Posts Tagged ‘Book Review


Sun Bleached Winter

D. Robert Grixti is an up and coming author from Australia, and this is a review of his debut novella. I’m dropping the normal Shortbus attitude for this review. I’ve posted a nearly identical review on my other site, and decided that some of you here would probably appreciate this book.

Here is an excerpt from Sun Bleached Winter,

Night has fallen. We’re eating dried biscuits by the light of the campfire. The flames glow weakly, dimly. Dying. Flakes of snow drift down from the sky and threaten to bury everything under a blanket of white. Nothing can live here.–


Atmosphere––Mr. Grixti does it very well. The bleak world inhabited by narrator Lionel and his sister Claire has been crispy fried by nuclear war. A blanket of smoke, dirt, and clouds blot the sun’s light, embracing every day in fallout winter. Lionel and Claire are the central characters in the story, but things spice up with the introduction of Jessica, a gun toting firecracker wearing clean clothes. Lionel is conscripted to do a dirty job with Jessica, and if he survives, he’ll earn entry into New City for himself and Claire.

Expertly done, setting was consistently used to keep the weight of doom and uncertainty lingering with every turn of the page. Here is another tease,

I stay awake, staring into the blackness, and thinking about what tomorrow may bring. What future is there for us, waiting for us, perhaps mocking us, beyond the void of time? Is it a good one, or a bad one? I find myself struggling to wonder how those terms can still have meaning, in a world where human life is reduced to something abstract, something indefinable and killing can be so easily justified in the name of survival. There can’t be such things as good or bad in a place where everything is grey. People will continue to do what they have to do, and thus the only future that awaits us is one that’s as bleak as the present.–

Irony would be another great descriptor for Sun Bleached Winter. As Lionel and his sister struggle to survive in the wastelands, they also struggle to maintain the humanity that has been burned from the world. Is New City going to be a budding society, or just the shadow of what once was?

Is it medicine that makes a society? Labor? Can it be defined as protection from the marauding hordes of cannibals? Does civilization depend upon which side of the gun you are standing? Beware of the dogs––the marauders sometimes use them to corner their quarry.

It growls once more, and then unleashes a spine chilling howl, its hind legs tensing behind it, preparing to pounce forward and take its prey. Panicked, I feel through the snow beside me with my left hand, praying that I’ll find the cold, familiar shape of the revolver waiting for me. The dog starts barking furiously and then it charges, running at me with lightning speed. I close my eyes, preparing for the sharp fangs to drill into my face, when I finally feel the grip of the handgun, already starting to sink into the deep snow.–

Action is quite challenging to write. For the most part, I felt D. Robert Grixti’s execution of action was done with great agility as a first time author. As you saw, that last passage offered fantastic visualization. Most of the action in Sun Bleached Winter held tension, but in a few instances it faltered a little. Nothing to fret over, as Mr. Grixti evolves as a writer, those hiccups will pass.

For the most part the editing was solid. There were a few words inserted that weren’t quite right. I found “Illegible” where it should have been “Unintelligible,” there was one or two other not-quite-correct words placed throughout the text.

Although I’d smiled at the end of the last page, fully appreciating this story’s irony, I felt there were enough instances of grief to drive anyone to the one character’s final decisions. I felt the hallucinations seemed a little overkill, but as we’ve seen here on the Shortbus, I’ve been very wrong before, and I promise I’ll be wrong again, maybe even here.

All in all, I enjoyed this story and hope others do to. Sun Bleached Winter is a quick, fresh read, artistically written well enough to start fun dialogue between readers.

For the record—I’d received a PDF copy from this author with the expectation of a balanced review.


Chuck’s Book

[This is a re-post of a book review. I’ve been on a wild streak of good fiction writing this week so this blog suffers as a result. Part two of the Karate posts will be coming soon, I expect by Sunday morning.]

I finished reading another book, Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Stranger than Fiction.’ This was non-fiction from the writer who created ‘Fight Club’ and also wrote ‘Choke.’ My personal favorite of his is ‘Survivor,’ but I admit I have not yet read Fight Club; that one I am saving for the right day.

I suspect that this collection of shorts surmise his early journalistic endeavors where he established his style. There were a few stories that I believe were written specifically to be included in this collection, meaning I don’t think they were ever bought until this book was whipped together. Most of the early stories were covered in tell-tale fingerprints, foreshadowing his novels to come. One short story even seemed narrated by the same character who told the story in Choke. Choke was a first person narrative, as was Survivor (I think all his books might be told from first person.) In some of the stories it felt like I got to see Fight Club before it ever became Project Mayhem, but more interesting still – seeing what happened to Chuck immediately after his book became a movie. Fame, hmmmm.

The first couple stories were kinda like my blog posts; raw, repetitious, and almost really good. The second story in the book seemed to go on and on and on. About the time I was ready to skip forward, I only had a page or two to go, so I pushed on, and the story ended brilliantly. It was about the dying sport of wrestling and the addictive mentality of the few athletes keeping the sport alive. I know, boring! But having seen the movie Fight Club, it was like reading one of the key insider pieces.

There was a humorous story about wearing ‘Disneyland style’ costumes with a large Paper ‘Mache headpieces around Pike’s Place in Seattle. The humor came with all the hostile problems associated to something so innocuous. In the end they almost get arrested. For what? Read the story.

Inside the bindings and deeper still was an interview with Marilyn Manson that painted him more a man and less a monster, as well as a great interview with a young Juliette Lewis about making out with Robert DeNiro. There was also an interesting story about Brad Pitt’s lips and penis pumps – classic Palahniuk reading. But from beginning to end, from average to extraordinary, and from humble to self-recognized, it is all right there, laid open and spread-eagle to the world, right where we can see that truth is stranger than fiction. Money changes the man.

[Disclaimer – Chuck Palahniuk, you still owe my wife $20 bucks for buying ‘Rant.’ That book sucked, dude. Take a break, spend some millions, and maybe get some new ideas. But first, pay C-Jane back for that awful ‘Rant.’ How is that for a rant?]


Angels and Demons

This will be about the novel written by Tim Marquitz, ‘Demon Squad: Armageddon Bound.’  ‘Demon Squad’ was one of the novels printed by Damnation Books, and of their writers, Tim Marquitz was one of the few customer-rated authors who had many favorable reviews. There was also the promise of both gratuitous sex and violence. Now that I am part of the Damnation team, I thought it would be interesting to see what my coworkers are doing. I was pleased with what I read. The story was worth the $18.80  for paperback. I could also have gone to and ordered an electronic copy for less than $7.

The Good
Let’s talk about the cover art. The cover makes the book, and the artist for this cover, Jessie Lucero, her vision was spot-on. From left to right, we see a blond with ginormous boobs cupped in black bra, a handsome fellow with a shaved head holding a handgun pointed directly at our face, and a classic Mephistopheles-looking character with a raised eyebrow. Red, black, and gray being the dominant colors, highlighted by two little skulls – like bookends – at the bottom. This was awesome marketing, the cover says it all.

Before we open the cover, there is background we need to know about Christian Mythology. Why? Because the brilliant idea that is Tim Marquitz’s needs a little explanation up front. As most people in the U.S. know, after Adam and Eve were created, the angel Lucifer deceived Eve against both God and Adam, and was then cast from heaven with a third of the angels. Yes, that is the very short and not-quite accurate version, but this is the tale most people would agree on.

So God cursed Adam and Eve with death, pain and suffering. Later, regretting his emotional outburst, God sends himself to earth as ‘Jesus’ to die in the place of man. This is so his own curse against man would be lifted, heralding the age of Grace.

The book of Revelations at the back of the New Testament promises that God is still going to kick all our asses including a dude known as the antichrist during a battle led by Jesus at a place called Armageddon. Then God’ll make a lake of fire, throw all us sinners in like at a Nazi book bake.

Here is Tim Marquitz’s awesome idea — God, tired of the chess game over the souls of men, amends with Lucifer. They re-unite and leave our dimension to go sort out their past problems. The angels are baffled – where did God go? The demons are happy, and power-plays begin for control of hell and earth. Man, once again, is stuck right in the middle.

But wait, it gets better, some angels feel that God’s last standing order was to see to the fulfillment of Armageddon and the end of all existence and actively seek annihilation. Other angels believe that is for God to decide when He returns. The same holds true for the demonic forces, only their reasons are more selfish. Politics will make strange bedfellows in the three-hundred pages to come.

Frank Trigg is our ‘hero’ caught in the middle of a mad world. He, at one time was set to be the anti-christ, but now days he is just a dude wanting to get laid while he still can and he helps as part of a movement called ‘Demonic Resistance and Containment.’ They are the anti-annihilation union of pro-existence demons, angels, wizards and psychics trying to save the world from extinction. Frank is our narrator and by page five, you will know if this is your kind of read or not. I was quit fascinated with the spin on famous demons and angels as well as where they stood in the absence of God and the Devil.

As the writer, Tim’s voice filtered through Frank Trigg is full of very distinct and colorful metaphors. I envy his ability to move the story quickly by consolidating emotion and description to quick similes, painting a broader scope of event and circumstance. This was very much a man’s tale. I’m not saying a woman couldn’t like it, but this story is very much geared toward a male reader.

The Bad
There is always a bad. An example, Hemingway’s good was his description, his bad was in how his great description also bogged down his stories. Tim Marquitz’s good is that there is always action happening in the story, his bad is that by the end of the story, the reader is exhausted by blood and gore to the degree that the final battle is diminished. (Now that I’m half-way through writing my second publishable novel, the first one will give scope to how far I’ve come in only a year. I’d bet Tim’s experience is similar.)

Another bad point, the hero is the denounced Anti-Christ. Later in the story, we find out that Frank rebelled against Lucifer and rejected his position, but up until that point, I felt a little dirty cheering on the villain of everything that is good. As the story develops, it becomes clearer that Frank really is just another guy trying to get laid in a world that is slowly going to hell, and by his infernal background, he is privileged to know the world may end any day, and he, just like the rest of us, doesn’t really want that to happen.

The final bad is a personal grievance. I am a character writer, I write my players to be in the fashion of Ray Bradbury’s, where when we think we know them, they drop to the next level and we see a bigger character. Tim Marquitz’s actors, although well described and colorful, sometimes seemed like paper-cutouts with limited dimensions. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of them, Frank was awesome, but at times the rest of the players seemed only vehicles to move the story along.

Another reviewer read the follow-up novel ‘Demon Squad : Resurrection’ and proclaimed great advancement in Tim Marquitz’s story-telling ability. I’m not surprised, Tim’s voice in this one is strong and humorous and if he continued to develop his sharp wit, the second book would naturally be better.

I look forward to reading the second book, and maybe even the third if he continues with Frank’s strange view of our sinking world. It has been a long time since a book has captured my imagination and kept me chuckling with grim delight. More importantly to me, I got to see first-hand that my book, “The Wrong Way Down” fits right alongside Mr Marquitz’s. I have found a home.


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