Tag Archives: Mystery

An Imperfect Crime: A Review of The Ghosts Inside

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside book cover. There is a fuzzy photo of an amphibious, bidedal creature on this cover. Title: Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside

Author: James Pack

Publisher: VaudVil

Publication Date: 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 40 pages

Source: I received a free copy from James

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

These Dollar Tales feature one or two short stories from the forthcoming collection of fiction by James Pack titled Morbid Museum. This Dollar Tale is called The Ghosts Inside and features the original and extended versions of the story. Go inside the mind of a man who believes he is saving children by ending their lives. Will he kill again or will someone stop him from taking young lives?

Review:

Content warning: child abuse and the murders of children. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

This e-book contains two versions of the same tale. I found the first draft too short for my preferences, so I’ll be reviewing the extended version.

Not every serial killer is an evil genius.

One of the things I liked the most about this story was the fact that the antagonist behaved like an ordinary person. (Well, other than the murders he committed, of course). He wasn’t the strongest, smartest, fastest, or most cunning person around. If not for his awful hobby, he would have struck me as a perfectly average man. That was refreshing.

I found it tricky to keep up with the multiple narrators. It would have worked really nicely in a novella or novel, but the roughly twenty-five pages that the extended version had to work with simply wasn’t enough space for everyone to show the audience who they were and what they were about. Focusing so intently on the killer in the first version was a smarter decision. As much as I enjoyed many of the other changes the author made to the storyline once it was expanded, I do wish this part of it had carried through.

There were so many hints about the killer’s personality that I was able to gently tease out of the things he said and did. It was interesting to figure out what made him tick. While he wasn’t someone I’d ever want to meet on a dark street or anywhere else, I did like the way the author tried to explain why someone would commit such unforgivable crimes. This only became more true as I realized what the killer’s biggest weakness was and why it appeared to be something that he himself wasn’t necessarily aware of. I’ll leave it up to other readers to put these pieces together for themselves, but they did make for a satisfying experience.

Dollar Tales from The Morbid Museum: The Ghosts Inside was much darker than what I typically read. I think it would be best suited for people who enjoy crime fiction or dark science fiction.

Adventures on the Orange Planet: A Review of The Lady of Dawnzantium

As mentioned earlier this summer, I’ve decided to include more book reviews in the publication queue for this blog. Everything I review will somehow be connected to the speculative fiction genre, and I will highlight authors whose books are self-published, indie, or from small presses as often as possible.

As always, my reviews are spoiler free.

Title: The Lady of Dawnzantium – A Trace & Mikhail Story

Author: Berthold Gambrel

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2018

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Humour

Page Count: 13 pages

Source: I received a free copy from Berthold.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Two adventurers encounter a strange creature on a remote colony world in this humorous sci-fi short story.

Review:

Nearly every small town has a local legend or two. This is true even for communities that were built on faraway planets only a few years ago!

This was one of the funniest tales I’ve read in ages, but I can’t give you specific examples of why that is so. Let’s just say that not everything in Dawnzantium, the planet Trace and Mikhail are visiting in order to hopefully solve a local mystery, is necessarily what it first appears to be. Pay attention to everything the characters say and enjoy the ride!

The one thing I wish had been made more clear in this short story is whether it was part of a series that needed to be read in a specific order. The subtitle and certain references in the storyline made me think it may be part of a much larger universe, and I’m a stickler for reading books in order. I wasn’t entirely sure at first if this was a sequel, prequel, beginning of a new series, or something that was intended to be read as a standalone work. It would have been nice to know for certain  that I wasn’t accidentally jumping into the middle of a series when I started this tale.

One of the things I like the most about the science fiction genre in general is how it imagines humans will react to living in places that don’t look or feel much like Earth at all. Some of the strongest scenes were the ones that explained what Dawnzantium looked like and how it was different from our home planet. Humans could live there fairly comfortably, but there were a few things about it that were unique.

Figuring how whether to use the mystery tag in this review was a fun challenge. There were mystery elements in the plot, but the storyline remained firmly rooted in the science fiction genre. This is something I’d recommend to readers who are curious about mysteries but not quite sure if that genre is right for them. The little taste of it here may be enough to help you make up your minds either way!

The ending was fabulous. While it was something I’d briefly wondered about while reading earlier scenes, seeing the narrator go off in the direction I’d been speculating about was still a great deal of fun. Readers who paid close attention to the beginning will get a nice payoff by the final scene.

This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys humorous science fiction.

Why It’s Okay to Take Breaks From Science Fiction and Fantasy

I have a confession to share with all of you. I’ve barely read any science fiction and fantasy books recently.

Since I’m a sci-fi writer and a longtime fan of these genres, I’m regularly immersed in thoughts about wizards, robots, aliens, spaceships, science experiments gone wrong, and all of the other tropes you can expect to find in them.

Science fiction and fantasy ideas show up in my dreams, tweets, and random conversations with my spouse, family, and friends.

Most of the time, I love living this way. I’ve read so many different series velw that I can quickly pick out how certain contemporary writers were influenced by tales that were published decades or centuries ago. One of the things I like to do when I’m standing in line or waiting for something is to try to pick out similarities between various universes that I hadn’t thought of yet.

Some authors take careful note of usual patterns in these genres only to figure out how to disrupt them at a critical part of the storyline. It takes a thorough understanding of how science fiction and fantasy stories typically play out to bend the audience’s expectations of how an adventure should end or how a hero is supposed to behave without alienating your readers.

My favourite storytellers are the ones like Douglas Adams who tiptoe across this line perfectly from the first scene to the last one.

With that being said, there can be a lot of repetition in any genre after you’ve spend many years exploring it. I know some people who truly enjoy the familiarity that comes with diving so deeply into this subject, and I completely understand where they’re coming from even though I don’t always feel the same way.

You see, spending time reading other types of stories only reinforces my love for science fiction and fantasy.

Taking Breaks Is a Good Thing

The nice thing about wandering between genres is that it gives the reader a chance to try something completely new. The romance and horror genres might both write about an abandoned graveyard, but the ways they used that setting would be nothing alike.* but  A thriller’s approach to a herd of runaway horses threatening to trample the main character would also be nothing like how a traditional western would solve that problem.

To give another example, a few years ago I began reading mysteries because I was curious about that kind of storytelling and hadn’t read much of it in the past. Needing to pay attention to every little detail of the plot in order to figure out who the murderer was as soon as possible changed the way I approached other genres. If you assume every odd detail might be important later on, it’s much easier to predict how a story will go when the author drops hints about future plot twists.

I also never would have guessed there would be so much crossover between mystery and science fiction, but to my surprise I found a lot of books that couldn’t be easily pinned into either category. This isn’t something I would have ever figured out if I’d stuck to a steady diet of pure science fiction and fantasy.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of young adult and non-fiction books. The young adult genre reminds me of what it felt like to be a child or teenager. Most of the non-fiction books I read are about history or science which are two topics that can be very useful for educational reasons as well as for eventually coming up with new ideas for my own stories. The longer I spend in these other genres, the more I begin to miss the ones I read most often.

The good news is that the science fiction and fantasy landscape is gigantic. My to-read list is still incredibly long, and it includes still includes a decent number of famous authors I’ve been curious to try but haven’t gotten around to yet.  It will be nice to chip away at this list once my break has ended. I’m already beginning to feel the first stirring of interest in magic and technology, so I suspect I’ll jump back into my regular routine soon.

*I have accidentally stumbled across one or two romantic horror tales in the past, though, so in those rare cases it would depend on whether the characters were preparing to fall in love or fight monsters.

How often – if ever – do you take breaks from reading your favourite genres?