***Slow Burn, Intense Heat***
Voiceless left me Breathless. Think that’s hyperbole? Read this book and prove me wrong.
The last 100 or so pages were so intense I’m surprised the Kindle survived my sweaty grip. I barely breathed through the last 60 pages. The slow build to the barn-burner of a climax was nearly flawless. Voiceless may be one of the most perfectly paced novels I’ve ever read.
One gets the sense after reading a Trent Zelazny story that he couldn’t possibly do it again; no one could plumb the utter depth of hopelessness again and again without eventually reaching the bottom…could they? No, they couldn’t. But Trent Zelazny can and does. Because he has lived this pain. I’m not saying his work is autobiographical (although I sometimes wonder), only that he is intimately acquainted with genuine misery and is not afraid to tell us what it looks and feels like. Not many writers can do that without coming off heavy-handed. But nothing Zelazny does is heavy-handed. He leads us quite gently through the dark hallways of depression and self-loathing; through doorways and into rooms clotted with anxiety and a panicky sense of mental instability. And we go willingly because we want everything to be okay. We want the ending to show us a glimpse of hope. Sometimes it does; more often it does not. No matter the outcome, we are wiser for the journey. And maybe we see our own world a little more clearly, with a little more of that elusive hope. I think, through all the angst-littered pages, that’s what Zelazny wants. For us to have a better time of it than those who inhabit his pages.
But first we have to walk those gloomy hallways with his often damned protagonists; to take their clammy hands and see how bad it gets before it can get better.
Read this book. Read all Zelazny’s books. There is no one doing what he does, the way he does it. No one.
Mott’s Ruminations is delighted to be hosting none other than the multi-talented Robert S. Wilson. The man has a lot going on (where does he find the time?), and you’ll want to pay close attention. I’m going to hand over the mic and let Robert run with the details. Bob, if you please?
First of all, I want to give a huge thanks to Martin for hosting me on his blog for part of the Robert S. Wilson Thrown-Together-at-the-Last-Minute-Due-to-An-Overwhelming-Amount-of-Procrastination-and-Indecision Blog Tour and Book Giveaway Contest! The following is an excerpt from my upcoming cyberpunk crime novella SOULSERVE: A Ray Garret/Lifeline Techno Thriller which comes out September 30th. If you enjoy it, it’s available for pre-order now from Amazon for Kindle and from iBooks for iPad and should be up soon on the Barnes & Noble site for Nook as well. Kobo eventually too. You can also read a much longer sample for SOULSERVE on Smashwords.com.
The strong scent of rain and the cooling breeze abruptly died as the door to Brizen Health’s lobby closed behind Ray. He glanced around, still trying to shake off the dizzying combination of shiny glass, coarse gray concrete, and neutral-colored plastic that made up the outside of the facility. A long, equally drab, concrete wall in front of him housed a small rectangular window where several men in plain white uniforms sat staring at nothing with familiar black plastic devices in each of their ears. Ray sighed. Didn’t anybody use good old-fashioned mice, keyboards, and monitors anymore?
All around were bland gray chairs and small glass tables with vibrant magazines that seemed to be the only thing providing any real color in the place. Several men in black business suits sat at the far end of the room watching a flatscreen television anchored high on the wall.
Ray walked forward and the man closest to the window, a tall slender individual with neat, wet, combed-over dark hair and thick, black, horn-rimmed glasses, looked up at him with an expression of bored curiosity.
“Can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Ray Garret, Antivii,” he flashed his badge, “I’m here to investigate the murders you—”
The man flew up from his seat turning pale as he gripped Ray’s hand a little too hard and gave it a weak shake. “Mr. Garret, nice to meet you. There’s no need to go into details, we know why you’re here.” He leaned forward and whispered as Ray tilted his head to listen, “One of our biggest financial contributors and his associates are sitting right over there, if you could refrain from mentioning the M-word it would be most appreciated.”
“Dr. Takamimi is waiting past the security doors, I’ll buzz you in.” The man’s voice resumed its normal volume as he sat back in his seat.
A loud buzzer sounded and Ray thanked him then walked through the auto-opening double doors. A fit Asian man of mid height with a large jaw stood wearing the same white uniform with a plastic security name tag at his breast. He reached out his hand and Ray shook it firmly.
“Yes, and you must be Agent Garret. Good to meet you.” Takamimi gestured for Ray to follow him and the two began walking down the long drab hallway.
“The pleasure’s all mine. So, fill me in here. The local police intel I got said something about nine murders and a… haunting?” Ray laughed.
Takamimi’s face stretched in grim disapproval.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Takamimi, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen a lot of things over the years but ghosts and goblins just aren’t on that list. Besides, I’m here to investigate the recent murders not a haunting. Murder, now that’s something I’ve seen with my own eyes.”
Takamimi sighed. “As a scientist, I would normally agree with you. But what’s happening here I’m afraid cannot be explained in any other way. Supernatural haunting? I can’t say. But strange things are happening nonetheless. I’ve chosen to stay agnostic on the matter.”
Ray nodded. “All right. Tell me more about these strange things then. Seems pretty calm around here to me.” They took a right down another long corridor exactly like everything else. Gray concrete, lots of glass, light-colored metal doors.
“It’s only in section 671. It started with the murder of Dr. Broxson.”
“Yes. Carl was the head of our neuro-technical division.”
“Let me guess, neuro-tech just happens to be in section 671?”
“Indeed, Mr. Garret. Ever since Dr. Broxson’s death the temperature in the main server room in 671 has steadily maintained a negative sixty-five degrees despite several attempts to reprogram the room’s thermostat software.”
“Sounds pretty scary.”
Takamimi gritted his teeth together. “That was just the beginning. When anyone tries to enter the room it locks itself and something has even gone so far as to send out an electric shock to those trying to enter. Dozens of people have reported disturbances throughout that entire section of the building. Everything from printers turning themselves on and printing out strange messages to people seeing things on their computer screens or in their Lifeline programs that shouldn’t be there to…” Takamimi stopped walking, his face becoming nearly as pale as the walls behind him.
“What?” Ray said.
Takamimi whispered, “A few people have reported seeing and hearing Dr. Broxson’s… ghost.”
“Oh, you mean in the Lifeli-“
“No, Mr. Garret. At least half of these sightings were reported by staff members who do not have clearance to wear an HPDID. Some of them wouldn’t even know how to put one on.” Takamimi’s heavy jaw quivered. Ray had dealt with a lot of scientists in his time and he had never seen any so quick to believe in such things.
“So, like janitors, a cleaning crew or something?”
They stood in front of the main doors to the server room. Black crisscross patterns covered the vertical windows of the long orange metal doors. Ray grabbed hold of the silver handle and tried to turn it. It was locked. “Hey, can you give me the key?”
Takamimi pulled out a large keyring, fumbled through it quickly, then handed it to Garret by one particular key. He backed away as if even being near Ray when he opened that door was dangerous. Ray put the key in the lock and took a deep breath. With one hand on it, ready to turn, he gripped the door handle with the other. He counted to three then unlocked the door while turning the cold metal handle.
Several things happened all at once. The door flung open, blasting a chill out from inside. A strong burst of electricity scorched through Ray’s hand sending the rich taste of copper to his tongue, the shock intensifying the further open the door became. And finally, as his body was shaking and smoking, Ray thought he could make out a faint figure in the server room peeking his head out from behind a locker-like rack of servers. His skin was pure white and translucent, his eyes almost invisible orbs, dark pupils sitting in the middle like black pearls in open white clam shells. A thick, cool, misty breath blew from his mouth as he stared back at Ray with a blank expression.
When Ray came to, he was lying on the floor, the door above him closed with Takamimi leaned against it, head back, chest rising and falling in rushes in between his words. “I told you… Mr. Garret… this was… a bad idea.”
“Point taken. Maybe we should start somewhere else.” Ray peeled himself from the cold, hard, vinyl-tiled floor into a sitting position. “Where was Dr. Broxson murdered again?”
The team of scientists in 671-46 was very busy when Ray and Takamimi arrived. Inside, the lab was long and rectangular-shaped with desks and strange machines lining all four walls. The center of the room was filled with a large array of cages housing a rich variety of animals from monkeys to dogs, to cats, to mice and rats. Each creature in the room had a plastic device in its ear. Even the small rodents. Ray thought he’d witnessed everything having to do with the HPDID, but apparently there were models even he hadn’t seen. He assumed they were custom made by Brizen.
Takamimi introduced Ray to a young female scientist who had worked closely with Broxson up until he passed away. Dr. Rainns seemed shy at first, almost nervous. Ray would ask her questions and she would answer so quietly he would have to ask her to repeat herself several times over. Eventually, he had all the information that he needed just in time to call it a day. Takamimi provided Ray with his own keycard badge so he could enter the building on his own when he needed and Ray left for home.
Rhonda was finishing dinner when Ray came in. Standing over the steaming skillet, a half-smoked cigarette hanging from her mouth, she glanced back at him and winked. She was in those tight stone-washed cut-off jeans she often wore around the house and a huge T-shirt, her hair up in a messy auburn knot at the top of her head. Ray smiled wondering what he’d ever do without her.
“Could you grab those two plates there and take them to the dining room table?” she said.
“Sure, babe. How was your day?” Ray hollered back toward the kitchen.
“Oh, pretty boring mostly… Another day sitting and staring at a blank screen.” Her voice rose over the sizzling skillet. “I’ll be right there. I just need to—” There was a loud slam from in the kitchen.
“Honey, you okay?” Ray dashed into the room nearly slipping on the linoleum. Rhonda lay on the floor, her arm stretched out, hand still holding the skillet, pieces of chicken scattered across the floor.
She sighed. “I’m fine. I just fell.”
Ray took the skillet from her hand and set it in the sink then helped her to her feet. He looked her over for a few minutes in complete disregard of her request to let it go. “I’m sorry, but this is the fourth time this week you’ve up and lost your balance. I think it’s time you saw a doctor.”
She argued for a long time, seeming more concerned she had ruined dinner than anything else. But eventually Ray wore her down and she promised to go see Dr. Varnes the next day.
Robert S. Wilson is the author of SHINING IN CRIMSON and FADING IN DARKNESS, books one and two of his dystopian vampire series: EMPIRE OF BLOOD. He is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated editor of BLOOD TYPE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF VAMPIRE SF ON THE CUTTING EDGE, a co-editor of HORROR FOR GOOD: A CHARITABLE ANTHOLOGY and NIGHTSCAPES: VOLUME 1, and lives in Middle Tennessee with his family and a silly obnoxious dog. His short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, online, and paper publications, and his cyberpunk/horror novella EXIT REALITY was chosen as one of e-thriller.com’s Thrillers of the Month in July 2013.
His debut fiction collection WHERE ALL LIGHT IS LEFT TO DIE was just released on September 23rd and the second novella in his cyberpunk/crime thriller Ray Garret/Lifeline series, SOULSERVE, is available for pre-order and will release on September 30th. He is currently working hard to finish a number of novels and novellas all at once like a blind juggler given knives and led into oncoming traffic.
Where you can find Robert S. Wilson and his work:
Where All Light is Left to Die: http://www.shiningincrimson.com/p/from-author-of-shining-in-crimson-and.html
The Robert S. Wilson Thrown-Together-at-the-Last-Minute-Due-to-An-Overwhelming-Amount-of-Procrastination-and-Indecision Blog Tour and Book Giveaway Contest! = https://www.facebook.com/events/459398677533097/
Robert’s website is http://www.shiningincrimson.com
This was a second trip through Damnation Alley for me. I loved it the first time and loved it again. Roger Zelazny is far more than a Sci-Fi writer; he is a literary craftsman. There are moments of true transcendence here. Highly recommended.
Terrific Demonic Fun
In which young Samuel Johnson (no, not that Samuel Johnson) takes on the demonic hordes of Hell with the aid of his dachshund, Boswell…
John Connolly is a pro when it comes to dark whimsy, or whimsical darkness…or whatever.
The Gates is no exception. Pure demonic fun from start to finish. It may not always be (as some reviews state) “laugh out loud funny”, but you will find yourself chuckling merrily more often than not. And Connolly’s footnotes are a delight, as are the multiple literary allusions to past horror masters (streets named after Poe, August Derleth, even Aleister Crowley).
Fans of British humorists Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett will not be disappointed.
*** Zelazny Wins Again ***
Trent Zelazny’s gift is a little frightening. The highest praise I can lavish on any writer is to admit that I cannot say why he is so good from a technical standpoint. Zelazny’s skill lies in the ability to make his presence as an author damn near invisible. We are not reading, we are witnessing.
With To Sleep Gently he offers up what seems to be a simple caper story with noir undertones. Our hero is Jack Dempster, a career criminal fresh out of the joint who is immediately roped into a heist. Of course the heist is a near sure thing, and of course things fall apart. None of these plot elements is anything new. But as with all Zelazny’s works the story is not about what it’s about. The ill-advised theft and the bumbling crew are set dressing for what Trent Zelazny really wants to tell you, and that’s how life is not always a friendly mistress. The author also has something to say about the past and how a decades-old indiscretion can haunt you forever.
There is so much depth here, so much pure, gut-wrenching angst. Which simply means this is one more in a long line of brilliantly executed stories for Trent Zelazny. He is, as always, writing at the top of his form.
Read his work. Everything you can find. With Zelazny, it’s all A game. If he has a B game, I haven’t found it yet.
A Cautionary Carnival Ride
Yowsa (this is a technical term describing the visceral reaction to a piece of fiction that reaches up from the page and smacks you in the face…repeatedly).
Billie Sue Mosiman is a wicked, wicked writer. She sets up the reader beautifully, even as the carnival barker sets up those few guests willing to take that ill-advised step from relative light into unknown darkness—where they have been warned they might not want to go. Down that long dark hall where the real freaks are waiting.
Of course the question is always the same: Who ARE the real freaks?
This story, as with all really good short fiction, has a twist (and what a deliciously mean twist it is), but it works beautifully without it…which is also the mark of truly fine short fiction.
This was my first Mosiman tale. It will not be last. Bravo.
A Lighthearted Toe-Curler
Enoch’s Devil is one twisted little tale.
Suzi M has knocked out a tasty treat for Lovecraft fans, as well as those with a darker, biblical mythology fetish.
This is a quick, one-sitting read that manages to be almost cute while still making the reader squirm.
This man I call Dad.
This man is Omer Gwen Reaves, born 9-24-31 in Lloyd, Arkansas.
Humble beginnings for an exceedingly humble man.
I call him Dad, sometimes Pop. And I will always call him the most gentle and tender-hearted man I have ever known.
December of 2013, this man I call Dad was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. Cancer. Incurable and virtually untreatable.
In the early ‘Sixties this man served his country on the U.S.S. New Jersey. His service came after the Korean war, and just narrowly ahead of the Vietnam war. You could say he dodged a bullet.
Point of fact: One of Mesothelioma’s main cause seems to be exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure is common among servicemen aboard ship.
Some bullets you just don’t see coming. Some bullets can find you 50 years later.
That silent gun was fired, and the damage has been done. This man I call Dad is still here, serving his time, serving his country, serving his God.
Everything I know about love and life and music I learned from my dad.
Many of my childhood summers were spent traversing our nation’s roads in a camper as we journeyed from one country church to another, where my folks would set up their limited equipment and sing about that “some glad morning” when they would “fly away, oh glory.” My dad sang of Too Much to Gain to Lose; how “somewhere up ahead there’s cool clear water, and defeat is one word I don’t use.”
From an early age Dad showed me harmony, in his music and in his relationship with my mom. By his simple easy presence he inspired harmony and calm in our family.
This man. Soft-spoken, mild-mannered, slow to anger and quick to lend a hand or offer a smile.
If I am a good father, I owe it to Dad. If I am a good husband, I owe it to Dad. Anything I have achieved as a writer or musician I owe to my Pop. If I am any degree of man at all…I can only point back to my dad.
This man, whose tongue lay still more often than not, has the heart of a poet. From his writings:
SERENTIY (an excerpt)
~ I looked upon a scene so grand
Nothing moved across the land
But somewhere out there hid from view
Was life so full yet ever new
Low clouds had overhung the sky
Almost no breeze at all passed by
Then as I looked and listened long
The silent Nature breathed a song
My heart once troubled felt relief
The years of toil seemed oh so brief
Within my soul there welled a song
Almost, I thought, there is no wrong
Then I was made to understand
As I touched Nature with my hand
The mighty tree that stood alone
Was strong because the wind had blown
I would not know if I could win
Were there no trial without, within
For even as the mighty tree
Without the storm I’d weaker be
Within my heart now lifted more
I felt a song unknown before
At first a bubbling melody
Then words burst forth in victory ~
We don’t know (and the doctors can only guess) how much time my dad has left.
The world is richer for his step upon its skin, and will be poorer for his absence.
Low clouds had overhung the sky
As we count the months, and eventually the days, it becomes ever clearer that this man I call Dad is near his final gate.
Stormy waters in this life come rage around me every day
But I am near the gate
No evil fate can come and tempt me off the straight and narrow way
For I am near the gate
I’m near the gate that leads to glory
That narrow way I’m passing through
A band of angels stand to greet me
I am near the gate. ~ Shawn Lane
I’ll take your hand, Dad, and we’ll walk together to that gate. But not too soon.
First, another song or two, okay?
First, to soothe my conscience: I don’t like giving 3-Star reviews. There needs to be a 3.50. Or, in this case, let us say, a 3.827.
I hope that clears things up a bit.
Someone described S.S. Michaels’s Revival House to me as “a corker.” It certainly is that. I would describe it as a light-hearted, Grand Guignol B-Movie. Think Quentin Tarentino meets Christopher Moore.
I must steer clear of details because much of this story’s magic depends on surprise. I wouldn’t dream of ruining that. The only real issue I had (and why I couldn’t quite notch it up to 4 stars) is that some of the surprises were not terribly surprising.
But, and this is a considerable but: I’m not convinced that Michaels intended the surprises to be surprises. I suspect the author was thinking: “Yes, what you think is happening might be what’s happening. You’re safe to assume such and you may continue on, turning pages, a little closer now…closer.”
Said the spider to the fly.
Who’s on first? I don’t know. No, he’s on second base.
Guess away as you turn the pages. You may guess correctly, but you will not be disappointed if you do. This is a pure, balls-out, rollicking good time.
Wear your safety goggles and glove up. You’re gonna get messy.