Shock Totem Radio
Like what you've read here or in the magazine? Please consider donating.
Note that we will match 10% of all donations and donate it to Duotrope's Keep It Free! Campaign.
T.R.O. Publishing recently released the second installment of The Gate series, The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair, an anthology featuring work from two of Shock Totem’s own—Mercedes M. Yardley (“Black Mary”) and me, K. Allen Wood (“The Candle Eaters”).
[ Copyright © 2012 by Jesse David Young ]
In addition, you’ll find work by Daniel Pyle, Steven Pirie, David Dalglish, Robert J. Duperre, and seven others.
So if you’re looking for some great fiction at no cost, check out The Gate 2.
Forbidden is the first in a planned trilogy for authors Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee called The Books of Mortals. I got this book having already read and enjoyed a number of Dekker’s novels, so I was excited. With solid works like Blink, Obsession, and Three in mind, I cracked open this collaboration with Lee, a name new to me, eagerly.
Set in a future dystopia controlled by an oligarchy known as The Order, Forbidden centers around Rom Elias, a common artisan living in the world’s capital of Byzantium. All human emotions save fear have been genetically suppressed, and dire warnings abound about the time of Chaos, where lust and greed and hatred ruled humanity and led to all sorts of atrocities. Murder and war have been eradicated, but in the process, we have also lost our capacity for love and aspiration to create. Is the tranquility of a passionless society really worth the loss of all of our finer emotions? This is the question that Forbidden sets out to explore.
The book starts off with trademark Dekker action. Rom receives from a mysterious stranger an ancient scroll of vellum and a vial of blood that will restore emotions to whomever drinks it. The man reveals that Rom’s father was murdered for these things, and that he was a member of a secret society known as the Order of Keepers. This messenger is in turn murdered before Rom’s eyes, forcing Rom to take these items and run for his life just moments ahead of the assassins that are not supposed to exist at all in this ostensibly violence free world.
Rom and his friends are charged with deciphering the scroll and using the information it contains along with the vial of blood to overthrow the Order and try to bring passion and love back to a world that has been robbed of all feeling. In the process, Rom falls in love—twice!—and has to work to save the woman he loves as well as all of humanity. It’s a solid and believable combination.
The story line is intriguing, and the book moves at the fast pace that I have come to expect from Dekker. The setting is a unique blend of the ancient world with enough residual technology to set it firmly in the future. I especially enjoyed the political machinations of the Order’s leaders and while I’m not certain I understand the mechanism of choosing the world’s sovereign, I give the authors props for an original concept.
But right out of the gate, a glaring flaw tripped me up. How is a five hundred-year-old vial of blood still in a liquid form and thin enough to drink, and how does it counteract a change to one’s DNA? It was tough for me to get past, to be honest. I’m surprised this sort of glaring error made it past the editors.
Ah, but after all is said, do we read a work of fiction for a biology lesson or for the story? The story here is compelling, and not easy to predict. I like it when a book can surprise as well as entertain, and there are several surprises here.
While a sufficient amount of the story lines are resolved to make it a nice stand alone read, enough is left open to keep me anticipating the two volumes to come, Mortal and Sovereign. I also intend to catch up on Tosca Lee.
Winni…uh, never mind.
Definitely a very cool site, run by a cool cast of characters. Check them out. And for those looking for some quick reads, check out the sidebar on the right. You’ll dig it.
Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is one of the newer anthologies put out by Apex Publications. It features 26 short stories and five poems that attempt to tackle the intricacies of faith. I haven’t read much of it, and as it is with most anthologies, I won’t finish it all at once; but I look forward to slowly picking its bones clean.
The first story in Dark Faith is “Ghosts of New York,” by Jennifer Pelland. I will sing praise for this woman until its borderline creepy. (I’m harmless, I assure you.) Her anthology Unwelcome Bodies is one of the best I’ve ever read. Sure, some stories didn’t blow me away, but many floored me. Read “The Last Stand of the Elephant Man,” and you’ll understand. “Ghosts of New York” is not equal to that tale, but it is quite good.
The story revolves around the World Trade Center tragedy, particularly the ghosts of the jumpers, those victims that chose not to perish in fire or the collapse of either tower. The ghosts are forced to relive the terrifying free fall and final impact over and over again. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, one of horror, tragedy, and discovery. And its beautifully written.
Since originally writing this for my blog some months ago, “Ghosts of New York” has been chosen as a Nebula finalist. In celebration of this, Apex has put the story online for free. You can read the haunting tale here.
Next up in Dark Faith is Brian Keene’s “I Sing a New Psalm.” My first experience with Keene’s writing was his short story collection Fear of Gravity. I wasn’t blown away. I loved the final story, “The Garden Where My Rain Grows,” it more than lived up to the praise bestowed upon him, but the other stories just didn’t have the same impact with me. Decent, but maybe my expectations were too high. “I Sing a New Psalm,” however, is a very good tale if a bit obvious.
The story is told in 44 short bursts and follows a man of uncertain faith through his ultimate acceptance and subsequent denial of God. It’s a story that explores the puzzling contradiction of cruelty and selfishness from a so-called loving, omniscient god. Something we’ve all questioned. Keene does it justice.
Though I haven’t read it completely, Dark Faith is worth buying. Anything Apex puts out is worth buying. Dig it!
Hey, it’s my YouTube debut, and it doesn’t involve any singing or dancing! Check out this reading of my essay “Butterflies and Battleaxes,” a chapter from my Williams Syndrome memoir.
Her first nomination was in 2007, for her story “Captive Girl,” which can be found in the fantastic Unwelcome Bodies.
Wish her luck!
And for those interested, you can read the haunting “Ghosts of New York” by clicking here. It’s well worth it.
Issue #3 contributor Steven “Seven” Pirie is offering up for free download a short collection of four humorous tales, which you can download here at Smashwords. It’s called Mrs. Mathews is Afraid of Cricket Bats.
And issue #3 of Shock Totem, of course.