Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Unnatural Acts Review

Second books can be tough, they often make or break a series.
Obviously, Book One always has the tough task of setting up a world and its inhabitants.
But the second installment of a series should always expand and build on all the work that was put into that world during that first outing.
Yes, this is a review of a Dan Shamble book, so you know I like it.
But as I said last time, I’m trying to look at these with fresh eyes, and this is also my first chronological read through.
So does it do a good job expanding upon what the first book brought to the table?
Let’s find out!

As per usual, this is your requisite official ***SPOILER WARNING***
And I mean it this time!

Back in the Unnatural Quarter, things are moving along normally.
Businesses are thriving, including the local brothel.
Yes, you read that right, there are monster whores in this book.
Now if you read that particular sentence and it doesn’t cause you to buy this, pull the ripcord now, cause you clearly have no discernible sense of humor at all.
MONSTER WHORES, MAN!!!
Of all shapes, sizes, races, breeds, and levels of physical contact.
We have Zombies, and Ghosts, and Vampires (oh my!), Werewolves, Suscubuses (if you get that joke, 10 points to your house), and even a Mummy Cathouse wrangler.
Something so ridiculous and hilarious wouldn’t even cross my mind to think about, I’d figure werewolves would just rub their lipstick and move on.
But the fact that monster hookers are included in this would goes to show the depth of thought that KJA put into this.

The other new cases and concerns this go round include a clay golem fighting for emancipation, the ghost of a notorious bank robber that’s trying to figure out his after life, an unnatural hating senator with a deep secret, a long written off brother, a mixed monster couple fighting to move into the neighborhood they want, a mob like company taking over the Quarter bit by bit, and “Shakespeare’s” ghost’s acting troupe facing harassment.
To put it in more succinct terms, Dan & Co are swamped with way more problems and headaches than last time.

Probably the most interesting of these story lines for me would be the brother.
Sheyenne, Dan’s ghostly girlfriend, is confronted by her deadbeat brother, Travis, who comes to town and stirs up a shit storm and a half.
We all know somebody like this dillhole, the scumbag family member that gets mixed up in multiple shady schemes and somehow always comes out smelling like roses.
The dude that will sell out his sister just to get ahead, which is exactly what Travis does…twice!
Once when he sells the last family heirlooms that Sheyenne has to cover old debts and once when he goes to the Full Moon brothel and tries to get down with the resident succubus…then joins the crazy senator in his crusade against unnaturals.
It’s pretty heartbreaking for Spooky, and leaves her in an incredibly vulnerable spot, compounded by Dan having so many problems that cause him to head to Full Moon himself.

***HEADS UP, SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILING THE END OF THE BOOK***
And that breakdown in communication between Dan and Sheyenne leads to one of the most heart warming, yet disturbing and, some how, also hilarious things I have ever read in my entire life.
The closing pages of the book, after they mostly work things out and are back on more steady ground, sees Spooky trying to go the extra mile and do something special for Dan.
Being a ghost, they can’t do the horizontal hula because she can’t physically touch Dan.
But she can move inanimate objects.
So she gets Dan up to his (often unused or visited) apartment above the office, takes him to his bedroom, and, in an attempt to give him the entire experience of a fully functional romantic partnership, she dons a sex doll suit as a skin so they can re-engage the physical aspects of their relationship that were lost with her own death.
Gang, it is the most fucked up and romantic thing ever!
Also, it’s an utterly original concept!

In my introduction I asked a very specific question (again, we all know at this point if I’m talking about a Dan Shamble book I thoroughly enjoyed it), so does this expand on the first book?
Yes, it does.
The monster brothel isn’t the only critter run business we learn about, we hit up one of the most mundane types of businesses I can think of, a Pawn Shop.
But the twist here is this one is run by a goblin who tends to horde all of the stuff that comes in, especially if it’s shiny.
Something like this really goes to show how deep KJA gets this time, trying to expand and show that life really has gone back to normal and that monsters are fully integrated into society.
They own businesses, they engage in providing entertainment, they’ve made the Unnatural Quarter a tourist stop and lightning rod for controversy.

Without getting too deep on the controversy, I will say this: KJA is a prophet!
He totally called the era of politicians regularly vilifying people and trying to legislate against shit that they and their families have done or taken part in.
I remember when I first read this, I was stunned by the parallels to what was happening in the realm of politics at the time.
Here we see a senator who’s disgusted by the monsters who just want to live, work, and play without catching hell for, ya know, existing…kinda spooky, right?

To wrap up, one of my favorite things about this series is the continuity (and you can hear KJA bust my balls a bit about it in my interview with him from Book Club 5 Ep 2 HERE) and attention to detail that he painstakingly crafts.
Minor bit characters pass through, giving this world the depth we nerds CRAVE.
Reading in order makes this series feels like one of those fancy pants French meals you hear about that take hours to enjoy.
Book 1 was a great simple entree to get you warmed up, Book 2 feels like a 1st course with a few more complexities and flavors to keep you interested.
With that in mind, I can’t wait to revisit Book 3 and savory the experience.

Let us what you think in the comments or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Death Warmed Over Review

I’m not gonna bullshit you here: I’ve been talking up this series since Episode 37 (nooch!) of The Main Show and Ep 88 is on the cusp of dropping in the next fortnight or so.
To put it bluntly, this is a Dan Shamble book, so you know damn well that I love it.
Now if that’s all you came here to find out, that’s all good, man!
Sincerely, I thank you for taking the time and visiting the site.
Take a look around and read some of our other features, reviews, and articles, I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

But if you’re still here, if you want to know exactly why I love this book, let’s dive into it, gang.

As per usual, this right here is your requisite ***SPOILER ALERT***

Still reading?
Okay, groovy.
Now for those keeping score, this is the very first Dan Shamble novel, but this was not the first that I read.
I was curious after reading the third book first if reading them chronologically would make an impact on how the world unfurls and since it’s been a while and I’ll be rereading them all in order I’ll be better able to answer that by the time I write my review for book three.
I’ve also wondered how this origin story plays out in context too, and the answer is pretty damn well.

We meet Dan a month post mortem, he died when some sneaky prick snuck up on him and blasted his brains all over the sky…or at least the alley that he was walking through at the time.
We’re quickly introduced to his world and learn about the string of coincidences that caused all monsters and mythological creatures to come to life (a.k.a. The Big Uneasy) ten years ago, which include a particularly perfect planetary positioning, a copy of the Nerconomicon, and a virgin with a paper cut.
We meet his ghost girlfriend, Sheyenne, and find out she was killed by a poisoned drink not long before Dan himself got popped in that alley, and that they suspect their murders are connected as he was investigating hers when his went down.
His partner in Chambeaux & Deyer Investigations, Robin Deyer, is introduced to us as a lawyer that fights for her clients as if they were her family, never backing down from the struggle of Unnaturals and their still murky rights and privileges.
In short, Kevin J. Anderson sets up the entire world of the Unnatural Quarter efficiently and effectively.

I take the Stan Lee approach when I write these reviews, every review is somebody’s first.
Now I know I have talked about a fuck ton of Mr. Anderson’s work in these reviews, and certain phrases tend to pop up time and time again.
But that doesn’t make them any less true.
The dude is one of the most economical writers I know of.
In every book of his I read I never feel like I’m muddling around in an ocean of words waiting for him to dive in and drag up from the depths some deeply hidden objective like I have with other writers whose work I’ve reviewed.
You can tell he’s having fun, but he’s not wasting pages with some boring story about some random dude that our main characters once passed by and never did, or will, see again.
If he mentions a character or place, you best be damn skippy that off handed mention is gonna mean something or play into the story later.

Unlike a TV detective, Dan & co are always juggling multiple cases at any given time.
For this first go round the Chambeaux & Deyer gang’s caseload includes trying to get a divorce settlement finalized favorably for a monthly werewolf client who happens to be married to a former adversary of Dan’s, a nervous Vampire who keeps receiving threats from an anti-monster hate group and whose neighbors are disappearing, a witch whose sister was transformed into a pig due to a typo laden spell book, a family whose drunken uncle won’t stop bothering them now that he’s died and returned as a ghost, a mummy who doesn’t want to be museum property, trying to track down a giant creature that’s smashing windows all over town, all while trying to solve Dan & Sheyenne’s own murders.
All of that is jam packed into just about three hundred pages.

Look, gang, the bottomline here is that I love a good origin story and this is a damn good one.
After just a few chapters of Dan’s Noir-ish narration, you understand exactly how this world works.
I’ve said many times that this series feels like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and a great detective show like The Rockford Files or Monk were thrown into a blender, and I stand by it.
It’s odd, mysterious, fresh, interesting, quirky, fun, and enthralling every step of the way.
It’s a great pick me up, and it great if you want something that fits the Halloween season that isn’t super heavy, because while it may be a story of death and monsters, it has a solid heart under all of that necrotic flesh.

Tell us what you think or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories Science Fiction Vol. 2 Review

The fourth and final (at least for now) volume of Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories short story series was released back in February.
This outing was another visit to the much beloved genre of Science Fiction which, for those among you who haven’t been keeping up with the main show, is a genre I have taken a deep dive into since I read the first volume.
With these new experiences in that area, I was wondering how this collection would hit me.
Strap on your space suit and let’s space find out…in space!

I have to say, as per the usual with this series, I think the short intros he writes to each story may be my favorite part.
It really seems to give each story a bit more depth to hear where it came from, who or what inspired it, or how long he kicked it around before he dropped the final product on his editors.
Even with the stories that aren’t my favorites, it is at least interesting to have the back story.

As for the stories themselves, this go round I found myself engaging more with the shorter among them.
Not that the longer ones are bad, but I think it may be a bit of brain training and expectation with this anthological format.
The shorter stories here tend to have a bit more of a reveal or “Ah-ha” feel than the longer ones do which, to use TV as a comparison, I feel like most anthologies shows do better than episodic series.
And I like that.
I like the quick and clever economic nature of it all.

I think every subgenre of Sci-Fi gets its day in the sun in this volume, and a few have fun and interesting spins that almost make you forget you are reading a Science Fiction story, which I think is something that some of my favorites do best.
If you need some Military Sci-Fi stat, you are covered with a few novellas.
But there are also stories of time travel, genetic manipulation, alien contact, and a transformational hooker…you know, that tired old trope!

I always try to give you some of my favorite stories when I talk about short story collections, so in no particular order, the top 3 stories that I would say you can’t miss are:
Technomagic, a story of a stranded alien that becomes a world famous magician.
Prevenge, a time travel tale that is reminiscent of Minority Report, with a bit more investigation.
A Delicate Balance, a dark story about seed colonies and a severe miscalculation that leads to forced population control.
All are wonderfully distinct and showcase the variety of this writer and this genre.

So to wrap up I have to say that after reading and reviewing all 4 volumes of this series, I feel like a jackass.
For a decade or so, if folks would mention Kevin J. Anderson I’d always say “The Star Wars Guy!?” or “Awww, The Last Days Of Krypton!” and now that almost feels reductive.
Don’t get me wrong, Shamble aside, Last Days is still hands down my favorite KJA book, but the dude has way more shades and layers than just Krypton, Star Wars, & X-Files.
The goal of this series was probably to collect a bunch of stories he had the rights to and get them back in print, but they have been damn eye opening as well.
I’ll call that a happy accident and wait patiently for him to get enough material together for a fifth installment, and whatever else he’s ready to produce.

Share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 and @gigiamk30 for their editorial assistance.

Episode 084: Eat Me, Yeah

Wrestletopia+1+digitalIn this episode, we are diving deep and reviewing some comic bookery, specifically, the comic bookery of Suspicious Behavior Productions 1st series, published by Starburns Industries Press, Invasion From Planet Wrestletopia!

Then, Doom brings a magical Pimp Spot that leads to them discussing that little punk ass Caillou, a huge name in Brit entertainment, and Fitz’s hankering to do a certain long teased fantasy novel a future Book Club series.

We also discuss an upcoming Blu-Ray set that has us all aquiver, some plans for fun we want to get done before the end of the year, and make jokes that classy people wouldn’t, so…ya know, typical us!

URL: Episode 084: Eat Me, Yeah
Direct Download: tnb084.mp3

Spine Of The Dragon Is Available Now!

Just a heads-up to let you all know that the first book in Kevin J. Anderson’s new Waking The Dragon Series, Spine Of The Dragon, is available now!

This is a great first installment in a burgeoning fantasy saga that is full of promise.
So check out my review of it right HERE and then, if that gets your interest peaked, head over to WordFire.com to order yourself a copy, gang.
If you love epic fantasy with multiple storylines and perspectives, this is definitely for you.

Spine Of The Dragon Review

We all know that fantasy novels can be crazy intimidating, but the 1st in a series?
Good lord, man!
In my experience, they often run well over 400 pages, with the onslaught of new worlds, characters, cultures, and histories being incredibly overwhelming and can all too often take the story from being a fun break from our world to the most boring history class you could ever possibly imagine.
So when I first laid eyes on Spine Of The Dragon and saw what a monster this book was I was nervous as hell, man.
Just the footprint of it alone had me quaking in my boots, flipping through it and seeing the density had me near flop sweats.
But I accepted the challenge and started reading it.
Now, the eternal question when talking about books rises up to greet us, how did that go?

This is an advanced review, so I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but even so This is your official ***SPOILER WARNING***

Here at the top, I want to provide a quick glossary of terms so I don’t have to explain them later.
The Commonwealth – 1 of 2 eternally warring continents
Ishara – The other of the 2 eternally warring continents
Konag – The King of Kings on the Commonwealth
Empra – Queen of Ishara
Utauk – An unaligned group that are basically traveling salesman and barterers, free to go between the 2 continents
Brava – Half Wreth/Half Humans that carry a bracelet that bites into their arms and unleashes magical flame
Wreth – Ancient race that created humans, split into 2 factions centuries ago, and had a war that destroyed almost all magic on the Commonwealth

It went pretty well, in fact I read the 1st 100 or so pages in about 24 hours because it was so damn engaging.
But I have to be honest, I read THIS excerpt before getting this and I had another worry that I didn’t mention above.
A big wall I have always run into with Fantasy novels/stories is that the character names often seem too hokey. They’re either way over-thought or, sometimes even worse, under-baked, and in both cases there is no in-world explanation of how that name came about, which makes cringy names even worse.

So, in that sample I read the name King Adan Starfall and cringed hard.
BUT!
When I got to the in-world explanation, all of that fell away.
Because the significance of it is that this King chose the name when he was a teenager.
This simple yet brilliant explanation that he chose it himself makes it work, because even if you don’t know the exact circumstances of what made him choose the name you can make the argument that it sounds like a name a young person would chose and stick with for many years…Scooby-Doom said with a wink to you, his lovely readers…

This is an impeccably well written story about a deeply thought out world full of easily likable & detestable characters that are equally interesting in the ways they need to be for it all to work and be satisfying.
And with no less than 14 storylines being juggled, that’s imperative.

The storylines we’re following throughout (and I know I’m definitely going to forget at least 1) include the 3 Kings of the Commonwealth continent, the Konag of the Commonwealth, the 2 leaders of the ancient and reemerging Wreth clans, a young Utauk girl, an Utauk merchant leader, a Brava captain that’s advisor to the Konag, a woman former Brava with a dark past, Empra of Ishara, an Isharan priest, and a traveling girl whose only mission is to learn as much as she possible can.
That is a hell of a lot of story to keep track of and he never once disappoints.

The only real issue I can point out with the writing would be that it’s difficult to gauge the passage of time.
At a few points in this story, through narration or dialogue somebody will say things like “it’s hard to believe how much has changed in the 2 week since the Wreths reemerged.” and I had a moment of “shit, it’s been that long since that happened!?” that I feel could be smoothed out a little more with dates at the start of chapters or slightly more dialogue to drill the point home.

One of the things that I love most about Kevin J. Anderson’s books will always be that he writes short chapters.
That makes it far easier to keep all of the many parts of the story moving forward, it keeps you from getting bored with a particular character or group of characters because you never spend 30+ pages with one POV wishing to learn more about the other corners of a world, and it also leads me to devour his work faster.
When reading his books, I never get stuck in the middle of a chapter and have to reread the last paragraph to remember where I was.
It’s a small style choice that I don’t know if he does intentionally or not, but it’s always appreciated nonetheless.

To wrap up, this is a hell of a kick-off to a new series by a masterful storyteller and world builder, gang.
It’s a tale of friendships and betrayals, old enemies and new allies, and a world on the brink of a war that the leaders do not want but may be forced in to by the machinations and posturing of others who have axes they can’t stop themselves from grinding.
Also, it has maps, and maps in books will never not be great!
And now the long wait begins for the next installment.

Kevin J. Anderson’s Spine Of The Dragon releases on June 4th, pre-order your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you get your books.

Share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her editorial assistance.

Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 2 Press Release

From WordFire Press…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

With this new collection of stories, Kevin J. Anderson demonstrates why he has tens of millions of readers worldwide and has won or been nominated for numerous awards.

Monument, Colorado. WordFire Press is proud to announce the release of Selected Stories: Science Fiction, volume 2, by Kevin J. Anderson.

#1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson continues to demonstrate his versatility and imagination in his Selected Storiesseries, with a second full volume of his best science fiction tales.

These sixteen stories, ranging from flash fiction to novella length, extend from the far corners of space to the edge of time and back to cutting-edge explorations inspired by today’s headlines. Read about clones and combat cyborgs, nanotechnology experiments and giant robots, super-sentient lab rats and immortal dogs, alien magicians and altered timelines.

Anderson introduces each story with a brief perspective about the inspiration or writing process, as well as a compelling introductory essay about his lifelong close relationship with the science fiction genre.

Kevin J. Anderson has published 140 books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. Anderson has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, Dune, and DC Comics universes, as well as unique steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, and the Saga of Shadows trilogy. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.

Selected Stories: Science Fiction, volume 2:

Hardback $30. ISBN 978-1-61475-966-9

Trade paperback $18.99. ISBN 978-1-61475-964-5

Ebook $5.99. ISBN 978-1-61475-965-2

Coming February, 2019

WordFire Press is a mid-size new-model publisher founded by New York Timesbestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. You can find us atwordfirepress.com. Tweet us @WordFirePress. Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/WordfireIncWordfirePress.