the sense of total isolation. The world has been destroyed in whole or part and survivors are few and uncertain. William Brinkley’s The Last Ship is a tale of a fictional Navy ship call the USS Nathan James and it is hard to imagine any group of people being more isolated.

The story begins almost immediately after the Nathan James has launched her nuclear tipped tomahawk missiles from the Arctic Circle at Orel, Russia completely obliterating that city and its people. It quickly becomes apparent that this is but a small portion of a much larger world-wide nuclear exchange that ravages the planet.

The Last Ship is a fantastic post-apocalyptic story that is fresh and unique. I cannot think of another story that is similar. The tale is believable and well told. The characters are fully developed and complex. The only criticism I have of the book is that there was a point when the story seemed to take a hard left. Throughout the book, discipline and order were stressed to keep panic and despair in check. Yet, at one point the crew seems to at least partially abandon these tenants which had kept them safe and turn into sex-crazed caricatures who willingly accept a system of forced mass polygamy. This abrupt twist seemed to go against the entire theme of the story and appeared almost as an intentional shock for the reader. Despite this minor criticism, I very highly recommend this book and intend to watch the upcoming mini-series. Read on if you want more of the plot twists.

 

(SPOILER ALERT) Thomas, the ship’s captain, seeks to keep his crew together as they search for answers. All radio and satellite transmissions are non-existent and as the ship’s nuclear fuel runs low, they search for a habitable port. Some crew members however wish to return to America despite the almost certain death and destruction they will encounter there. A group leads a successful mutiny and one-third of the crew leaves the Nathan James in smaller ships to head across the Atlantic against all logic.

The ship continues through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Acheron. All along the way they find nothing but death, heavy radiation, and nuclear winter. It quickly becomes apparent that, with the exception of a Russian nuclear submarine they encountered earlier, they may be the only humans left alive on the planet. The crew finally make their way into the South Pacific and by chance find a habitable island where they begin growing crops and attempting to continue the human race through a selective breeding program. Things quickly go wrong on a number of levels.

There are so many directions the tv series can go. I hope it hits the mark for a post-apocalyptic show.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Dystopian Monthly – The Diamond Age Review

My copy's cover vs. the new edition

My copy’s cover vs. the new edition

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Over the past few years Neal Stephenson has become one of my favorite authors. His Baroque Cycle Series is pure genius and Anathem and Cryptonomicon are exceptional. Stephenson’s works are difficult to describe or place into any one genre as they borrow from so many different literary elements and do not cleanly rest within any category.

The Diamond Age is no different. Although at first it may come across as a simple futuristic science fiction story set within a stumbling world of sub-cultures, it is actually much more complex. The main character Nell is a poor young girl who has little going for her but a very protective older brother who one day brings her a book he has stolen. But this is not just any book, it was meant as an illustrated primer for one of the wealthiest girl’s in the world.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.41.44 PMThe book is supremely special and meant to raise a girl to be an exceptional creature of strength, daring and grace. From the moment the book falls into little Nell’s hands, it initiates a series of events that cannot be predicted and eventually changes this strange world forever.

In a chaotic world ruled by various tribes, nanotechnology has advanced to the point that certain things seem on the verge of magical. The tale itself merges science fiction, fantasy, and even a dark fairy tale. Relying heavily upon Confucian Chinese, Victorian English, and Rebellious American background and culture it manages to skillfully weave these elements together over three continents and several decades.

This story, like all of Stephenson’s, is unpredictable. There are several places in the story where the reader will likely have to go back and reread portions after they say, “Did that really just happen?” It did. Although I have grown used to having to read several chapters of Stephenson’s books before the plot really gets going, I always do it knowing the read is well worth it. The Diamond Age is different. From the very start the story pulls the reader into a strange and dark world where it seems anything is possible.

Alternate Cover Art

Alternate Cover Art

The Diamond Age is filled with subtle yet rich humor, complex plots and descriptions, and imaginative characters. I give it a strong recommendation and would loan you my copy if it wasn’t already in another reader’s hands.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 

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Post-Apocalyptic Book Review – Blindness

Blindness, a post-apocalyptic novel by Jose Saramago

Blindness, a post-apocalyptic novel by Jose Saramago

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

The Nobel Prize winning Portuguese author Saramago himself is a controversial character. He was an avowed communist-pessimist-atheist who spent most of his life as a journalist and only achieved widespread public appeal at the age of sixty. His Gospel According to Jesus Christ was ridiculed by his own government for its anti-Christian views and resulted in his self-imposed exile on a Spanish island until his death in 2010.

Blindness itself is not surprisingly about a mysterious plague called “white blindness” that strikes the people of an unnamed country. The origin of this highly contagious disease is never identified and strikes those it infects within days with total blindness. Unlike normal blindness, those afflicted only see a milky white, even when asleep.

The book is a dark and realistic tale filled with cruelty, base human nature, and depressing scenarios. Despite this, there are some bright spots and victories that prove the survivors have not lost themselves or their humanity.

Saramago writes in his typical style. He uses no quotation marks to signify dialogue, nor does he separate dialogue between different characters by paragraphs. Rarely does he even use periods, simply substituting commas with sentences carrying on for hundreds of words and paragraphs for whole pages. This often makes the reading tedious and difficult. Many times I was confused by who exactly was speaking since the author rarely identifies them.

Even with these downsides, Blindness is a powerful post-apocalyptic novel. For the first time in my life I think I came close to understanding how horrific it would be to be blind. Those in this story were additionally vulnerable due to having no one who could see assist them except for one main character who has to hide her ability for fear of reprisal or being made a slave by the others.

(Spoiler Alert-Skip to Conclusion Option) Initially, only a few people are infected and the government quarantines these individuals in an insane asylum. When there are few internees, the system seems to work, although inefficiently. Once the asylum becomes overcrowded and the guards more and more fearful, chaos and cruelty ensue. The blind come close to losing their humanity and even stop identifying themselves by names as only voices matter is this white cloudy world.

Eventually society itself collapses and the inmates are free to escape, but the city they flee into is not much better than their earlier prison. Groups of blind refugees stumble through streets filled with bodily wastes looking for food. Violence, fear, and apathy towards others rules everyday life and the survivors not only have to watch out for each other, but packs of carnivorous dogs that have not been affected by the disease.

(Conclusion) Although this is not one of my top post apocalyptic novels, Blindness is well worth reading and very interesting.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels. 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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S is for Sex – Ratings for Books Please

How explicit are these titles?

How explicit are these titles?

I know sex sells, but I sure wish books came with ratings comparable to movies. Unfortunately, if movies actually showed what books often describe, there would be a lot more X-Rated and NC-17 flicks. On my Goodreads and Amazon reviews, I’ve started adding a “HEAT Advisory” if the book pushes the borders past an “R” rating, since TV-14 often tends to go too far IMO.

Basically, if the hero on the cover is shirtless, you can expect some level of heat. How much? You could check out the “Sensuality Ratings Guide” on All About Romance Novels linked here if you are sure the title is traditionally published. I searched for a couple indie titles I recently read and couldn’t find them there. RomCom has a nice “Heat Scale” here with additional info about graphic violence and alternate lifestyles included–and once again I could not find independent authors. I especially enjoyed “a romance rookie’s guide to heat levels” because it had nice graphics (how many red peppers on a scale of 1-5 does that book get?) and an example of a romance plot rewritten to give a gist of each of the 5 levels. There was no search function. According to RT Book Reviews (Romance Times), most romance novels fall into the “Hot” level. (Wonder how this statistic would look if sales were figured?)

I prefer clean reads, though there are lots of folks who are looking for the heat. One such blogger (who really wrote a good article about this topic here) lamented the confusion of erotica with pornography. If the graphic scene was depicted for the purpose of showing a growing relationship, it was erotica. Pornography (the link was to wikipedia for this) produced the scene for sexual arousal. Really? Personally, I don’t think intention and effect can be separated so clearly.

Twilight was a mega hit, and I always suspected part of the reason was because the romance contained tension without being explicit. Young Adult (YA) books and series are incredibly popular with all ages–could this part of the reason?

Regardless, if you’re looking for a CLEAN READ (caps indicate how I’ll now highlight that in my book reviews), you could also visit one of the numerous blogs devoted to the subject such as “Library of Clean Reads” “Good Clean Reads” and “Clean Teen Reads.” No time for that? Your best bet is the “Shirtless on the Cover” test.

As I look at images of romance covers I wonder if books with the shirt half on are a little less explicit. Hmm…maybe we can get the industry to go for a “Heat Level by Shirt” standard.

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Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).

 

 
 

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